The Classical Music Network (English) Wed, 15 Aug 2018 17:26:48 +0200 <![CDATA[Pesaro - New Production of Il barbiere di Siviglia]]>
M. Mironov, A. Wakizono (© Amati Bacciardi)

It is rare to attend any opera performance where everything goes seamlessly on the night; even rarer to see a production which comes close to perfection. ROF’s new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia realised by legendary director Pier Luigi Pizzi is a shining example of how magical and transporting this art form can be. The opening night ran without apparent glitches and we were privileged to witness a Barber which galloped melodically through the score, made every use of Sterbini’s sublime comedy and still gave us something new and fresh.

The prog]]>...
Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Pesaro - New Production of Adina]]>
L. Oropesa (© Amati Bacciardi)

Teatro Rossini sits at the top of the Via Rossini in Pesaro’s historic centre. It is a petite ‘chocolate box’ of a venue which seats 800 and is booked to capacity for these performances of the rarely heard Adina. Constructed in the Italian ‘horseshoe’ style, it has four levels of boxes and a gallery above a ground level parterre. Capped by a frescoed ceiling in pale blue, its chandeliers and gold ornamentation give a real sense of being taken back in time to the era when the Rossini family lived and worked in this city.

Adina is a one-act opera shrouded in mystery: ]]>...
Sun, 12 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Pesaro - New Production of Ricciardo e Zoraide]]>
P. Yende, J. D. Flórez (© Amati Bacciardi)

There is a hum of expectation in the air around Pesaro for the opening of this 39th edition of the Rossini Opera Festival (ROF). Whether it is caused by the glistening of the water at the string of sandy beaches, the hotter than usual European summer, the impending Ferragosto holiday, or the first night of the Festival, there is a real excitement around the city. The festooned city streets and the much anticipated return of one of the festival’s favourite sons Juan Diego Flórez add to the festival atmosphere.

Ricciardo e Zoraide is a rarely performed opera wh]]>...
Sat, 11 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist O. Vinokur]]>
O. Vinokur at BargeMusic (© Samuel A .Dog)

Etude? Brutal!
William Shakespeare, Act III, Scene I, Julius Ceasar (Variation)

The BargeMusic recitals by Russian-American pianist Olga Vinokur are both unpredictable and inevitable. To say the least, her selections are eclectic, far-seeing, heterogeneous, for her tastes are singularly vast. On the other hand, whatever her choices, Ms. Vinokur’s recitals are wisely structured–even if these structures are open to interpretation.

Last night, her theme might have been “etudes”, since three-fifths of the program were devote]]>...
Sat, 11 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - A. Fure’s The Force of Things]]>
Composer A. Fure (© Richard Termine)

There is geometry in the humming of the strings; there is music in the spacing of the spheres.
Pythagoras (570-495 B.C.E)

Composer/sound-designer Ashley Fure has described her 55-minute The Force of Things: An Opera For Objects as transcending “the illusion of stasis”, her own inspiration “driven by a desire to tune our focus toward of rate of change and a scope of alteration at odds with the scale of human life.”

I prefer to called this a Mystery Play. In both senses of the word.

It was a ]]>...
Tue, 07 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - “Classical Bridge” Opening Concert]]>
S. Huang/E. Silberger

The published “mission” of “Classical Bridge” is “to create dynamic partnerships among musicians, music lovers and professionals.” And while this hardly sounds original, “Classical Bridge” is presenting more than music. Their seven evenings, starting last night, will have had eight original pre-concert discussions.

Later this week, musicians will discuss “developing new traditions” (oxymoronic? Never mind), new approaches to recording, finding original voices as soloists, an interview with French composer Jean-Frédéric Neuburger and yet another Bernstein Centenary discussion.

The det]]>...
Sat, 04 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Montreal - The National Youth Orchestra of Canada ]]>
NYO of Canada in Toronto (© David Popoff)

There are few pleasures as satisfying as hearing an orchestra of accomplished young musicians at the beginning of their careers. Their passion and enthusiasm combined with rigorous preparation and polished technique rarely fails to inspire the musical taste buds and hearts of an appreciative audience. This was evident in Montreal Wednesday evening during the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) of Canada’s mid-way stop on their annual tour of central Canada and, for the first time, abroad to three European cities.

