Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Alesksey Bognadov, the best Demon you will ever hear (lrina Danilova photo) Over its six-year history, Commonwealth Lyric Theater has brought to Boston a series of underappreciated Russian and Ukrainian operas in nontraditional playing spaces. Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, Rachmaninov’s Aleko, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri in Brighton’s Temple Bnai Moshe. Semen Hulak-Artemovsky’s Cossack Beyond the Danube in Newton’s First Baptist Church. And last year — in a departure from “underappreciated” — Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov in Newton City Hall. This year’s offering is again obscure by American standards — Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon — but CLT is stepping up to a conventional theater, the Cutler Majestic. The transition isn’t always a smooth one, and there are flaws in the production. There are also surprises: CLT’s Demon, Ukrainian-born bass baritone Aleksey Bogdanov, doesn’t even appear on stage till act three. Seen or unseen, he’s magnificent. And this is surely the best Demon you’ll ever see. It’s probably the only Demon you’ll ever see, but it’s a worthy presentation of Rubinstein’s great opera and you really need to see it. Rubinstein himself is not obscure — he was one of the great piano virtuosos of the late 19th century, and he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He was also a prolific composer: six symphonies, five piano concertos, works for piano and chamber ensembles, oratorios, a ballet, and a clutch of operas, of which the best known — relatively speaking — is The Demon. Based on Mikhail Lermontov’s poem “Demon,” it was first presented to a small private audience (which included Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) in 1871. The Demon premiered in St. Petersburg in 1875 and enjoyed scores of performances thereafter; there’s a 1903 painting of the great Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in the title role. But at its Paris premiere, in 1911, it got mixed reviews, and it has hardly prospered in the West. The CLT production is the first in Boston in nearly a century. Lermontov wrote “Demon” over a period of ten years, from 1829 to 1839, finishing it in the Caucasus when he was just 24. The title character is a fallen angel, a “Spirit of Despair,” who at the outset is remembering how he used to shine among God’s Cherubim, how he’d exchange smiles with a passing comet. Now he roams the earth, a proud outcast for whom sin has lost its allure. But when his eye falls on Mount Kazbek, and the valleys below, and Gudal’s beautiful daughter Tamara, he’s smitten; she wakes in him the lost joys of Heaven. Tamara is about to wed; even as the Demon first sees her, her princely bridegroom is en route. As evening falls, Sinodal arrives at a chapel where another nobleman was foully slain. It’s the custom to pray at this shrine to ward off possible Muslim attacks, but when the Demon turns Sinodal’s thoughts to the warm lips of his future bride, the prince neglects the prayer, and he and his caravan pay the price. Desolate, a widow on her wedding day, Tamara persuades her father to let her retire to a convent. But there’s strange, beckoning voice in her ear, and an envisioned form, eyes full of love, that’s from neither Heaven nor Hell. Her thoughts are wild, her dreams guilty; her heart prays not to God but to the Demon. Brushing past an Angel who tries to block his way, the Demon enters Tamara’s cell, acknowledges himself as Heaven’s foe, kneels, and plights his troth — for him, she’s been engraved on his soul since the firmament took shape. Tamara implores him to renounce sin; he swears to make her empress of the world, which is not quite the same thing, and kisses her, whereupon she dies. At the end, which Lermontov rewrote in an attempt — not wholly successful — to forestall censorship, an Angel bears Tamara up to Heaven; the Demon is rebuffed when he tries to claim her. Demon silhouetted with recumbent Tamara and nanny (Olga Maturana photo) Byron was always a major influence on Lermontov, and his Demon is nothing if not Byronic; the poem is the Demon’s tragedy rather than Tamara’s. For the libretto of The Demon, Rubinstein engaged Russian literature professor Pavel Viskovatov, who devoted himself to Lermontov’s legacy. Viskovatov’s libretto is not as florid as Lermontov’s original; his Demon doesn’t promise Tamara a chaplet from the vast treasures of the morning star, or dewdrops that will shine like diamonds. But he’s true to the poet’s spirit, and he fleshes out the dramatically thin narrative with opera-friendly scenes like the opening Choruses of Spirits, the water-fetching