sun 28/05/2017

Opera reviews, news and interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Soprano Aida Garifullina

David Nice

There are certain roles where you’re lucky to catch one perfect incarnation in a lifetime. I thought I'd never see a soprano as Natasha in Prokofiev's War and Peace equal to Yelena Prokina, Valery Gergiev’s choice for Graham Vick’s 1991 production.

The Mikado review - Sasha Regan's all-male operetta formula hits a reef

David Nice

Men playing boys playing girls, women and men, all female parts convincingly falsettoed and high musical standards as backbone: Sasha Regan's single-sex Gilbert and Sullivan has worked a special magic on Iolanthe and The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and now The Mikado, not so much. Energetic song and dance are still in evidence.


Sebestyén, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer,...

Sebastian Scotney

This was a very fine concert indeed, plus a lot more. The first half was a very carefully planned series of unveilings around the theme of Béla ...

Hipermestra / La Traviata, Glyndebourne

Ismene Brown

 A Saudi princess in her white wedding dress digs her own grave as men pile up stones to hurl at her head — next, an Isis fighter is stabbing a...

Y Tŵr, MTW, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Stephen Walsh

Until yesterday my only experience of the Welsh language in the opera house was a few isolated passages in Iain Bell’s In Parenthesis last year and...

Ariodante, The English Concert, Bicket, Barbican

Alexandra Coghlan

The orchestra was the real hero in this superb concert performance of Handel's opera

Turandot, Opera North

Graham Rickson

Deafening, thrilling account of a flawed masterpiece

L'Incoronazione di Poppea, EBS, Gardiner, Colston Hall, Bristol

Stephen Walsh

Monteverdi's final, problem opera a curate's egg, good in parts and not all by him

Doctor Atomic, BBCSO, Adams, Barbican

David Nice

Gerald Finley reprises his tormented nuclear scientist in electrifying company

The Exterminating Angel, Royal Opera

Peter Quantrill

A savage new conversation piece lives up to its distinguished source

Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, EBS, Gardiner, Colston Hall, Bristol

Stephen Walsh

Monteverdi Odyssey begins, aptly and superbly, with the last masterpiece

Patience/Tosca, English Touring Opera

Richard Bratby

G&S wave a lily and Puccini gets down to basics on ETO's spring tour

Bluebeard's Castle & The 8th Door, Scottish Opera

David Kettle

A provocative premiere shines revealing new light on Bartók's dark opera masterpiece

Madama Butterfly, Royal Opera

David Nice

Strong revival remarkable for the teamwork of Ermonela Jaho and Antonio Pappano

Alceste, Early Opera Company, Curnyn, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Joy unalloyed in Handel's far from tragic incidental music for a classical drama

Ormisda, St George's Hanover Square

Alexandra Coghlan

This collection of baroque best bits was a feast of melody

The First Commandment, Classical Opera, St John’s Smith Square

Peter Quantrill

The teenage Mozart's miraculous maturity

Partenope, English National Opera

David Nice

Everyone in this Handel revival makes froth seem stylish and effortless

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera

David Nice

No joy or lightness in Kasper Holten's messy Wagner, despite high musical values

The Winter's Tale, English National Opera

David Nice

Concentrated if limited new Shakespeare opera elevated by cast and direction

Hansel and Gretel, Opera North

Graham Rickson

Uneven update redeemed by superb singing

Juan Diego Flórez, Vincenzo Scalera, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Quiet smiles outweigh high Cs in a recital of two distinct halves

Le Vin herbé, Welsh National Opera

Stephen Walsh

A 1930s Tristan opera, beautiful and sombre, brilliantly played and sung

Listed: How I Do Love Thee


Let theartsdesk count the ways with our romantic favourites from all over the arts

Kaufmann, Mattila, LSO, Pappano, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Restraint and reward in a Wagner evening of intermittent thrills

Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera

Gavin Dixon

Engaging if little-known work shines in well-cast revival

Rigoletto, English National Opera

Alexandra Coghlan

This first-class production deserves better than this second-rate revival

The Snow Maiden, Opera North

David Nice

Rimsky-Korsakov's glorious score, or most of it, receives its fair share of magic

Les Enfants Terribles, Barbican

Jenny Gilbert

Javier de Frutos brings depth and flair to Philip Glass's dance-opera

Footnote: a brief history of opera in Britain

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.

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