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Getting Under the Skin of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at the...Sam Smith
Porgy and Bess was written by George Gershwin, with libretto by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, in 1935. It was based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s play Porgy, which was itself adapted from DuBose’s eponymous novel of 1925. Set in South Carolina in the 1920s, it explores the lives of the African American residents of Catfish Row, a fictitious place on the waterfront of Charleston. Here, Porgy is a disabled beggar while Bess is the lover of Crown, a tough stevedore. Crown...
Sublime Solomon at the Royal Opera House, Covent GardenSam Smith
It is highly fitting that the Royal Opera House should present George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Solomon now since its predecessor on the site, the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, hosted the first performance on 17 March 1749. At the time of its premiere the composer’s decades-long domination of the London opera scene had already come to an end, but his oratorios in English, which he had begun composing while still writing operas, were going from strength to strength. While...
Wake-Walker's La finta giardiniera travels to La ScalaJames Imam
It takes a special production to ensure listeners do not get helplessly lost in the messy operatic overgrowth of La finta giardinieria. Written by Mozart at the age of 18, the score possesses little of the trailblazing innovation that would characterise his mature operas. Conventional arias are joined together with tiresome stretches of recitative, in a dreary musical terrain that only occasionally lights up to flashes of musical genius. The story centres on Sandrina, a noblewoman...
A pair of exceptional voices for a renewed PuritaniXavier Pujol
A new production of I Puritani, Bellini’s last opera, a highly esteemed title at Liceu, was chosen to inaugurate the new season. The vocal demands of I Puritani are fearsome and great voices are required to achieve success in the two main roles. Liceu made sure this was covered by casting one of the trendy couples of today’s bel canto scene. Mexican tenor Javier Camarena and young South African soprano Pretty Yende will be featuring together in five different titles this season...
Ernani at La Scala: Francesco Meli, Ailyn PérezJames Imam
'Mi raccomando brevità, e fuoco,' is how Verdi illustrated his blueprint for Ernani to his librettist Piave. He can't have been disappointed by the final product. Verdi's fifth opera brims with rollicking tunes, stirring arias and incendiary ensemble numbers -- it is an uninterrupted flow of musical invention. Such has not secured Ernani regular appearances at La Scala. The opera had last appeared at the Milan house 32 years ago, in a production from Luca Ronconi...
Radical but Flawed Presentation of Salome at the London ColiseumSam Smith
Despite only being mentioned briefly in the New Testament, the character of Salome has certainly caught the imagination as she has pervaded art, literature and music over the centuries. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark she is described as a girl who pleased King Herod so much at his birthday feast with her dancing that he promised her anything she desired. After consulting Herodias, the husband of Herod and her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate, with Herodias...