journey of Tamara and her friends, the salute to “the juice of the grape” from Gudal’s wedding guests, and a pair of exotic Oriental dances. He expands the role of Sinodal, who, ominously, likens himself to a falcon and Tamara to his dove. The Demon, promising Tamara golden dreams, remains poetic and rebellious; as in Lermontov’s poem, he’s the villain — and the hero. In his posthumously published Gedankenkorb (1897), Rubinstein wrote, “Russians call me German, Germans call me Russian, Jews call me a Christian, Christians a Jew. Pianists call me a composer, composers call me a pianist. The classicists think me a futurist, and the futurists call me a reactionary. My conclusion is that I am neither fish nor fowl — a pitiful individual.” As music, The Demon, at least, is not quite Russian, and not quite European — which may in part account for the opera’s lack of popularity. Yet as a Romantic score, it works, and you can hear anticipations of future Russian operas, among them Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. In its full form, The Demon runs two and a half hours. CLT artistic director Alexander Prokhorov, in a program note, describes this production as “a slightly abridged version of The Demon, which excludes some of the elements that were introduced to appease the censors.” Thursday’s performance ran two hours and 25 minutes, but it started 20 minutes late, and there was a 20-minute intermission between acts one and two, so we got just 105 minutes of music — a more than “slightly abridged version.” Missing here: the opening Choruses of Spirits; the two wedding-guest choruses at the beginning of act two; the act-two finale, in which Gudal is encouraged to set out after the Tatars who killed Sinodal; the watchman’s song that opens act three; the nuns’ chorus; and the final angel chorus. Gudal’s proposed vengeance is a dramatic dead end — he doesn’t reappear in act three — and is frequently omitted in performance; it’s no loss. But some of the other cuts seem prompted more by a desire to shorten the evening than by any idea of excluding “elements that were introduced to appease the censors.” The 13 minutes of dance music in act two, at Tamara’s wedding feast, are also frequently omitted in performance, but not here, where CLT has brought in the Pesvebi Georgian Folk Ensemble, complete with Georgian drum and the flute-like duduk. There are some trade-offs to presenting your opera in a regular theater space. CLT’s set for Aleko spread to the perimeter of Temple Bnai Moshe: there were wagons and hay bales and a tent, with laundry hanging from a line and the ushers dressed as Gypsies and going barefoot. That sort of thing would scarcely be possible at the Majestic. And what was charmingly makeshift at Temple Bnai Moshe can look merely makeshift at the Majestic. Anastasia Grigoreva’s costumes are serviceable but generic and unprepossessing. Her physical set is sparse: some rocks for the scenes where the maidens fetch water and Sinodal’s caravan halts for the night; a long table for the wedding feast; a prie-dieu for the convent. For the rest, we get video projections from Patrick K.-H.: swirling galaxies to represent the eternal world of the Demon; a brief look at the tortures of the damned; the mountains of the Caucasus for the water fetching; a stone chapel for the caravan scene; the stone walls of a castle for the wedding feast; Romanesque arches to represent the convent. It tended to wash out in brightly lighted scenes. It was often effective, though missing the third dimension; on Thursday “Input” and “Signal” would occasionally show up on screen in place of the projection. The supertitles were clear and mostly reasonable as a translation of the libretto, but too often they were out of synch with the action. And when Sinodal’s old retainer told him that his wound was mortal, the supertitle, if I saw it correctly, read, “The knife penetrated too deeply” — which was a surprise since Sinodal had been shot. We’d even heard the report of the rifle. Playing a reduction of the score by Moshe Shulman, the orchestra of just 24 under CLT’s St. Petersburg–born music director, Lidiya Yankovskaya, sounded underpowered and a little tentative in the Prologue. Thereafter, as usual with CLT productions, the playing was more than fine; the string solos were particularly lovely in the sequence where Sinodal falls asleep. In any case, this is an opera where the music serves the libretto and not the other way round. The final scene (Olga Maturana photo) An uncut performance of The Demon opens in turmoil, with a Chorus of Infernal Spirits pitted against Choruses of Heavenly Spirits and Nature, and when you hear the timpani pounding in a steady rhythm that anticipates