Browsing: Romantic

This past weekend (Friday, Nov. 9 to Sunday, Nov. 11), I attended four vocal music performances (three operas and one oratorio) which shows that Montreal is a vibrant city for voice lovers. Friday: Opera McGill presented a hilarious Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. Sadly, this comic opera is not produced enough nowadays. This score is worth discovering. The highlight was the simple yet very effective stage directing by Patrick Hansen. The second cast was generally good. Unlike some previous Opera McGill productions, there were no surtitles and many of the jokes were lost as many of the words were not…

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Last Saturday, November 10, Opéra de Montréal premiered Der Rheingold, the first instalment from Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibellungen. It marked the first time that this work is staged in the history of the opera company. What you missed The highlight of the show was the performance by Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg. The native from Saskatchewan struck gold with his dramatic stage presence and his steely voice. He incarnated Alberich in body and voice, colouring every sound to match the meaning of the words he was singing. A good example was the contrast in his vocal and physical attitude…

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What you missed The first time Wagner’s Das Rheingold is staged in Montreal is a success. As a whole, this is Opéra de Montréal’s best production in the last two and a half years, riveting from beginning to the end. The production from Minnesota Opera worked quite well, mixing multimedia projections with placement of the orchestra on stage, an elevated bridge for the gods and using the pit for the Rhein and the underworld. The singing was excellent with some reservation. Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg’s commanding portrayal of Alberich along with an imposing voice is worth the price of admission…

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Johannes Brahms was in a foul mood one evening while dining at the house of the pianist Ignaz Brüll, a popular host in Vienna in the 1880s. “Don’t you think it strange,” he blurted out, “that a Jew should set a text of Martin Luther’s to music?” Everyone present was meant to hear him, including the Jew in question, Brahms’s long-suffering friend and colleague, Karl (or Carl) Goldmark. While this was far from the first social occasion that Brahms spoiled with an insensitive remark, the composer’s biographer Jan Swafford deems it to be “the only time on record when Brahms…

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A critic’s dilemma. The cellist Steven Isserlis is a pal. He lives around the corner and we bump into each other at local amenities. He knows I have received his latest release for review. He will be disappointed if I ignore it and grumpy if I find fault. To review or not to review? If I ruled out reviewing friends I’d have to turn down half the record output. By the same token, if I mentioned a friendship every time I reviewed, readers would switch off. So what to do? I made a rule a while back that I would…

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PROFILE/REVIEW: of the 2018 Glimmerglass Festival Season: Silent Night by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell; West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim; Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček; and The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini and Cesare Sterbini. “It’s remarkable how many important things happened in 1918,” observes Glimmerglass Festival artistic and managing director Francesca Zambello, speaking at a recent pre-show audience address in Cooperstown. “The end of World War I. The birth of Leonard Bernstein. And the premiere of this piece” – this last a reference to Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, which was…

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REVIEW: of the 2018 Bard SummerScape production of Anton Rubinstein’s 1871 opera Demon; and INTERVIEW: with Dr. Leon Botstein (American Symphony Orchestra founder and SummerScape festival artistic director). A warning to all princes of the Caucasus – lock up your daughters! The devil is on the prowl, and he’s feeling amorous. Russian composer Anton Rubinstein’s 1871 opera, Demon, weaves a fascinating yarn of ultimate forbidden love. Based on an earlier, censored poem by Russian poetic genius Mikhail Lermontov, a demon (depicted as the very model of the proud, lonely, passionate Byronic tragic hero) finds himself smitten by the beauty of…

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Last night, Opéra de Montréal presented Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, the last opera of their 2017-18 season to a full house. A production with beautiful set designs by Claude Girard, the production bets on the quality and appeal of young Canadian singers; Andalucían tenor making his company debut was the only foreign singer. Almost all the supporting roles where performed by the members of the company’s training program. What you missed All the singers did an agreeable job, including the chorus. However, Jordi was the true revelation of the show. He exhibited a charming light lyric tenor voice and…

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Bruckner: 4th symphony/7th symphony (DG) Andris Nelsons prefaces two Anton Bruckner symphonies with small bites of Wagner – the prelude to Lohengrin and Siegfried’s funeral march. This makes sense inasmuch as Bruckner worshipped the ground that Wagner trod, but the effect is vaguely disorienting, as if one were to precede Schoenberg’s orchestral variations with Mahler’s Adagietto. The Leizpig Gewandhaus Orchestra can play this stuff in their sleep and sometimes it sounds as if that’s just what they are doing. There is a lack of momentum in the fourth symphony that is close to soporific and, though the seventh comes to life with…

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Berlioz: Harold in Italy (Hyperion) The pianist Emanuel Ax remarked the other day that performance quality has risen so high in his lifetime that you hardly ever encounter a sub-standard orchestra. On the evidence of this release Bergen in Norway, the rainiest city on earth, boasts a Philharmonic that could be mistaken on a dull day for one in Berlin. Playing Berlioz, grand master of the art of orchestration, Bergen come through with maximum points in all departments and a deep coherence across the spectrum. My only quibble is why the local engineers record the orchestra at a level so…

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