Richard Strauss called Die Frau ohne Schatten his ‘problem child’, but only because he lavished such care on it. He and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal spent six years honing the psychological and dramatic elements in this masterpiece of symbolist opera.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends? It’s not a line you would have expected to hear from the late Steve Jobs, but with the opening of a new French opera marrying strands of his life with that of Henry V, it could well happen.
Melvyn Poore Death Be Not Proud (Wergo)
It is often said that behind every great man there is a great woman; but not every great composer can claim to have achieved a long and happy – if somewhat tempestuous – marriage to his muse. The soprano Pauline de Ahna was the powerful presence behind Richard Strauss: his wife, his inspiration and a diva in every sense. Over his many decades he drew on plenty of different spurs to musical action, but none more consistently or more powerfully than the soprano voice.
Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s La fille du regiment is so bewitching that’s it’s hard for those have seen it to imagine it being done any other way.
Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s La fille du regiment is so bewitching that’s it’s hard for those have seen it to imagine it being done any other way. And his pairing of Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay in the leading roles constituted an almost impossible double-act for other singers to follow.
John Adams is at the forefront of a generation that is revitalising the orchestral repertoire for a new century. One of the triumvirate – with Philip Glass and Steve Reich – who revolutionised composition in the US after the advent of minimalism, his vivid style seems the authentic voice of his time and place, northern California: colourful, cosmopolitan, airy and afizz with energy.
In 1968, Richard Strauss entered pop culture with the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ominous fanfare that begins the composer’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, ingeniously purloined by Stanley Kubrick, speaks of a universe entire. Turn to Strauss’s 1919 opera Die Frau ohne Schatten, performed at the Royal Opera House this month, and you’ll discover the same flair for the gargantuan. Strauss is the go-to composer for maximalism. But if you look beyond the decibel-busting surface of his music, you will find sensitivity at the core of everything he wrote.
Rodelinda may be one of Handel’s most majestic operas, but until Jean-Marie Villegier’s 1998 Glyndebourne production – in which the German countertenor Andreas Scholl first trod the boards – it was scarcely known outside Handelian circles.
Great pianistic minds think alike: last week Maurizio Pollini gave us his magisterial take on Debussy’s Preludes Book I and this week it was Richard Goode’s turn, though Goode kicked off with Schubert and Chopin.
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