Now in its 58th season, members of the NYO are chosen through ]]>...
Wed, 01 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra]]>
L. Langrée (© Mark Lyons)

“Brahms…with his extraordinarily compact compositions which aren’t at all obvious but reveal greater depth and richness of content the more you enter into them”
Gustav Mahler
“Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head…”
The Lovin’ Spoonful

For many years now the Mostly Mozart Festival has been a welcome visitor to broiling New York when all other class]]>...
Tue, 31 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - The Emerson Quartet & N. Ngwenyama]]>
Emerson String Quartet (© Courtesy of the Artists)

Instead of an elaborate harangue on the beauty and the charms of music (which after all that words can best by the performance of a skilful hand and an angelical voice) I shall say but a very few things by way of Preface...”
Henry Purcell in Preface to Sonatas of III Parts

Had he lived his more than three-score-years-and six, had he not caught that fatal respiratory disease because his wife made him sleep on the ground after too many ales in the local tavern, Henry Purcell would have altered music more than Montever]]>...
Mon, 30 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - The National Youth Orchestra of Canada]]>
(© David Popoff)

The National Youth Orchestra of Canada was founded in 1960 and its alumni can be found in every orchestra in this country and in many around the world. This year’s members, 95 players from across the country, constitute an array of breathtaking talent.

The evening opened with Alison Yun-Fei Jiang’s River Memory, a 10-minute work inspired by Niagara Falls. The music wells up from a small kernel of sound, then recedes, then swells up again, leading to a thundering finish. This piece was commissioned for the 2018 tour, as was the next work, John Estacio’s Moontides. The work has a moo]]>...
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Mayr’s Medea in Corinth]]>
W. Crutchfield/J. Lehmann (© Opera Musica/Franck Juéry/Alpha Classics)

...always dramatic, always sings, always is melodic.
Gioachino Rossini, on Giovanni Simone Mayr, quoted by Will Crutchfield

Who was Giovanni Simone Mayr? And why haven’t we heard more of this astonishing composer? His bloodthirsty opera, Medea in Corinth was produced the same year as Rossini’s Tancredi and a few months before Beethoven’s Fidelio. But, from the Teatro Nuovo production at Purchase University yesterday, Mayr has taken the best of them both (or at least Rossini’s dramatic operas) an]]>...
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - N. McGegan conducts Handel’s Atalanta]]>
I. Bell, C. Van de Sant, P. Cutlip, A. Preston, S. Panthaki
(© Samuel A. Dog)

“You have taken too much trouble over your opera. Here in England that is a mere waste of time. What the English like is something they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear.”
Georg Frederic Handel to a composer who wanted an opera to be performed in London

One vexing question about Handel’s 1736 pastoral opera, Atalanta, “drama with music,” based on Belisario Valeriani’s Caccia in Etolia:
During the 140 minutes when four real and ersatz shep]]>...
Sun, 22 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Karsten & Wadsworth’s That’s Not Tango]]>
L. Karsten, B. Fredriksen, JP Jofre, E. Silberger at SubCulture
(© Samuel A. Dog)

“I still can't believe that some pseudo-critics continue to accuse me of having murdered tango. They have it backward. They should look at me as the savior of tango. I performed plastic surgery on it.”
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

The four performers in this monodrama dedicated to Astor Piazzolla were so extraordinary that I hate to throw a monkey wrench in the proceedings. That comes later.

For this was one audacious production. Astor Piazzolla was certainly a magnetic pers]]>...
Wed, 18 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist B. Levin]]>
B. Levin (©

Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven’s famed quote above obviously didn’t refer to Handel’s keyboard suites. Nor the opera or pastorales. Obviously the young Beethoven was lauding (and imitating) Handel’s oratorios, those massive works which would impress the Bonn composer with their largesse, like Handel’s impressed Victorian audiences a century later.

That, though, was not consequential to Beth Levin, whose previous recit]]>...
Fri, 13 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Barcelona - Revival of La Favorite ]]>
M. Spyres, C. Margaine (© Bofill)

In front of the Teatro Liceu, post performance, I overheard a conversation between four young people about the opera they’d just seen. They were puzzled about the opera’s plot: what was the reason for Fernand’s outrage? What was so horrible that he had to renounce his beloved Léonor, as well as the title and honours the King of Castille had given him? Wasn’t Léonor a woman of noble birth? Did the King plan to continue keeping her as his mistress? If so, how could Fernand know? Indeed, the plot of La Favorite is hard for contemporary audiences to understand. In our time, being the king’s mist]]>...
Sun, 08 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Pianist M.-A. Hamelin]]>
M.-A. Hamelin in Caramoor’s Venetian Theater (© Samuel A. Dog)

“Nothing in life is necessary except a garden and a library
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.)

As well as areas for music, another Cicero essential. Amidst the endless gardens, the verdant foliage, a gorgeous house and areas for experimental ambient sound, the 90 acres of Caramoor have several concert halls. One is in the house of the owner, a businessman-philanthropist. Another, the so-called Venetian Theater, is actually a tent, meant to sit over a thousand people.

Actually, the V]]>...
Sun, 08 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - Two Saratoga Festival Operas]]>
“Haunted” house and cast of The Rocking Horse Winner
(© Samuel A. Dog)

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

D.H. Lawrence did like it hot. Whether it was eroticism or Mexican mysticism, the hard-working laborer in England or as an antediluvian critic of modernity, he never held back. And in The Rocking Horse Winner, Lawrence was both mystical and passionate, surrealistic and a fierce critic of money and greed.

