Mozart's genius in setting to music Da Ponte's comic play of love, infidelity and forgiveness marks Così fan tutte as one of the great works of art from the Age of Enlightenment. Nicholas Hytner's beautiful production for the Glyndebourne Festival in 2006, with its sure touch and theatrical know-how, lives up to its promise to be 'shockingly traditional', while Iván Fischer teases artful performances from an outstanding international cast of convincing young lovers.
Skin-tight rubber and lacrosse sticks bring contemporary chic to this timeless fantasy of warriors and witches in Robert Carsen's fun-filled transformation of Handel's first London triumph. Conducting from the keyboard just as Handel himself did, Ottavio Dantone leads a youthful cast of today's luminaries in the dramatic art of Baroque opera, the 'affecting' Sonia Prina, the 'unadorned intensity' of Anett Fritsch and 'fire-breathing flair' (The Observer) of Brenda Rae.
Perhaps no opera is closely and affectionately associated with a single house as Le nozze di Figaro is with Glyndebourne. Effortlessly witty yet shot through with pain and sadness, this deeply ambivalent life in the day of masters and servants as they scheme and outwit one another was Glyndebourne's opening production in 1934. Michael Grandage's staging is the seventh, set in a louche Sixties ambience. Marshalled by the 'ideal pacing of Robin Ticciati, a youthful cast of principals has 'no weak link' and 'looks gorgeous' (The Sunday Times) in a production that continues Glyndebourne's rewarding history of engagement with Mozart's and da Ponte's 'day of madness'.
Handel tinkered with this allegory throughout his career, producing various versions in Italian and English. The plot is a contest for the heart and mind of Beauty: Pleasure and Deceit encourage hedonism, arguing that "life consists in the present hour." Time and Counsel advise Beauty to forswear worldly pleasures, which "will soon decay". (Guess who wins.) You'd expect the villains to get all the good tunes, but the musical interest here is evenly spread. Time and Counsel get lively and contemplative arias; in particular, Varcoe makes Time's "Loathsome urns" beguiling and chilling. Kirkby, playing a villain for once, is an all-too-convincing Deceit; Partridge as Pleasure, though not ideally youthful, makes some gorgeous sounds. Fisher is well cast as Beauty, and Darlow's direction is a triumph.–Matthew Westphal
Georg Philipp Telemann's late work is almost inexhaustible in terms of surprises. How many times have I written this and yet I am not yet embarrassed to proclaim it again. With which creative power the 80 year old opens new worlds of expression at the end of the 18th century, one can only be astonished by his last oratorios. One of the very last - from 1761 - is his Easter oratorio "Die Auferstehung" (not to be confused with the "Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu", 1760). There is no longer a rigid sequence of recitatives and arias: flexible, almost through-composed, the music follows the strong affects of the (excellent) libretto, always in search of unconventional means of expression, such as a dramatic accompaniment, accompanied only by a highly virtuosic solo violin becomes. Or the beginning of the words: "Du tiefe, tote, grauenvolle Stille" …
Brian Setzer reconvenes his big band for its first non-Christmas-related set since 2000's Vavoom! Here he rearranges well-known classical themes from Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and others into Vegas-ized Rat Pack-era swing. It's a fun concept that buys the guitarist time by not having to compose new material, even though these arrangements, many of them quite complex, must have taken a while to construct. Setzer's well-received jump version of The Nutcracker Suite from 2002's Boogie Woogie Christmas probably got this ball rolling as Setzer digs the crazy classical beat with a dozen peppy selections that put his impressive guitar skills to use against finger-snapping horn charts.
This is a wonderful performance, one of the finest in this Tutto Verdi series of the complete operas. Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti is an unlikely looking gentleman at first glance but at his first wave of the baton one realizes he is a master. His upbeat tempi have a big sweep that gives the opera the brilliance Verdi intended. The tenor, Francesco Meli (Riccardo), is a young fresh voice, powerful and sensitive; the baritone, Vladimir Stoyanov is beginning to take over from the venerable Nucci in the series. His voice is powerful, well shaded, his acting puts a menace into his Renato and we commiserate with his agony of being a betrayed husband. Serena Gamberoni’s Oscar is a delight—a stunning beauty, her voice supple and flexible, she moves like a real opera star! An American from Arkansas, Kristin Lewis is a passionate Amelia with power, secure in her top notes. Elisabetta Fiorillo (Ulrica), an old-timer now with an alto range, makes a strong impression as the wise and not at all wicked soothsayer. (The WholeNote)