the Adagio finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony, you know that Heaven will win out. I was sorry to miss that section here. It’s not essential to the plot, but it does show that the Demon, when he enters, belongs to neither Heaven nor Hell. He’s immortal, he’s solitary, and tempting humans to sin is too easy to be satisfying. Except that here the Demon doesn’t actually enter. Instead, Prokhorov has Bogdanov remain offstage during his first exchange with Anna Cley’s Angel. Cley, seen only in silhouette against the galaxy backdrop, offers love and forgiveness; the Demon wants freedom and passion and calls her a slave. Cley is a stern, impersonal Angel — if that’s an interpretative decision, it’s not a bad one. But even invisible, Bogdanov overpowers her, with a voice as infinite as those galaxies, and infinitely attentive to the nuances of his text. He posits himself as the opera’s hero; you could argue he’s the more impressive for not being seen. The second scene belongs to Tamara and her maiden retinue. She may be a princess, but she’s not too proud to fetch water with them. A golden fish dances “on the sapphire blue waves,” the girls tell us. Not everyone sees him, only those he likes, and they’re invited to his mansion of colored crystal. The Demon, with his promise of “golden dreams,” is the fish; Tamara tells her friends not to let “the fishes look at you” when they’re filling their buckets with water, but then she herself gets hooked. CLT’s Tamara, Moscow-born Zhanna Alkhazova, didn’t quite hook me. She has a clarion soprano, and she’s not shrill even when full out, but she’s full out most of the time, and that tires the ear. Her Tamara is initially not very spontaneous with her friends; when she does let loose, over Sinodal’s corpse, it’s all histrionics — granted, pretty good histrionics. But it’s hard to see the passion that the Demon spies in her. Cley doubles as Tamara’s nanny; she too, in her spotlight song of Sinodal galloping to his wedding day, could be more animated. As Sinodal, on the other hand, Adam Klein, a sonically brilliant and dramatically ardent tenor, made a worthy rival for the Demon, even if, like Alkhazova, he tends to sing to the audience rather than to those around him. Tender in his “Transformed into a falcon” romance, Klein let the last words die away for a moving death scene. Substituting for the listed singer, Prokhorov was authoritative as Sinodal’s old retainer, with a voice even deeper and more resonant than Bogdanov’s, if that’s possible. The Tatars here are projections on the screen that slash and hack while the Sinodal’s real-life retinue panics and scatters; it works. The choruses, both male and female, are so rewarding in this production that it’s a shame the choral numbers for the wedding guests have been eliminated from act two. But the dancing compensates, especially the acrobatic men, who engage in what looks like a rapid-fire Morris dance with sparking swords instead of sticks. Right in the middle of the sequence, in another innovative touch, we get a pantomime story of the opera, with dancers representing the Demon, Tamara, and Sinodal. Toward the end of act two, the Demon appears as a larger-than-life silhouette to sing to the sleeping Tamara his great romance “On the ocean of the air.” In act three, he finally takes the stage, sporting a feathered headpiece that’s as flattering as it is perplexing, for his confrontation with Tamara, now immured in a convent. Bogdanov is seductive, even sincere, as he kneels at the prie-dieu and swears to renounce evil; you might wish the lighting let you see more of his face. Alkhazova — or was it Prokhorov’s decision? — is too much the victim, overcome rather than enamored. Even in her great romance, “The night is warm, the night is silent,” she’s not quite intimate, though she does take the decibel level down a notch. Finally she looks the Demon in the eye, at close quarters; she’s about to fall for him. At this point in the opera, the nuns burst in singing the praises of the Creator and Tamara realizes what she’s about to do. In this production, there are no nuns, so Tamara’s awakening comes from nothing. The Demon persists; Tamara, now a martyr, lies down as if the pleasureless sacrifice of her virginity could save Mother Russia. It’s not an ideal staging, and after Tamara dies and the Angel appears to claim her, Bogdanov is made to look all too human as he stumbles off stage. Rubinstein — who did have censorship to deal with — bears some responsibility; it’s the cursed, forlorn Demon we should see at the end, not Tamara and the Angel ascending into Heaven. All the same, The Demon is a masterpiece. Kudos to CLT for bringing it to Boston. There’ll be a second performance at the Majestic, April 20 at 8 p.m. And on April 19, at 7:30 p.m., CLT will present Prokhorov, singer and pianist, in “Dark Eyes: The Master of Russian and Gypsy Romances.” Jeffrey Gantz has been writing about music, dance, theater, art, film, and books for the past 35 years, first for the Boston Phoenix and currently for the Boston Globe. Tamara rues dead Sinodal (Olga Maturana photo) The post Essential Demon Beckons appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
