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War Requiem: War as (only) pain and sufferingXavier Pujol
In 1942 composer Benjamin Britten declared himself a conscientious objector in front of a tribunal. Twenty years later, in 1962, his War Requiem was premiered as part of the commemorations of the inauguration of Coventry cathedral’s reconstruction, which had been destroyed during the German air raids of WWII. The composer, who considered this piece as one of his most important creations, made a requiem without epic character, without exaltation of the heroes fallen in the honour...
Fourth Revival of Phelim McDermott’s Satyagraha at the London ...Sam Smith
Philip Glass is recognised as one of the leading figures in minimalism today, and yet it is not a word he especially likes. This is understandable since it can severely underplay the variety of music that is all too often categorised under this one umbrella term. Glass himself has written over twenty-five operas, yet even if we look at just his trilogy that focuses on pivotal figures in the fields of science, politics and religion respectively, the styles of composition are markedly...
An Eighteen Month Delay but Worth the Wait for Jenůfa at the R...Sam Smith
Jenůfa, which premiered in Brno in 1904, is an opera in three acts by Leoš Janáček to a Czech libretto by the composer. It is based on the play Její pastorkyňa by Gabriela Preissová, and is one of the very first operas to be written in prose. Set in a Moravian village in the nineteenth century, the plot concerns a series of tangled relationships that derive from the fact that two fathers both married twice, and had a child by three of their four...
Ariadne auf Naxos at Liceu: Josep Pons’ Good StraussXavier Pujol
Liceu opened its 175th season with Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, an opera that has rarely been seen at the theatre and which had not been brought on stage for almost 20 years. Written for a moderately sized orchestra and with a transparent yet dense orchestration of refined sonorities, Ariadne is a difficult opera to resolve instrumentally. Maestro Josep Pons, the theatre’s principal director chose to face the challenge of conducting this Ariadne and the obtained results were...
Tenth Revival of David McVicar’s The Magic Flute at the Royal ...Sam Smith
Sir David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto for the Royal Opera may just have been displaced by a new version by Oliver Mears, but his The Magic Flute of 2003 is still going strong. Mozart’s final opera, which premiered on 30 September 1791 just a few months before the composer’s death, takes the form of a Singspiel that combines singing with spoken dialogue. In it, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity...
First New Production of Rigoletto in Twenty Years at the Royal...Sam Smith
Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto was a triumph when it premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1851, and has remained one of the composer’s most frequently performed operas ever since. Its popularity is thoroughly deserved but might still be deemed interesting, given that it is a contender for the cruellest opera in the mainstream repertoire. While many works see the innocent suffer and die, there is usually a sense in...