The Golden Cockerel bedazzles in Amsterdam

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel

Concertgebouw, 16 December 2017


The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1907, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Full review on Opera Today.



Thrilling singing in Simon Boccanegra at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Concertgebouw, 16th September 2017


Victor Maurel sang the title role in Simon Boccanegra at the premiere of the revised 1881 version

This is what Verdi should sound like. Idiomatically sung by confident singers, with role-tailored voices that make one sit up and listen. The NTR ZaterdagMatinee concert series at the Concertgebouw, a long-standing institution financed with public broadcasting funds, traditionally opens with an opera. This year it was Simon Boccanegra, Verdi’s sombre study of personal tragedy lurking behind public success.

Full review on Backtrack.

Stenz conducts an impressive Babylon at the Holland Festival

Widmann: Babylon

Concertgebouw, 3rd June 2017


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.

Semyon Kotko: Jurowski drowns out propaganda with Prokofiev in Amsterdam

Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko

Concertgebouw, 26th November 2016


The libretto of Prokofiev’s Soviet opera Semyon Kotko clobbers you on the head with revolutionary doctrine. Understandably, the work has never gained an international foothold. Even in Russia, where it is now part of the repertoire, it was ignored for decades shortly after its 1940 première, which was by no means an unequivocal success. Then the critics focused on the opera’s lack of instant popular appeal rather than its musical qualities. As this concert version at the Concertgebouw demonstrated, these are considerable.

Full review on Bachtrack.

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: I due Foscari

Concertgebouw, 17th September 2016


Bust of Doge Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon © Sailko via Wikimedia Commons


There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

Full review on Opera Today.

Savage and noble: Wozzeck at the Concertgebouw

Berg: Wozzeck

Concertgebouw, 4th June 2016


Johann Christian Woyzeck’s beheading in Leipzig

Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck is a perfect amalgam of music and text and, as such, cries out for a worthy staging to maximise its theatrical impact. Although neither Georg Büchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck nor Berg’s setting of fifteen of its scenes can be given a single-genre sticker, one way to describe them is as psychological thrillers. Even without stage direction, this concert performance played out like a thriller, with shudders aplenty.

Full review on Bachtrack.



Netherlands Radio Choir in sublimely contemplative German Requiem

Brahms: Netherlands Radio Phil/De Waart

Concertgebouw, 24th January 2016

The Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary with a series of jubilee concerts. In a list of their favourite choral works drawn up for Dutch radio, choir members put Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in first place, followed by Verdi’s Messa da Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem. The chorus is undoubtedly the star in the Brahms. It is prominent in all seven movements, including the three featuring solo singers. The work that established Brahms’ reputation certainly received star treatment last Sunday at the Concertgebouw, not only from the chorus, but from the excellent soloists, in a controlled and sympathetic transcription by conductor Edo de Waart.


Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor)

Full review on Bachtrack.