thu 28/07/2016

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Prom 11: Wilson, Creswell, BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, Wigglesworth

David Nice

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...

The Golden Dragon, Music Theatre Wales, Buxton Festival

Richard Bratby

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...


Jenůfa, Longborough Festival Opera

Stephen Walsh

Quite apart from its inherent power, Jenůfa always amazes me by the way it seems to pluck a new language out of thin air, then use it to...

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, Royal Opera, Pappano

Gavin Dixon

The Royal Opera’s Boris Godunov production made the short trip from Covent Garden to South Ken for the company’s appearance at the 2016 Proms. The...

Falstaff, CBSO, Gardner, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Edward Gardner gives the downbeat, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra bursts into Verdi’s great opening guffaw. Enter stage left Graham...

Pick of the BBC Proms 2016


Choices, choices from the world's biggest music festival, starting on Friday

Leonore, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Buxton Festival

Robert Beale

Love stories with a difference in the Peak District

The Magic Flute, Iford Manor Garden

David Nice

Pamina shines and the Three Ladies work hard in charming cloistered Mozart

Il Trovatore, Royal Opera

David Nice

Dark world created around strong, stand-and-deliver Verdi singing

Götterdämmerung, Opera North, Southbank Centre

Alexandra Coghlan

An outstanding Ring goes out in a blaze of glory

Siegfried, Opera North, Southbank Centre

Peter Quantrill

A star soprano shines in the Ring’s conversation piece

Die Walküre, Opera North, Southbank Centre

David Nice

The Ring's most wrenching tragedy excels with a great Wotan and Brünnhilde

Das Rheingold, Opera North, Southbank Centre

David Nice

Fiery demi-god and conductor eclipse any B-casting as a Ring comes south

The Hogboon, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

Helen Wallace

Riotous humanity in Maxwell Davies’s farewell community opera

Le Nozze di Figaro, Longborough Festival Opera

Stephen Walsh

Mozart's subversive masterpiece relocated, not always securely, to August 1914

Werther, Royal Opera

David Nice

Massenet's lovers ill met by moonlight, but the conducting is consummate

Jenůfa, English National Opera

David Nice

Janáček's optimistic tragedy at its most powerful in electrifying revival

Idomeneo, Garsington Opera

David Nice

Balance, but never neutrality, from fine singers and director in lacerating Mozart

theartsdesk at the Holland Festival

James Woodall

Dutchness, audio-jungle, dirty minds and Dunsinane at one of Europe's premier arts festivals

Don Giovanni, Classical Opera, Page, Cadogan Hall

Gavin Dixon

A dramatic account, demonstrating that period instruments can still surprise in Mozart

Be With Me Now, Britten Studio, Snape

David Nice

Nine superb young musicians unite in fluid operatic Euromance

Alberto Remedios: 'his natural instrument obeyed his inner thoughts with ease'

Linda Esther Gray

A great Isolde remembers a great Tristan, who has died aged 81

The Beggar's Opera, University of Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Benjamin Britten meets Austerity Britain in a resourceful student production

The Iris Murder, Hebrides Ensemble, Edinburgh

David Kettle

Exquisite music in an oblique, elusive new opera from Alasdair Nicolson

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Stephen Walsh

Janáček’s comic strip opera revived with its musical energy and visual wit intact

La Bohème, Opera Holland Park

Alexandra Coghlan

Puccini's bohemians find themselves in the 16th century in this emotive production

Illuminations, Tynan, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, Snape Maltings

Helen Wallace

Aldeburgh Festival opens with a ravishing night of music and physical theatre

Tristan and Isolde, English National Opera

David Nice

Heroic tenor Stuart Skelton pulls focus in ambitious, hit-and-miss Wagner

Tannhäuser, Longborough Festival Opera

Stephen Walsh

Early Wagner about love and sex reworked successfully from a fresh angle

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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Groundhog Day
The Old Vic
11 July – 17 September
Groundhog 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.


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