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La bohème at the Royal Opera House, Covent GardenSam Smith
Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 creation La bohème, which is almost cinematographic in its length and proportions, is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world today. Set in 1830s Paris, it focuses on six young adults and the love that four of them find with each other amidst the most impoverished of circumstances. One couple (Marcello and Musetta) have a stormy relationship but their frequent battles prove that their love actually has staying power. Rodolfo and...
A gender-bending Ariodante is superb in its Salzburg revivalIlana Walder-Biesanz
To inspire his production of Handel’s Ariodante for the Salzburg Festival, director Christof Loy turned to a novel that shares a name with the opera’s source material (Ariosto’s Orlando furioso): Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. He makes no secret of this source, as quotes from Orlando (in Italian, for the sake of linguistic continuity) interrupt the overture and precede the third act. The concept is both consistent and effective. A mishmash of costume time periods from...
An overwhelming Wozzeck in SalzburgIlana Walder-Biesanz
There is always something happening in William Kentridge’s staging of Wozzeck. It can be hard to know what to look at—the supernumeraries creeping around in gas masks? The improbably piled-up junk that serves as a set? The charcoal drawings projected as backdrops? The little videos than range from absurd cartoons to scenes of abuse? It almost doesn’t matter. All these elements work together to create a cohesive atmosphere haunted by war and poverty. The production has...
The wrong cast for I due Foscari in SalzburgIlana Walder-Biesanz
Verdi’s I due Foscari is a definite contender for the title of “least dramatic opera”. Not much happens: the younger Foscari (Jacopo) is sent back into exile by the Venetian Council of Ten and dies on the way. His wife Lucrezia pleads and suffers, in vain. Led by the Foscaris’ enemy, Jacopo Loredano, the Council also votes to remove the older Foscari (Francesco) from his position as Doge. This double grief kills him. Despite his role as the antagonist, Loredano...
Bayerische Staatsoper Umberto Giordano Andrea ChenierHelmut Pitsch
A powerful revolution, a strong military touch, dry and frightful is the musical interpretation of Omar Meir Wellber, the young Israeli conductor of the last performance of the Munich festival. He pushes the Bavarian State Orchestra with wide desiring gestures. The musicians follow him with discipline and voluminous power. That does not make it easy for the stars of this repetition of the celebrated new production of Andrea Chenier of this season. Andrea Chenier The plot is full...
An explosive Lady Macbeth in SalzburgIlana Walder-Biesanz
Shostakovich’s final opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, has had a rocky history. It was a smash hit when first performed in 1934, but it was officially condemned by the Communist Party two years later for its sympathetic portrayal of a triple murderess. Nowadays, it hovers on the fringes of the standard repertoire (barely making it into Operabase’s 100 most-performed works globally last season). It’s exciting to see it newly staged at the Salzburg Festival this...