Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as ‘the Russian Parsifal’, which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky’s underrated dramatic instincts.
Antonio Vivaldi wrote hundreds of largely famous instrumental works, and his glorious church music is well known; but it wasn’t until recent decades that his operas – of which he is said to have created more than fifty – were resurrected. Orlando furioso occupies a central and very significant place among Vivaldi’s works. Not only does the whole score of this opera demonstrate its composer’s full, creative maturity, but its outstanding features are also an extraordinary musical beauty, an attractive recitative line and a balance thus created between the various parts of the dramatic and musical whole. This exceptional musical achievement was no doubt partly due to the famous theme of the original story, as well as the literary and dramatic qualities of a fi rst-rate libretto. Pier Luigi Pizzi’s 1979 production of Orlando furioso in Verona marked the beginning of contemporary international interest in Antonio Vivaldi’s operas. Ten years later the same director once more produced this work at the San Francisco Opera, where it was a great success.
“If we weep from emotion on hearing it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of” Richard Wagner on Bellini’s most famous opera Norma, the most successful work by the last and greatest composer of bel canto. This new production of Norma, directed by Grammy Award-nominated opera, theatre and film director Kevin Newbury and starring Sondra Radvanovsky as a “powerful, elegant” Norma (New York Times) and Gregory Kunde as Pollione, is “something very special. The word ‘historic’ is used perhaps a little too often but tonight there really is no other adjective to describe the sensational performances offered to us by Sondra Radvanovsky and Gregory unde.” (operatraveller.com)
Glyndebourne has brought to light a long-overlooked winner in Donizetti’s Poliuto, delivering ‘a superb musical performance’ (The Telegraph) offering ‘lucent accounts of the principal roles and an incandescent London Philharmonic Orchestra, under Enrique Mazzola’ (New York Times). This first ever professional UK staging of the story of third-century Armenian martyr St Polyeuctus features a ‘trio of world-class young singers’ with Fabiano, winner of the Beverly Sills and Richard Tucker awards, displaying a ‘thrilling, vibrant tone’ in the title role, Martínez providing Paolina with ‘pinging coloratura’ and Golovatenko giving a ‘radiant-toned’ voice to Severo. (The Guardian)
Andrea Chénier presents a fictionalized account of the last years of the French poet André Chénier, guillotined during the Reign of Terror in 1794. It is the greatest of Giordano’s operas and shows why Puccini sometimes feared Giordano as a rival. Taking the starring role of Chénier, with its three marvellous arias, is Jonas Kaufmann. Soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek sings the role of Chénier’s beloved Maddalena and baritone Željko Lučić stars as Carlo Gérard – the servant-turned-revolutionary who is Chénier’s rival for the love of Maddalena. David McVicar brings Giordano’s thrilling historical drama back to the Royal Opera House for the first time since 1985 in a stunning new production.
The Mariinsky label is delighted to release the first of four operas on DVD in 2013 with Verdi’s 'Attila'. Released in celebration of Verdi’s anniversary year, acclaimed Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov stars in the title role, in this the premiere of Arturo Gama’s production. He is ably supported by soprano, Anna Markarova in the role Odabella; baritone, Vladislav Sulimsky in the role of Ezio and tenor, Sergei Skorokhodov.
Filmed live in Baden-Baden by the veteran director Brian Large, Renée Fleming makes her debut in the role of Ariadne together with fellow key Strauss interpreters Sophie Koch and Christian Thielemann, following on from their Rosenkavalier triumph. Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the orchestra to whom Strauss dedicated his Alpine Symphony and which premiered Feuersnot, Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne. Fleming's voice might have been made for Ariadne and she achieved a great personal triumph in this production: “The chief glory of the evening was hearing Renée Fleming, the Straussian soprano par excellence, making her role debut as Ariadne… As the possessor of what is, possibly, the most beautiful soprano voice in the world, she put her vocal treasures in the service of an empathic, nuanced interpretation of the role. From the creamy top, through a rich, warm middle, to the bewitching, darker colours of her lower register, Fleming poured her magnificent sound into Strauss’s enchanting melodic arcs, animating the sadness, vulnerability, and desire of the bereft princess…” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Marlis Petersen, Tom Randle, Victor Torres, Pietro Spagnoli, Magnus Staveland, Sunhae Im, Arttu Kataja, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Nigel Lowery, Amir Hosseinpour Freiburger Barockorchester René Jacobs In the Summer of 2009, the British director Nigel Lowery and the Iranian choreographer Amir Hosseinpour brought to the stage of the Berlin State Opera “Unter den Linden”, with colour and full of humour, the fantastic and imaginative adventures of “Racing Roland”. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of Joseph Haydn, the composer’s most renowned opera during his lifetime,“Orlando Paladino”, was performed, a heroic-comical stage piece based on Ariost’s famous “Versepos”. Singers such as Marlis Petersen (Angelica), Tom Randle (Orlando), Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Alcina), Pietro Spagnoli (Rodomonte), Sunhae Im (Eurilla) and Victor Torres (Pasquale) performed under the musical direction of period-music specialist René Jacobs. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra completed this high-class production giving the music a beautiful sound and lively swing.
Director David McVicar's original-period vision for this Mozartian gem allows its genius to speak for itself, offering a mesmerising, sensitive outstanding portrayal of Enlightenment-era fascination with the East that is both exquisitely acted and sung, featuring a Konstanze and a Belmonte sung with finesse and bravura and a sensationally voiced Osmin (The Guardian *****). Comic relief in Glyndebourne's brilliant production is provided by beautifully sung live-wire performances of Pedrillo and Blonde, and Robin Ticciati leads the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment through a restored, authentic rendition of the critical score with lovely fizz and poignant gravitas (The Independent).
Glyndebournes Saul stole the summer and had critics raving. The Guardian (****) applauded virtuoso stagecraft from director Barrie Kosky in his debut production there, calling the show a theatrical and musical feast of energetic choruses, surreal choreography and gorgeous singing. For The Independent, which ranked it amongst five top classical and opera performances of 2015, there was no praise too high for the cast. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ivor Bolton sparkles from the pit with period panache, and designer Katrin Lea Tags exuberant costumes (The Times ****) set the Old Testament story in Handels time, with a witty twinge of the contemporary.