Soprano Renée Fleming is certainly making the role of the Countess in Richard Strauss’s final opera Capriccio the focus of her late-career years. After her Met run in 2010, she has made various stops in the role, including this 2013 Wiener Staatsoper production, released by Unitel Classica and directed for video by Brian Large, and she will bring her Countess to Chicago and Dresden in the coming months. The role certainly suits her natural elegance and charm, and sits well in her current vocal estate. Read more »
Richard Strauss’ Elektra has always been something of a touchstone opera for this reviewer. It was one of the first operas I attended at the Met (Birgit Nilsson’s return in 1980—I still have her “Orest!” ringing somewhere in my brain). It was the first full opera recording I ever bought (Nilsson, Solti) on cassettes that I still have in my collection. My other live Elektras include Ute Vinzing, Hildegard Behrens and, most recently, the excellent Christine Goerke in Chicago.
But none of my previous Elektra experiences prepared me for this stunning, overwhelming performance from the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, with brilliant and incisive stage direction by Patrice Chéreau (his final opera staging before his death in 2013). Esa-Pekka Salonen leads a superb cast and the Orchestre de Paris in a reading of Strauss’ score that doesn’t stint on the powerful climaxes yet brings out all the musical textures—there are, of course, the booming brass-and-drums moments, but Salonen also finds the thrilling quiet moments. The playing and singing in the Recognition scene are exquisitely sweet. Read more »
Benjamin Britten’s final opera Death in Venice, based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, is given a lush and quite beautiful production from stage director Deborah Warner for the English National Opera in this Opus Arte DVD filmed in 2013. Featuring almost magical settings by Tom Pye, luminous, wind-blown fabrics and water projections lit by the heat and sun effects of the lighting by Jean Kalman, the production gives an almost perfect frame for Britten’s tale. But for all the beauty and appropriateness of the frame, the picture itself is, for this reviewer, a deeply flawed masterpiece. Read more »
In Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, all the Russian people starve and suffer, but none has suffering like the mental agonies of Tsar Boris.
George Benjamin’s 2012 opera Written on Skin received great acclaim at its opening at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and the Royal Opera quickly mounted it in March 2013.
The sea, the sky, the wind, the storms that are so frequently depicted in the music of Benjamin Britten are brilliantly illuminated in the new DVD of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach, a collaboration between Aldeburgh Music, film director Margaret Williams, and stage director Tim Albery.
As part of the celebration of the three-year long restoration of the Theatre Royal de Liege (and, from what we can see in this DVD it is a glorious restoration indeed), the Opera Royal de Wallonie went all the way to find as Belgian an operatic experience as was possible.
Having recently reviewed Glass’s The Perfect American on this site and participated in spirited discussions about the film Saving Mr. Banks, it is perhaps not surprising that Walt Disney should spring to my mind as I watched the Unitel Classica video of Die Zauberflote from the floating stage of the Bregenzer Festspiele.
Philip Glass’s 25th opera The Perfect American was originally commissioned for New York City Opera during the aborted regime of Gerard Mortier.
I first became aware of the work of Austrian film director Michael Haneke a few years back when I followed a tip from a friend and rented the well-reviewed The White Ribbon.