A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

Strauss: Elektra

Concertgebouw, 2 June 2018

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Electra by E. Teschendorff, 1892, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra.

Full review on Opera Today.

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La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

Caldara: La concordia de’ pianeti

Concertgebouw, 28 April 2018

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Carestini, who created the part of Apollo. Detail from The Toilette (1734) by William Hogarth.

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Full review on Opera Today.

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The Golden Cockerel bedazzles in Amsterdam

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel

Concertgebouw, 16 December 2017

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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.

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Thrilling singing in Simon Boccanegra at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Concertgebouw, 16th September 2017

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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

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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.

A riveting Nixon in China

Adams: Nixon in China

Concertgebouw, 11th February 2017

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US President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, February 25, 1972, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

Full review at Opera Today.

Semyon Kotko: Jurowski drowns out propaganda with Prokofiev in Amsterdam

Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko

Concertgebouw, 26th November 2016

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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.