thu 21/08/2014

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Rinaldo, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Alexandra Coghlan

God it’s good to laugh in an opera house. Not a hear-how-clever-I-am-to-get-the-laborious-operatic-joke laugh, or an I-realise-this-is-supposed-to-be-funny-so-I’m-playing-along one, but a real, spontaneous laugh that tickles into sound before you’ve even had time to register its approach. Back for its second appearance, Robert Carsen’s Glyndebourne Rinaldo is ingenious and witty, joyous and completely over-the-top, and the best possible ending to this year’s summer opera season.Back in 2011 the...

Alright on the Night: at Glyndebourne with the OAE

Adam Sweeting

If you only ever listened to opera from recordings, you might overlook the fact that it's as much theatre as it is music. In the opera house on the night, it's all well and good for the orchestra to play the score and the singers to sing their parts, but on top of that you have to allow for costume changes, move the scenery, adjust the lighting and make sure you get all the right people on and off stage at the appropriate moments. It's what makes opera the living, breathing, sometimes...


Prom 28: D'Orazio, Clayton, BBCSO, Oramo

Edward Seckerson

All kinds of narratives were at play in this Prom from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and its Principal Conductor Sakari Oramo - and perhaps the truly...

theartsdesk in Bregenz: A floating opera festival

Alexandra Coghlan

It’s raining. Not spitting or drizzling, properly raining, with clouds so thick that you know they’re here to stay. Yet rather than take shelter in...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Opera...

David Nice

“What does opera have to say to the under-30s?” asked Alexandra Coghlan on theartsdesk yesterday. The question “what does opera have to say to the...

Opinion: What does opera have to say to the under-30s?

Alexandra Coghlan

Will Glyndebourne's under-30s ticket scheme help the art form?

Prom 6: Der Rosenkavalier, LPO, Ticciati

Kimon Daltas

The Albert Hall may not be ideal for opera but Glyndebourne's latest visit fizzed with energy

La traviata, Glyndebourne

David Nice

All musical elements fused to make great, stylish music drama of Verdi's intimate tragedy

theartsdesk Q&A: Tenor Michael Fabiano

David Nice

American singer on the brink of superstardom talks Verdi, competition and inspiration

Così fan tutte, European Opera Centre, RLPO, Pillot, St George’s Hall Concert Room, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

Young singers, Liverpool's great orchestra and a sassy production pull off intimate Mozart

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

David Nice

The conductor, who has died aged 84, enthusing in 1991 about a masterpiece

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

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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