All 2017 Features

Heralding the London Handel Festival 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  Becoming director of the London Handel Festival is something of a dream come true for Samir Savant, as it represents the happy conjunction of several strands in his professional and extra-curricular life to date... ... The Festival this year will feature a special gala concert to celebrate the 15th-anniversary of the setting up of the Competition, which will feature such past luminaries as Ruby Hughes and Iestyn Davies. ... The first event this year will be a ‘come and sing’ forum, in which people can take part in rehearsing and singing the four Coronation Anthems. There will be a screening of Norman Walker’s 1942 film The Great Mr Handel, starring Wilfrid Lawson and relating the circumstances in which Messiah came to be written. ... As the UK, at the present time, deals with the political fallout of the Brexit referendum and an apparent distancing from its European partners, it is important to be reminded that arguably the greatest composer to have worked at the centre of the British Establishment, forging a major sense of ‘Englishness’ in our musical culture, was one of the most cosmopolitan figures in any period of musical history, having been born in Germany, honing his compositional skills in Italy, and further travelled around Europe even after settling in England. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2016-17: Mozart’s Idomeneo – Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production with Matthew Polenzani, Alice Coote, Elza van den Heever, Nadine Sierra; conducted by James Levine [Showing on Saturday March 25]
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Idomeneo is a fascinating work, premiered in 1781 at the Cuvilliés Theatre in Munich. ... The opera has sublime music, but the pace can be erratic. However, it is important to note that Idomeneo remains a work of enormous interest given that Mozart never approved a definitive version. Richard Strauss and Benjamin Britten both created editions of their own in attempts to bring the work to stage life and public awareness so much did they admire and treasure the material. ... The staging is a classic by the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Great casts have graced this production, including Luciano Pavarotti. Now that lead role is sung by Matthew Polenzani and Ilia by Nadine Sierra. Alice Coote takes the trouser-role of Idamante and Elettra is Elza van den Heever. Alan Opie sings Idomeneo’s confidant Arbace, and James Levine conducts... 
Nicolai Gedda, 1925-2017 – An Appreciation
Sunday, March 05, 2017 |  The great tenor Nicolai Gedda, who died at the beginning of the year aged ninety-one, was perhaps the final precursor to the superstars of the modern era, for at the peak of his career he was an extraordinarily versatile, oft-recorded singer with a voice that could straddle many genres with stylistic ease. ... He was a stylish Mozartean – Tamino, Belmonte and Don Ottavio were all successes of his early career. He was also notable in French repertoire – Faust, Werther, Don José, Pelléas and Hoffmann – and brought charisma and flair to the operettas of Johann Strauss II and Lehár in treasurable recordings made with conductors such as Ackermann, Boskovsky and Matačić. ... From bel canto stage-works, Edgardo and Nemorino were favourite assumptions. Gedda’s powerful Arnold in Lamberto Gardelli’s recording of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell is a must-hear document and he also figures in the premiere recording of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. His contribution to Sir Adrian Boult’s recording of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (alongside Helen Watts and Robert Lloyd) is also notable for its idiomatic qualities... 
Feature review: Festival Présences 2017, Paris
Thursday, March 02, 2017 |  Radio France’s annual new-music shindig Festival Présences was founded by Claude Samuel in 1991. ... ...and a whopping twenty-six works by this year’s featured composer, Kaija Saariaho. ... Many of Présences 2017’s newer works were by South American-born, France-based composers, and two such works featured here, each a world premiere: Telluris. Désert Rose by Alexandre Lunsqui – which in post-spectral fashion contrasted quick ascending/descending gestures and static harmonic washes – and Luis Naón’s Pajaro contra el borde de la noche, in which a cello is augmented by electronics and the members of the ensemble played harmonicas. ... The standout works on this programme were Lucas Fagin’s Psychedelic, a Pink Floyd-referencing piece of sonic weirdness featuring a standout turn from keyboardist Caroline Cren, and Philippe Hurel’s Localized Corrosion, a quartet for electric guitar (with many effects pedals), alto-saxophone, piano and percussion, in which brash riffing is contrasted with beautifully delirious monophonic forays, in which endless unison melodies suggest a more adventurous Frank Zappa. ... ...if we compare the situation to other artistic media, we hardly criticise, say, novelist John Banville for aiming his well-crafted work at a broad public, so it’s unclear why composers should be criticised for same. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2016-17: Verdi’s La traviata – Sonya Yoncheva, Michael Fabiano, Thomas Hampson; conducted by Nicola Luisotti [Showing on Saturday March 11]
Wednesday, March 01, 2017 |  The Classical Source once again brings you a handy guide to all ten of the Metropolitan Opera productions included in this season’s international broadcast series... ... La traviata, one of the most popular of operas, was premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1853 to a somewhat mixed reception. Based on the play La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas (the younger), itself an adaptation, the text Verdi set is by one of his regular librettists Francesco Maria Piave. ... The title role is sung by the exciting Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva. There need be no worries about her technical abilities and she possesses a rich and dark vocal palette. She’s a great actress too! Michael Fabiano should be terrific as the ardent yet headstrong Alfredo, and Thomas Hampson will reprise the upright Giorgio Germont. 
