Kasper Holten’s production (The Royal Opera’s first) of Król Roger (King Roger) brought the opera back to the London stage after an absence of almost 40 years. Karol Szymanowski’s masterpiece powerfully presents the dilemmas of culture versus nature and man versus beast, and movingly depicts King Roger’s inner struggles as he moves from an impossible life of repressed desires to the other extreme, giving in to his own demons. Meanwhile, Roger’s people, seduced by the promises of the mysterious Shepherd, are drawn towards totalitarianism and repression. Antonio Pappano conducts Szymanowksi’s opulent and beautiful score, with a cast including Mariusz Kwiecień as Roger (one of the greatest interpreters of the role today), Saimir Pirgu as the Shepherd, and Georgia Jarman in her Royal Opera debut as Roger’s loving queen Roxana.
Les Troyens is a tour de force that ranges from fiery military marches to intense choruses, passionate soliloquies and the lyrical love duets of Dido and Aeneas. For Hector Berlioz, librettist and composer, the opera became the work of decades and the passion of a lifetime, the culmination of his literary love affair with Virgil's Aeneid and with two tragic heroines, Cassandra and Dido. David McVicar's staging is on an enormous scale, assembling one of the largest casts ever seen at Covent Garden. The sweeping theme of the rise and fall of empires runs throughout Les Troyens, along with moving meditations on love and honour.
First seen at the Royal Opera House in 2013, this staging of Verdi's rarely-performed opera Les Vêpres siciliennes – directed by Stefan Herheim and conducted by The Royal Opera’s Music Director, Verdi specialist Sir Antonio Pappano – went on to win the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production. The Sunday Times hailed it 'the best the Verdi year in Britain has to offer,' praising the standout event of the Verdi bicentenary celebrations. 'The Royal Opera has done its favourite composer proud.'
Dutch violinist Janine Jansen has made some unorthodox recordings (check out her Vivaldi Four Seasons sometime), but here, in a work in which proportion and technique are exquisitely balanced, she plays it straight with impressive results. Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, composed in 1935 just before his return to the Soviet Union from France, has always been a popular repertory item, but Jansen's reading, ably accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, has a pearly quality throughout, a kind of bright ease, that comes only at the highest levels of technique.
This is a fine recording of two vastly under-appreciated works by young cello virtuoso Han-Na Chang. She has the extraordinary technique to play the excruciatingly difficult cadenza in the central movement of the Sinfonia Concertante and the sustained tone to play the long, lyrical melodies in the opening movement of the cello sonata. Antonio Pappano is a faithful accompanist whether he's directing the London Symphony Orchestra in the Sinfonia Concertante or playing the piano in the cello sonata.
This magnificent recording of Aida, made in Rome, rises to all the musical and dramatic challenges presented by Verdi’s richly-coloured Egyptian epic. Antonio Pappano, once again proving his mastery of Italian opera, moves between sumptuous grandeur and touching intimacy. The responses of the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia are both immediate and vibrant, while the singers – Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tézier and Erwin Schrott – do justice to every facet of their roles.
Eschewing its usual heavy orchestral sound in favor of a more stripped-down instrumentation, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen's second album offers a fresh interpretation of one of the most performed classical works, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The 2005 follow-up to her Barry Wordsworth-conducted debut, the subtle but passionate renditions of the "La Primavera," "L'estate," "L'autunno," and "L'inverno" concertos are performed with a sparse, eight-piece ensemble including Lithuanian violinist Julian Rachlin, her cellist brother Maarten, and harpsichordist father Jan.