But could this most pierci]]>...
Sat, 30 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Milano - New Production of Il pirata]]>
S. Yoncheva (© Brescia-Amisano/Teatro alla Scala)

This was a long-awaited event: the return of Il pirata to Teatro alla Scala, where Bellini’s third opera (and first resounding success) had first premiered in 1827. For all intents and purposes absent from the repertoire for many decades, it was resuscitated in 1958 by none other than Maria Callas, who helped make the work somewhat relevant for modern audiences. With such history also comes great expectation; sadly, it was not met. The work itself is an early composition by a then 26 years old Bellini and as an artistic success, it is far in stature from his best-known maste]]>...
Fri, 29 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Toronto - The Toronto Symphony Orchestra]]>
P. Oundjian (© Nick Wons)

Two reviews on this website serve to illustrate what Peter Oundjian has achieved in his 14-year stint as music director of the TSO. This one of a 2008 recording of The Rite of Spring and this one of a live (and lively) performance in 2016 of the same work. The earlier performance displays a musician who clearly and unerringly presents the structure of a work with every note in its proper place. (This sounds like faint praise, but one can’t take this for granted.) Eight year]]>...
Thu, 28 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Torino - Revival of Don Giovanni]]>
C. Alvarez, C. Remigio (© Ramella & Giannese/Edoardo Piva)

When one compares the ensemble of superlative historic opera recordings to present day singing, one notices a great improvement in diction. The great Viennese singers of the 50s and 60s, though great vocalists and interpreters, mar Mozart’s Italian operas with atrocious pronunciation, such as “qvesta“ and “qvella.” Though today’s top singers nearly without exception pronounce the various languages properly and certainly better than half a century ago, the style is a homogenized one and most often bland. With the demise of national schools of singing that defined opera and ]]>...
Wed, 27 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Torino - Le nozze di Figaro]]>
(© Ramella & Giannese/Edoardo Piva)

It’s hard to believe this production of Le nozze di Figaro is part of the trilogy that includes Michele Placido’s excellent Don Giovanni and Ettore Scola’s superlative Così fan tutte, for this Nozze is characterized by miscast singers, heavy-handed conducting and, most disturbing, non-existent stage direction.

Elena Barbalich presents the opera in a conventional fashion, which is fine, but there is n]]>...
Tue, 26 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Verona - Revival of Aida]]>
V. Urmana (© Foto Ennevi/Fondazione Arena di Verona)

Franco Zeffirelli’s massive sets centered around an all-purpose pyramid, an oddity in some of the scenes, such as the celebration of Egypt’s victory over the Ethiopians. A pyramid is a funereal structure that could be plausible in the background of the Nile scene and acceptable in the final scene when Radames is entombed, though it’s too honourable a sepulcher for a man condemned to death for treason. The massive pyramid filled the Arena’s huge stage. Statues of Pharaohs more reminiscent of art primitif than of Egyptian art complemented Zeffirelli’s pyramid.

Sat, 23 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Verona - New Production of Carmen]]>
A. Goryachova, B. Jagde (© Foto Ennevi/Fondazione Arena di Verona)

It’s easy to skip large-scale operatic productions aimed at the general public, produced for tourists with a limited interest in opera and whose main objective in securing tickets is a night of entertainment, and perhaps a few selfies in front of the theater prior to curtain time, along with a crisp chablis. There is much to admire in such adventurousness, because initial experiences can often be life-changing; I am proof of this! While “innovative” productions that stray from the story line and eschew straightforward enjoyment can sometimes excite the more jaded s]]>...
Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble]]>
A. Stein

“Joyous youth, cheerful fervor and unbroken strength seem to constitute the foundations of its [the Symphony No. 2] being. To approach it in a spirit of pale reflection is to spoil it at once.”
Felix Weingartner, On the Performance of Beethoven’s Symphonies

The Serenade No. 1 in D major went through at least two comprehensive revisions and qualifies as an early example – in the category of diamond in the rough – for inclusion in St. Luke’s survey entitled “Facets of Brahms”. Although the original nonet was praised by Clara Schumann, Brahms took suggestions from Joachim that added a few more in]]>...
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[New York - St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble]]>
St. Luke Chamber Ensemble (Beethoven) (© Samuel A.Dog)

One has the unsettling feeling that the Morgan Library might have conceived a “Brahms Festival”, to which a few elderly folk might attend, and others might yawn.

Nothing against that composer, of course. But in the Age of Salonen and Thorvaldsdóttir, the great gray composer might have seemed...well, great, gray and relatively antediluvian.

The Morgan Library instead scheduled three weeks of chamber pieces by Brahms and other composers–as well as fascinating pre-concert lectures, gilding the composer and add]]>...
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0200