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.
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.
A star of Janine Jansen's status and influence could have a major orchestra accompany her in Bach's violin concertos, but she chooses instead to keep her hand-picked ensemble small and intimate, and enjoys the camaraderie of a chamber group. Indeed, the assembly of friends who join Jansen in the Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042; Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041; and Concerto for violin and oboe in C minor, BWV 1060, number no more than 12 players, and includes her brother Maarten Jansen on cello and her father, Jan Jansen, on harpsichord, as well as her touring colleague, oboist Ramón Ortega Quero. Such familiarity yields music of considerable verve and spontaneity, and wherever Jansen leads her musicians, they are quick to follow.
Dutch violinist Janine Jansen presents a new album coupling two of the most heart-felt masterpieces of the Viennese romantic repertoire. Schubert’s last and greatest chamber work, the sublime String Quintet in C major, is contrasted with the young Schoenberg’s earliest masterpiece, Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night).