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.

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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.

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.

Magnificent terror in new Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Concertgebouw, 5th November 2016

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Detail from The Last Judgement (circa 1505) by Hieronymus Bosch

Like the work of it’s dedicatee, Detlev Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch spans the mortal and the immortal, the demonic and the angelic, the putrid and the sublime. It is one of the events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s death, and premiered one day before this Amsterdam performance, at St John’s Cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Bosch’s birthplace. It was an extraordinary performance…

Full review on Bachtrack.

Ceaseless fire in Spontini’s Olympie

Spontini: Olympie

Concertgebouw, 29th October 2016

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Alexandrine-Caroline Branchu, the first Statira

The patrons fleeing the hall after the last bars of Spontini’s Olympie deserve sympathy. Two-and-a-half hours of relentless crescendos, however handsomely sculpted, take their toll. Not that the performers did not earn the ovation by those who stayed. Jérémie Rhorer led the period ensemble Le Cercle de l’Harmonie in a turbocharged performance of the third version of this neglected work, which premiered in Paris in 1826.

Full review on Bachtrack.

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: I due Foscari

Concertgebouw, 17th September 2016

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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.