As the Royal Opera opens its new Don Giovanni, Jessica Duchen argues that its theme of moral vacuity is as relevant now as in Mozart's day
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Sunday 09 August 2009
The libretto has been taken from the sublime to a ridiculous conclusion. Instead of a "little book" - its literal meaning – the latest, and most avant-garde, of operas will feature little "tweets". In a blatant attempt to shake off its fusty image, the Royal Opera House has teamed up with the micro-blogging site to produce The Twitter Opera with a libretto composed entirely of public tweets.
Thursday 23 July 2009
The International Mozarteum Foundation says it has discovered two new works composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Wednesday 10 June 2009
The Haydn season kicked off with the obligatory splurge on Radio 3, and a massed charge led by Andras Schiff at the Wigmore Hall, but the really interesting thing was what the musicologist and fortepianist Robert Levin was doing at the Southbank. We quite often hear the fortepiano in these period-conscious days, but, sandwiched between performances on modern instruments, it always ends up sounding thin and a little bit impotent – so attuned are our ears to the luxurious richness of the Steinway.
Saturday 06 June 2009
There is an alarming gap between the things media folk say about the political situation and the experience of the audience they address, i.e. us. This is not just a question of that elusive fury over the MPs' expenses about which I wrote last week and which we are still told has every man, woman and child in its grip.
Thursday 04 June 2009
The Australian operatic mezzo Margreta Elkins was tall and slender, with a beautiful warm-toned voice. She spent nearly 20 years in Britain during her long career, singing at Covent Garden and with other companies. A great friend of Joan Sutherland, whom she first met in 1949 at the Mobil Quest singing competition, Elkins appeared with the soprano many times, in London, America and Australia. They also made a number of fine opera recordings together. Their voices blended superbly, for instance in the two great duets for Norma and Adalgisa in Bellini's Norma, while Elkins's height (5ft 10in) was much appreciated by Sutherland when the mezzo played a man, as in Handel's Giulio Cesare, where Elkins took the title role to Sutherland's Cleopatra, or in his Alcina, where she sang Ruggiero to the soprano's Alcina.
Wednesday 03 June 2009
In the first few minutes of Mozart's Così fan tutte, Don Alfonso turns to the audience and says: "What a palaver. I thought I was in an opera!" You had better believe it: an 18th-century opera, in 18th-century clothes, behaving the way 18th-century opera used to behave. The trouble with Abbas Kiarostami's staging (and it won't have helped that the man himself wasn't around to ease its passage into London) is that it asks us to forget everything that's happened in opera over the past couple of decades and view it from a position of innocent fascination. The great Iranian film director has never directed opera before and one has to wonder how much of it he has seen. This terminally bland rendering (put creakily through its paces by associate director Elaine Tyler-Hall) strikes me as the work of someone who – in operatic terms at least – doesn't get out much.
Monday 01 June 2009
In the first few minutes of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Don Alfonso turns to the audience and says: “What a palaver. I thought I was in an opera!".
Monday 01 June 2009
The Haydn season kicked off with the obligatory splurge on Radio 3, and a massed charge led by Andras Schiff at the Wigmore Hall, but the really interesting thing was what musicologist and fortepianist Robert Levin was doing at the South Bank.
Monday 01 June 2009
Monday 11 May 2009
Friday 08 May 2009
The theatre is about illusion, but its effects can be all too real. The Victorians loved turning the stage into a lake for sea-battles in which swimmers manipulated large model ships; when Phantom opened at Her Majesty's, the theatre simply reverted to its original function as a site for spectacle.
Così fan tutte, Theatre Royal, Glasgow<br>English Concert/I Fagiolini, Victoria and Albert Museum, London<br>Songs of Wars I Have Seen, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Sunday 03 May 2009
Sunday 22 March 2009
At least two of the works in this breezy, elegant recital were premiered with the ink still wet on the page. Mozart's fame as an improviser was at its height when the Sonata in G and Variations in G minor were first performed, and something of that extreme freshness can be felt in Petra Müllejans and Kristian Bezuidenhout's performance.
Tuesday 10 March 2009
Who would have imagined that one could experience a kinship of sorts between string quartets by Mozart and Bartok written over a century apart?
Thursday 26 February 2009
Hallelujah! 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of Georg Friedrich Handel's death. In the UK, which has produced perhaps five musical geniuses in 350 years, the domicile of this German giant in London from 1712 is taken as something of a national triumph; he's been deified ever since. To question his supremacy is to blaspheme against three centuries of opinion. But does his music deserve such status?
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