Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

Monteverdi: Marian Vespers

Gashouder, Amsterdam, 3rd June 2017

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The “Nappy Madonna” by Bernardino Luini (circa 1481-1532)

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass. Then, for close to two hours, a spellbinding ritual unfolds. This was not a wake for a Catholic notable, but Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine…

Full review on Opera Today.

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Stenz conducts an impressive Babylon at the Holland Festival

Widmann: Babylon

Concertgebouw, 3rd June 2017

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The Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to the programme, at one point composer Jörg Widmann requires the chorus in his opera Babylon to split into 94 parts. I hope this is a misprint, but Babylon is a fearlessly ambitious composition. This impressive performance at the Holland Festival, led by the intrepid Markus Stenz, was deservedly cheered at length.

Full review on Backtrack.

Rigoletto is mad but the singing is fine at Dutch National Opera

Verdi: Rigoletto

Dutch National Opera, 9th May 2017

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Le roi s’amuse (1932) by Victor Hugo

What happened to Rigoletto after the hitman he hired to kill his daughter Gilda’s abductor murdered her instead? He went mad and was committed to a mental institution. This is Damiano Michieletto’s twist on Verdi’s compact but tremendous tragedy Rigoletto for Dutch National Opera. Although intriguing, the production is overanalytical and is ultimately sabotaged by its own cleverness. The cast compensates with a good old Verdi singfest.

Full review on Backtrack.

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Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark A Dog’s Heart

Raskatov: A Dog’s Heart

Dutch National Opera, 22nd April 2017

Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940)

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

Full review on Opera Today.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra premieres Easter Passions

Debussy/Ali-Zadeh/Živković: RCO/Brabbins

Concertgebouw, 7th April 2017

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Saint Sebastian by Mattia Preti (1613-1699), Sarria Church, Floriana, Malta

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra continues its recent tradition of commissioning a new Eastertide passion every four years. This year they commissioned two new works, Mystical Sacrifice by Djuro Živković and Nasimi-Passion by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh. Symphonic fragments from Debussy’s incidental music for a mystery play about Saint Sebastian completed the programme.

Full review on Bachtrack.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Eggert: Caliban

Compagnietheater, Amsterdam, 30th March 2017

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Caliban by Franz Marc (1880-1916), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Full review on Opera Today.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe

Tsoupaki: Fortress Europe

Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam, 22nd March 2017

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Refugees heading for Lesbos, January 2016 (Courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean. The number of migrants trying to reach Europe by sea is already picking up, as it does every year. Putting their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers, scores of them will drown.

Full review on Opera Today.