Rimsky and Ravel: Not such strange Bedfellows
Saturday, February 18, 2017 |  Ravel also heard music from Russia, including works of the giants of the time, Glinka and Tchaikovsky, as well as the “mighty five”, which included Rimsky-Korsakov. ... The Russian had already made a huge impression with his early work from 1868, based on yet another Arabian myth, the tale of Antar. ... In 1910, Ravel was working for the Ballets Russes in Paris, working on the score for Daphnis and Chloe under the ever-watchful eye of Diaghilev. At the same time, the composer was asked to write incidental music for a play, based on the Antar story. ... Not only was the music from the Symphonic Suite incorporated, there were also extracts from Mlada, two other songs by Rimsky and portions of Felicien David’s symphonic ode, Le Desert. To add to the mystique of the story, Mata Hari herself appeared in the dance scenes. 
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  Four men in my family were executed by the Nazis. Hans von Dohnanyi, my father, honored in Yad Vashem, was killed in the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen shortly before the Second World War ended. At the same time the world-renowned theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, brother of my mother, my godfather, was executed in the concentration camp Flossenbürg. In 1930 Bonhoeffer began his studies in New York City at the Union Theological Seminary and learned to love and admire the United States of America. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2016-17: Dvořák’s Rusalka – Kristine Opolais & Brandon Jovanovich; conducted by Mark Elder [Showing on Saturday February 25]
Sunday, February 05, 2017 |  Rusalka is by far the most popular and performed of Antonin Dvořák’s ten operas and understandably so. The story is ostensibly a fairytale, but it also touches on many themes important to the modern psyche – identity, compromise, relationships, even damage to nature and the environment. ... The prince appears to the sound of hunting horns. He has felt strangely drawn to the lake without knowing why. He sees Rusalka, falls in love, and carries her away to his castle. There Rusalka’s inability to communicate generates commentary from the staff as well as noble acquaintances. The prince begins to find Rusalka’s apparent coldness, owing to fear, wearisome – and feels she cares little for him. ... ‘Song to the Moon’ has been a perennial favourite. The Prince’s music requires a heady lyric-dramatic tenor – he has glorious music to sing. ... The cast assembled by Metropolitan Opera is impressive. Kristine Opolais, famous for her Puccini interpretations, takes on the title role. Her sense for the theatrical should bring a searing portrayal. The Prince is sung by Brandon Jovanovich... 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2016-17: Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Vittorio Grigolo & Diana Damrau; conducted by Gianandrea Noseda [Showing on Saturday January 21]
Thursday, January 12, 2017 |  Roméo et Juliette, whilst not as regularly staged as Charles Gounod’s most-popular opera Faust, is the other of his numerous stage-works that retains a toe-hold in the repertoire. ... It is one of many operas based on Shakespeare’s tale of doomed young love, and is perhaps the most faithful to the play’s full narrative. ... Romeo and Juliet are the adolescent offspring of two noble families in Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues, at enmity for generations. ... Gounod’s music is always tuneful and beautiful, and in many ways is representative of the best of French Romantic opera. ... The ill-fated lovers are sung by Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau... 


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