For those who think that opera in Australia only began to get off the ground this book will come as something of a shock. There was a time, over a hundred years ago, when enthusiastic audiences drawn from across the social spectrum supported ‘regular seasons of the world’s best musical theatre’ by a resident, commercial opera company which played in all the major capital cities.... (read more)
That Neil Warren-Smith was a magnificent singer and actor I knew from having seen him in many Trust and Australian Opera seasons, including the very first in 1956. But his proneness to appear as czars, monks, ancient sages, field marshals and similar dignified personages had concealed from me that he was also a magnificent larrikin. This is a very welcome bonus of what is, sadly, a posthumous autobiography, talked with unblushing frankness down a tape recorder and presented with what seems to have been a minimum of intervention by Frank Salter.... (read more)
Charles Osborne, who was born in Brisbane in 1927 and moved to London in 1953, is a prolific writer, broadcaster and opera critic. His latest offering, The Opera Lover’s Companion, sets out to guide its reader through 175 of the world’s most popular operas. Osborne correctly states that ‘the staples of the operatic diet today are the major works of five great composers – Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Strauss’ – and certain works by other luminaries. The operas of sixty-seven composers are included, but that core quintet gives us almost a third of the operas in this volume. Interestingly, in opera’s four hundred-year history, the vast majority of the most frequently performed works fall within the period between Mozart’s first featured opera, Mitridate, rè di Ponto (1770) and Strauss’s last, Capriccio (1942).
As with The New Kobbé’s Opera Book (1997), the list reveals a re-evaluation of many previously neglected operas, in particular some lesser-known works of Handel, Rossini, Donizetti, Massenet, and Strauss, which have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Doubtless this also reflects the dearth of modern operas and the scarcity of contemporary composers who know what their audiences want. Any opera company ignoring box office appeal does so at its peril, and a book such as this should be mandatory reading.... (read more)
The recent speech by young Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg has provoked much comment and controversy. It also caused me to ponder the future of our planet and how our cultural lives will be affected by the environmental changes that will inevitably take place by the middle of the twenty-first century ...... (read more)
Géraud Corbiau’s rather schlocky biopic, Farinelli (1994) covers an important phase in the career of this most celebrated singer of the early eighteenth century. The establishment of the Opera of the Nobility in the 1730s, with Niccolò Porpora as the main composer, was a direct challenge to Handel’s ...... (read more)
Let it be said – indeed proclaimed – that Opera Australia’s new production of Wagner’s paean to life and art and love is musically as close to a triumph as it could have been. If, by the end, you feel the outside world is a better place than the one you temporarily abandoned six hours earlier, then Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg has surely wrought ...
Michael Halliwell reviews 'The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart' by Mitchell Cohen
A major new exhibition opened at the end of September at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London: Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. The first of the three qualifying terms needs little explanation as a potential subject; as the title of Peter Conrad’s book ...
There was a time not that long ago when the arts pages of quality daily newspapers were regarded as essential reading as much for those inside the arts industry as outside it. Just as these newspapers were themselves papers of record, their arts pages existed primarily to record and sustain ...... (read more)
There is a kind of dread in the heart of any reader who approaches a philosopher in the act of pronouncing on a great work of art. Many a filmmaker’s oeuvre and ...... (read more)