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      Un Ballo in Maschera review – few new ideas, none of them interesting

      Royal Opera House, London
      In Katharina Thoma’s production, the acting is rudimentary and there’s nothing subtle in the musical performance, despite the pedigree of the cast

      The fashion parade of European directors that seems to pass as artistic policy for Caspar Holten’s regime at Covent Garden reaches a new nadir with the latest production there. Katharina Thoma, who, as Glyndebourne regulars will remember to their cost, was responsible for Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos last year, has been recruited to direct the Royal Opera’s new Ballo in Maschera.

      That’s using direct in the loosest possible meaning of the word, for very little that can be seen on stage during this depressing evening suggests that the singers have been given the direction they badly need. The acting is rudimentary, sometimes risible, the blocking of the chorus clumsy. Having set her Glyndebourne Ariadne during the second world war, Thoma locates this Ballo somewhere in Europe (the Balkans?) in the period leading up to the outbreak of the first world war, and then opts for the Boston version of the score, which Verdi was forced to sanction when his original, centred on the assassination of Gustav III in Sweden, fell foul of the censors.

      Continue reading...

      The Hilliard Ensemble review – poignant farewell after 41 years

      Wigmore Hall, London
      The last performance by the much admired early-music vocal group was always going to be an emotional occasion Continue reading...

      Un ballo in maschera; Phantom Voices – review

      Royal Opera House; St Leonard’s church, London
      Star names Joseph Calleja and Dmitri Hvorostovsky light up an otherwise underwhelming Un ballo in maschera

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      Join Peter and Kathleen van de Graaff next May on an exclusive classical music cruise down the Danube. Celebrate the genius of Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Bach and Schumann.

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      An Exclusive Classical Music Tour through the City of Lights with WFMT! Join Carl Grapentine and fellow opera lovers next May as we tour our favorite European opera destinations in Paris.

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      Opera in La Suissse Romande! Spend a lovely spring week in in Geneva and Lausanne with Opera Adventures and noted composer, pianist, and teacher, Larry Axelrod.

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      new releases

      Christmas in Harvard Square

      Decca B0020969-02

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      Sharon Isbin: 5 Classic Albums

      Warner Classics 0825646243648 (5 CDs)

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      Lux de caelo

      Harmonia Mundi HMU-907615

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      Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

      Chandos CHSA-5144

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      Music for Advent

      Naxos 8.573260

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