By Jacob Stockinger First came the unforgettable. Then came the unforgivable. In the first case, I am talking about the woefully under-attended performance on Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin Union Theater by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (below) under its outgoing maestro Edo de Waart . The MSO played the Overture to the opera “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ; “Schelomo: A Hebraic Rhapsody” by Ernest Bloch , with principal cellist Susan Babini as soloist; and the Symphony No. 1 by Sir Edward Elgar . In each case, all sections of the orchestra performed stunningly well and the caliber of performance made you wonder: “Why don’t we hear this group more often?” The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra used to tour to Madison every year or so. It should do so again. Then not long after the concert came word of the deadly terrorist attack by a suicide bomber at a pop concert in Manchester, England . Sure, sometimes these things just happen. But coincidences can have power. The Ear can’t think of a more stately and forceful statement of British fortitude and stoicism – the same grit that saw Britain through the Nazi blitz — than the poignant march-like opening of the first movement of Sir Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 1. Chances are you don’t know the symphony. Chances are you know Elgar from his “Pomp and Circumstance” Marches, from his “Enigma Variations for orchestra, from his Cello Concerto, from his Violin Concerto, from the violin miniature “Salut d’amour.” But this is grand and great Elgar (below) who, like Brahms, turned to writing symphonies only late in his life. We don’t hear Elgar’s first symphony often enough. And this just happens to be the right time, both because of the world-class performance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and because of the symphony was premiered in 1908 — in Manchester — and then went on to be popular enough to have some 100 performances in its first year. But it has fallen out of favor. The last time the Ear heard it live was years ago when the UW Symphony Orchestra played it under the baton of guest conductor and UW-Madison alumnus Kenneth Woods (below), who now leads the English Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Mahler Festival. So here, in the YouTube video at the bottom, is a complete recording from the BBC Proms in 2012. Perhaps you will only listen to the opening movement, or even just the opening of the opening movement, with its moving theme that recurs throughout and then returns at the end. But however much you listen to — and you shouldn’t miss the glorious slow movement – it seems a fitting choice to share today. After all, as Leonard Bernstein once said: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” If you have another choice of music to listen to on this dead occasion, leave word and a YouTube link in the COMMENT section. Solidarity through music! Tagged: Arts , attack , BBC , BBC Proms , blitz , Bloch , Britain , Cello , Classical music , Colorado , Concert , concerto , Don Giovanni , Edo de Waart , Elgar , England , English , English Symphony Orchestra , festival , fortitude , Great Britain , grit , Hebrew , Herbraic , Jacob Stockinger , Johannes Brahms , Kenneth Woods , Leonard Bernstein , Madison , Mahler , Mahler Fest , march , Milwaukee , Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra , Mozart , Music , Nazi , opera , Orchestra , Overture , poignant , pop music , Proms , reply , Schelomo , soloist , stoic , stoicism , suicide , suicide bomber , Susan Babini , symphony , Symphony No. 1 (Elgar) , terror , terrorism , The Proms , UK , United Kingdom , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , violence , Violin , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Union Theater , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , YouTube
I interviewed conductor Marc Minkowski earlier this month for Early Music America's magazine. He's rehearsing Don Giovanni for San Francisco Opera, in what will be his SFO debut. It's his first visit to SF, so it's also his first local appearance. You can read the resulting profile here. Spoiler warning: contains horses as well as Mozart.
