Opera reviews, news and interviews
It's not often you think you detect a future Brünnhilde in a soprano performing a great Verdi role, but that was the case when American Tamara Wilson made her UK debut last autumn as a stunning Leonora in the ENO production of Verdi's The Force of Destiny. So would she sing the Ring? Not for 10 years at least, she said. But then Mark Wigglesworth, a conductor she knew she could trust as partner, proposed the final scene of Die Walküre at the Proms, and the rest should go down in history.Not...
It’s the kitchen of a Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese fast food restaurant. The onstage orchestra wear sweatbands and T-shirts, and a red work surface stretches across the stage. As the four chefs take the stage, the clatter of pans and knives is first noise, then a rhythm, then an overture of sizzling, clanging, chopping and hissing sounds that spreads throughout the whole orchestra. Vegetables are sliced, pans brandished and, sitting out front, as an escaped slice of courgette rolls wonkily downstage...
Britain has world-class opera companies in the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Opera North, not to mention the celebrated country-house festival at Glyndebourne and others elsewhere. The first English opera was an experiment in 1656, as Civil War raged between Cromwell and Charles II, and it was under the restored king that theatre and opera exploded in London. Henry Purcell composed the masterpiece Dido and Aeneas (for a girls' school) and over the next century Handel, Gluck, J C Bach and Haydn came to London to compose Italian-style classical operas.
Hogarth_Beggars_Opera_1731_cTateHowever, the imported style was challenged by the startling success of John Gay's low-life street opera The Beggar's Opera (1728), a score collating 69 folk ballads, which set off a wave of indigenous popular musical theatre (pictured, William Hogarth's The Beggar's Opera, 1731, © Tate). Gay built the first Covent Garden opera house (1732), where three of Handel's operas were premiered, and musical theatre and vaudeville flourished as an alternative to opera. Through the 19th century, London became a hub for visiting composers and grand opera stars, but from the meshing of "high" and "popular" creativity at Sadler's Wells (built in 1765) evolved in time a distinct English tradition of wit and social satire in the "Savoy" operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
In the 20th century Benjamin Britten's dramatic operas such as Peter Grimes and Billy Budd reflected a different sort of ordinariness, his genius driving the formation of the English Opera Group at Aldeburgh. English opera, and opera in English, became central to the establishment, after the Second World War, of a national arts infrastructure, with subsidised resident companies at English National Opera and the Royal Opera. By the 1950s, due to pressure from international opera stars refusing to learn roles in English, Covent Garden joined the circuit of major international houses, staging opera in their original languages, with visiting stars such as Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi and the young Luciano Pavarotti matched by home-grown ones like Joan Sutherland and Geraint Evans.
Today British opera thrives with a reputation for fresh thinking in classics, from new productions of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner landmarks to new opera commissions and popular arena stagings of Carmen. The Arts Desk brings you the fastest overnight reviews and the quickest ticket booking links for last night's openings, as well as the most thoughtful close-up interviews with major creative figures and performers. Our critics include Igor Toronyi-Lalic, David Nice, Edward Seckerson, Alexandra Coghlan, Graham Rickson and Ismene Brown.
Groundhog DayThe Old Vic11 July – 17 SeptemberGroundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the isolated small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. As each day plays out exactly the same as before Phil becomes increasingly despondent, but is there a lesson to be learnt through his experiences, will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?Director Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell, four of the creators of the international sensation Matilda The Musical, have joined forces with writer Danny Rubin to collaborate on this new musical based on his 1993 hit film.Andy Karl’s numerous Broadway credits include On the Twentieth Century, Rocky, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jersey Boys, Wicked, 9 to 5, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer and Saturday Night Fever.
Andy Karl is appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.#GroundhogDay@oldvictheatre
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
latest in today
Brilliant re-working of epochal 1950s album
Revival of Sean O’Casey’s modern classic is relevant, but a bit sombre
The Tommy Steele musical gets a triumphant, banjo-rehabilitating refresh
Mixed-bag Prom yields strong young soloist but some weak choral singing
A tiny glimpse of history kicks off a huge party
The Danish bassist on the perils of consumerism, playing without the dots,...
Bourne to run (and run and run)
The Earlies' John Mark Lapham produces a stunning album 10 years in th...
Does the continuing story of JK Rowling's witches and wizards work its...
The Russians are back, marking 60 years since they first took London by sto...
most read just now
Everything from Emerson, Lake & Palmer to cutting edge techno reviewed...
No-fuss Beethoven Ninth may be the most radical of all
Heard but not seen: the Hollywood legend, who has died, tells the inside st...
Julian Temple’s flawed Eighties bomb is finally revealed as film which can’...
Rising Sweden-based indie sorts take their buzzy debut album on the road
Elgar yet again at the Three Choirs and as gloriously blurred as ever