thu 24/07/2014

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Prom 6: Der Rosenkavalier, LPO, Ticciati

Kimon Daltas

If last year’s Ring cycle triumphantly proved that world-class opera can be done at the Albert Hall, this Rosenkavalier suggests that the less epic end of the repertoire isn’t such a sure thing. That is not to say that this performance was dud, far from it; rather that its few problems were venue related. Balance was the main issue, though Robin Ticciati did a great job of whipping the London Philharmonic Orchestra into a passionate frenzy in the Prelude and then taking things down a notch and...

La traviata, Glyndebourne

David Nice

Some of us have witnessed Traviatas where single stars were born: Angela Gheorghiu for Solti at the Royal Opera nearly 20 years ago springs quickest to mind. Some would claim a dream couple in Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon on peak form at Salzburg. Yet how often in a lifetime do you catch an evening like this, where all three principals are not only up to the very highest vocal standards but also work as one with the conductor to make sense of every phrase, every word, in an intimate space...


theartsdesk Q&A: Tenor Michael Fabiano

David Nice

You can usually trust the buzz around rehearsals. From Glyndebourne, five weeks into preparation for La traviata, which opens tomorrow, one of the...

Così fan tutte, European Opera Centre, RLPO,...

Glyn Môn Hughes

One of the joys of attending an opera in the Concert Room at St George’s Hall, Liverpool, is the feeling that the audience is sitting in the set...

Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) on Puccini's Golden...

David Nice

I met one of the 20th century’s most impressive, if not always sympathetic, conductors twice, on both occasions to talk Puccini before La Scala...

Diaghilev Festival Gala, London Coliseum

David Nice

First-rate work, high energy and musical glories from a little-known Moscow company

theartsdesk in Buxton: Dvořák rarity, Gluck tercentenary

Philip Radcliffe

'The Jacobin' comes up for air alongside 'Orfeo ed Euridice'

The Queen of Spades, Grange Park Opera

Stephen Walsh

Tchaikovsky masterpiece revived in a production that listens to the music

The Golden Cockerel, Diaghilev Festival, London Coliseum

David Nice

Musical values outstanding, decor and dance not bad in tribute to Diaghilev opera-ballet

Nightmare in Aix: Sarah Connolly on a shocking first night

Sarah Connolly

The great mezzo reports on how her Ariodante at the French festival was sabotaged

Pinnock's Passions, Handel's Garden, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Kimon Daltas

Musical showman leads candlelit exploration of magpie composer

Maria Stuarda, Royal Opera House

Alexandra Coghlan

A bloody good attempt to reinvent Donizetti's romance as a contemporary tragedy

The Barber of Seville, Longborough Festival

Stephen Walsh

Sparkling Rossini reflects director's work ethic rather than concepts

The Turn of the Screw, Opera Holland Park

Alexandra Coghlan

The evenings are warm but this ghost story casts a real chill

theartsdesk Q&A: Mezzo-soprano and Director Brigitte Fassbaender

Sebastian Scotney

A great singer and musical force for the good talks about opera from two sides and Lieder

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

David Nice

Cast, conductor and orchestra work hard, but Mozart's early farrago remains a shambles

Listed: 10 Mozart Operas You've Never Heard (of)

Alexandra Coghlan

As La finta giardiniera comes to Glyndebourne, we've got the pick of Mozart's lesser-known operas

First Person: Who is Mozart's fake garden girl?

Frederic Wake-Walker

The director of Glyndebourne's La finta giardiniera explores her identity

Win a pair of tickets for Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne


A chance to see a bloody good show for free

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

David Nice

Two nymphs are the real revelation in this revival of Richard Strauss's evergreen hybrid

Tosca, Longborough Festival

Stephen Walsh

Puccini in a Gloucestershire barn impresses despite first night tremors

Don Quichotte, Grange Park Opera

Sebastian Scotney

Proof that Massenet's Cervantes opera is a work of variety, poignancy and emotional depth

The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera

David Nice

Human yearning trumps animal cutesiness in Daniel Slater's thoughtful Janáček

Glyndebourne: the Untold History, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

How an operatic revolution was born in the rural splendour of east Sussex

Crowd Out/Death Actually, Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

David Nice

Musical street theatre for all and meditations on mortality in London's best melting pot

The Fall of the House of Usher, Welsh National Opera

Stephen Walsh

Frail genius and high finance come together in an unbalanced pair of crumbling houses

Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera

David Nice

Vibrant, peerless singers and conductor sapped by invertebrate monster production

theartsdesk Q&A: Soprano Kristine Opolais

David Nice

The Royal Opera's Manon Lescaut talks about new roles, ones she won't sing any more, and looks versus voice

The Pearl Fishers, English National Opera

Kimon Daltas

Second-tier opera in visually impressive and dramatically improved revival

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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