By Jacob Stockinger The Willy Street Chamber Players have done it again. The relatively new local group (below), which The Ear named as Musicians of the Year for 2016, has come up with another fantastic lineup of concerts for its third summer season, which also includes other appearances. True, they have a new color logo (below top) to go with the older, really cool map-like geographical one in black-and-white (below bottom): But so much of the Willys ’ successful formula remains the same. As usual, the group will feature guest artists, including violinist Suzanne Beia (below top) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra , the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Pro Arte Quartet ; tenor J. Adam Shelton (below middle); and clarinetist Michel Maccaferri (belwo bottom). As usual, the concerts mix old established repertoire with newer works. One program mixes Jennifer Higdon and Johannes Brahms. Another program mixes Osvaldo Golijov and Dmitri Shostakovich and Ralph Vaughan Williams . A third mixes rocker Elvis Costello and Franz Schubert and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . As usual, the chamber ensemble puts an emphasis on community outreach. Tickets prices remain affordable with a season pass of three concerts for $40; individual tickets are $15 for adults $19 for seniors and students. They are available at the door and through Brown Paper Tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2935203 And yes, you can wear shorts or blue jeans, sandals or flip-flops. The summery atmosphere promises again to be informal and social, with snacks and treats provided by east side businesses for after the shorter programs (60 to 90 minutes) that begin at an early time (6 p.m.) and allows you to do other things that same evening. And as usual, these first-rate sonic locavores remain true to their eastside roots. So they will perform not only at their home basic of Immanuel Lutheran Church (below) at 1021 Spaight Street, but also two FREE concerts at the Marquette Waterfront Festival on Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11, plus a FREE family-friendly, one-hour noontime concert on Saturday, July 15, at the Goodman Community Center. But the Willys are also catching on in the wider area and at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 12, will open the summer season for the Rural Musicians Forum with an appearance at the Hillside Theater (below) of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright compound in Spring Green . Here is a link to the Willys’ increasingly busy calendar. Click on the event to see the full programs: http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org/calendar.html For other information, including reviews and how to support them by donating money, food or time to volunteer, here is a link to the website of the ovation-garnering Willys: http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org Tagged: Arts , Chamber music , Classical music , community , concerto , Elvis , Elvis Costello , Family , Frank Lloyd Wright , Franz Schubert , Jacob Stockinger , Jennifer Higdon , Johannes Brahms , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , Mozart , Music , Orchestra , Piano , Pro Arte Quartet , Rock , rock and roll , Rural Musicians Forum , Shostakovich , summer , Taliesin , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vaughan williams , Viola , Violin , vocal music , Willy Street Chamber Players , Wisconsin , Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , YouTube
Living Stereo - The Remastered Collector's Edition 60 CDs remastered from the original 2- and 3-track master tapes using 24 bit / 192 kHz technology. First ever release of 48 “Living Stereo” LPs on CD Sony 89853 21742 CDs 41-60 (last of three posts) FLACs, cuesheets, logs, jacket scans, booklet scans DISC 41 LSC-2531Berg — Lyric SuiteWebern — Five Pieces, Op. 5, Six Bagatelles, Op. 9Juilliard String QuartetRecorded 1959 DISC 42 LSC-2532Gould — Ballet Music ~ Fall River Legend Interplay ~ Latin American SymphonetteMorton Gould and his orchestraRecorded 1960 DISC 43 LSC-2553 Shostakovich — Cello Sonata Schubert — “Arpeggione” Sonata Daniel Shafran, cello Lydia Prcherskaya, piano Recorded 1960 DISC 44 LSC-2557Bach Organ MusicCarl Weinrich, organRecorded General Theological Seminary, NYC, 1960 DISC 45 LSC-2567Poulenc — Concerto For Organ, Strings And TimpaniStravinsky — Jeu De CartesBerj Zamkochian, organBoston Symphony Orchestra Charles Munch, conductor DISC 46 LSC-2578Songs By Schubert ~ Wagner ~ Strauss ~ Grieg ~ SibeliusBirgit Nilsson, sopranoLeo Taubman, pianoRecorded 1961 DISC 47 LSC-2610 Presentig Erick Friedman Paganini ~ Saint-Saens Erick Friedman, violin Chicago Symphony Orchestra Walter Hendl, conductor Recorded 1962 DISC 48 LSC-2626Beethoven Quartet op.131Julliard QuartetRecorded 1960 DISC 49 LSC-2632Beethoven Quartet op.95 & 135Julliard QuartetRecorded 1960 DISC 50 LSC-2646Liliane Garnier RecitalMusic of Kreisler, Wieniawski, Beethoven, PaganiniBartok, Debussy and RavelLiliane Garnier, violinAnna-Marie Giobenski, pianoRecorded 1962 DISC 51 LSC-2647 Chausson - Symphony Franck - Le chasseur maudit Boston Symphony Orchestra Charles Munch Recorded 1962 DISC 52 LSC-2648Rachmaninoff — Suites Nos. 1 And 2 For Two PianosVronsky And Babin, pianosRecorded 1961 DISC 53 LSC-2653 Music For Strings: Couperin, Mozart, Corelli, Britten I Solisti Di Zagreb Antonio Janigro, cello and conductor Recorded 1961 DISC 54 LSC-2666Finlandia — Music Of SibeliusMorton Gould and his orchestraRecorded 1962 DISC 55 LSC-2671 Virtuoso Favorites Erick Friedman, violin Brooks Smith, piano Recorded 1963 DISC 56 LSC-6068Beethoven ~ Schumann — QuartetsFestival QuartetRecorded 1957 DISC 57-59 LSC-6172 Handel — Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 Alexander Schneider and His Chamber Orchestra Recorded 1966 DISC 60 SPS-33-190 The Power Of The Organ Music of Bach, Liszt, Widor, Reger and Alain Robert Owen, organ Recorded Christ Church, Bronxville, New York City,1962
Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice in La fille du régiment © ROH/Bill Cooper Italian opera is all doom and gloom, ill-starred lovers and gruesome deaths: La traviata , La bohème , Tosca … Or is it? From 18th-century opera buffa to a late Puccini masterpiece, Italian opera also contains some of the repertory’s most light-hearted and joyous works. Few Italian composers can resist a ridiculous disguise, or the humorous music that goes with them. In Verdi ’s Falstaff , Ford, as ‘Signor Fontana’ (Mr Fountain), attempts to discover if Falstaff has seduced his wife with hilariously exaggerated, through-his-teeth courtesy. Puccini ’s Gianni Schicchi wittily impersonates the deceased Buoso Donati in piping nasal tones, while Norina in Donizetti ’s Don Pasquale adopts the persona of the shrill spendthrift Sofronia with flamboyant coloratura. Disguise provides comic relief even in Mozart ’s predominantly serious Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte , through Leporello’s impersonation of his master, and Guglielmo and Ferrando’s preposterous appearance as a pair of heavily moustached ‘Albanians’. And Rossini extracts every drop of comic potential from concealed identity, be it in Almaviva’s impersonations of an uncouth soldier and unctuous music master in Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), or the chaos of Il turco in Italia ’s fancy-dress ball. Then there’s the wealth of absurd misunderstandings. Nemorino and Dulcamara’s duet in L’elisir d’amore is as amusing as it is poignant, with Nemorino ecstatically hailing the quack doctor’s ‘elixir of love’ as Dulcamara chuckles at his foolishness (the elixir in fact being nothing more than a cheap bottle of Bordeaux). The comic confusion of Act III of Le nozze di Figaro – when Figaro nearly marries his mother – results in one of opera’s most remarkable musical ensembles . Romantic misunderstandings abound in Il turco in Italia, when Fiorilla’s rendezvous with Selim ends in a cat-fight after his former beloved Zaida turns up. Most absurd of all is Falstaff’s farcical Act II finale, where Ford’s frantic attempts to prove his innocent wife Alice’s infidelity end in Sir John Falstaff’s ignominious dunking in the Thames. Larger-than-life male characters make a major contribution to Italian opera’s humour: indeed, the buffo bass voice type, noted for fast patter-singing, was invented for the genre. These men can amuse through their foolishness – like Il barbiere’s Doctor Bartolo with his pompous aria ‘A un dottor della mia sorte’ (For a doctor of my standing) or Donizetti’s overbearing Don Pasquale. But they can also entertain us for more positive reasons. In Don Giovanni, Leporello’s humorous pragmatism is a welcome contrast to the lofty passions of Anna, Elvira and Ottavio, while the aforementioned Dulcamara's wit and cunning never fail to delight. And while Verdi’s greedy Falstaff may have an endless proclivity for getting into silly scrapes, his zest for life and ability to laugh at himself make him perhaps opera’s most loveable rogue. And don’t forget the comic value of sheer silliness. Nemorino’s drunken conviction of the power of his elixir leads first to his feigned indifference to his sweetheart Adina and later to his farcical flirtation with an entire bevy of village girls. There’s also Falstaff’s Act III adventure in the guise of Herne the Hunter, and the chaotic music lesson in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Finally, Italian comic opera excels at tackling serious subjects with a light touch. Ford’s melodramatic monologue in Act II of Falstaff reminds us that jealousy can be as ridiculous as it is destructive – particularly when its grand climax is interrupted by Falstaff’s swaggering return in his glad-rags. And anyone who’s ever had to deal with cantankerous relatives (or, heaven forbid, an inheritance dispute) will surely relish Gianni Schicchi’s clever outwitting of the bickering Donati family. Italian opera composers may excel at tragedy – but there’s no doubt that their comic genius is equally strong. L’elisir d’amore runs 27 May–22 June 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with Opéra National de Paris .
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 - 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart's death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons. Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, of whom Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
Great composers of classical music