fri 20/07/2018

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Saul, Glyndebourne review - from extravaganza to phantasmagoria

David Nice

It's swings and roundabouts for Glyndebourne this season. After the worst of one director currently in fashion, Stefan Herheim, in the unhappy mésalliance of the house's Pelléas et Mélisande, only musically gripping, comes the already-known best of another, Barrie Kosky.

L'Ange de Nisida / JPYAP Summer Programme, Royal Opera - buoyant touch in Donizetti bagatelle

David Nice

Two rules should help the non-Donizettian: avoid all stagings of the prolific Bergamasco's nearly 70 operas other than the comedies; and seek the guarantee of top bel canto stylists.


Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera Holland Park - stylish...

David Nice

"When the new god approaches, we surrender, struck dumb". Especially if, for the singer of those words, popular entertainer Zerbinetta, the “new god...

Prom 5, Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne review...

Stephen Walsh

What a fabulous score Pelléas et Mélisande is, and what a joy to be able to hear it in a concert performance without the distraction of some over-...

Isabeau, Opera Holland Park review - Mascagni...

David Nice

Valiant Opera Holland Park, always taking up the gauntlet for Italian operas which should mostly never be staged again. Worst was Zandonai's...

Ariadne auf Naxos, Longborough Festival review - appetising energy and wit

Stephen Walsh

Strauss's chamber masterpiece brilliantly staged, finely played and sung

Alzira / The Daughter of the Regiment, Buxton Festival review – thundering good tunes

Robert Beale

Early Verdi opera proves there’s life in the young dog yet, Plus a Californian Donizetti

Idomeneo, Buxton Festival review - revolution in the head

Richard Bratby

Mozart's Greek tragedy walks a psychological tightrope - and occasionally slips

Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne review - frigid metatheatre

David Nice

Patches of light from Robin Ticciati's conducting on Stefan Herheim's messy canvas

The Turn of the Screw, ENO, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - one dimension, not four

David Nice

Atmospheric setting, solid singing but no flesh creep

Partenope, Iford Arts review - a midsummer night's dream of a Handel comedy

Alexandra Coghlan

A featherweight baroque treat from a talented young cast

La Traviata, Longborough Festival review - muddled director, vocal mixed bag

Stephen Walsh

Verdi's psychological masterpiece survives another half-baked concept

The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Grange Festival review - enjoyable if conventional production

Bernard Hughes

Traditional take on Mozart classic delights country house audience

theartsdesk in Paris - following in the footsteps of Gounod

Alexandra Coghlan

Two operatic rarities prove that a revival is long overdue

The Path to Heaven, RNCM, Manchester review - tragedy, truth, passion

Robert Beale

New opera by Adam Gorb about the Holocaust in a moving presentation

Kiss Me, Kate, Opera North, London Coliseum review - Cole Porter delivered in true company style

David Nice

Just a tad short on Broadway charisma, but this sophisticated production glides along

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of the Year award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club100 Awards, we're looking for the best cultural writers, bloggers and vloggers

Falstaff, Garsington Opera review - Sir John under pressure

Sebastian Scotney

Musically strong, but updating the action has consequences

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill, Opera North, City Varieties Music Hall review - life as a cabaret

Graham Rickson

Informative, entertaining trot through a composer's life and work

Mamzer Bastard, Royal Opera, Hackney Empire review - inert Hasidic music-drama

David Nice

Sludgy orchestral lines and ungainly word-setting in Na'ama Zisser's new opera

Acis and Galatea, English National Opera, Lilian Baylis House review - Handel for the hashtag generation

Alexandra Coghlan

This insta-update is hard to 'like'

Roscoe, BBC Philharmonic, Mena, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - a scenic send-off

Robert Beale

Spanish sunshine in an operatic farewell to orchestra’s departing chief

Giulio Cesare, Glyndebourne review - no weak link

Sebastian Scotney

Glyndebourne at its best just got better

Un ballo in maschera, Grange Park Opera review – singing out against the American grain

Boyd Tonkin

High-concept Yankee Verdi benefits from some Old World style

Lohengrin, Royal Opera review - swan mystery musically illuminated

David Nice

Great conductor Andris Nelsons floats a mostly fine cast in a mostly clichéd production

La finta semplice, Classical Opera, QEH review - consummate musicianship stokes early Mozart

David Nice

At 12, he was a very clever boy rather than a genius, but style carries this comic opera

Der fliegende Holländer, Longborough Festival review - stand and deliver on an empty stage

Stephen Walsh

Wagner's early brilliance dimmed by patchy singing and plodding direction

Michael Chance on continuing opera in Hampshire: 'good people like to work with good people'

Michael Chance

The countertenor turned impresario launches a second season of The Grange Festival

Capriccio, Garsington Opera review - a classy evening with words and music

David Nice

Stardust from soprano Miah Persson and fine company in Strauss's conversation-piece

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.

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 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 gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre review - hilarious but dark, dark...

The NHS is us. For decades our national identity has been bandaged together with the idea, and reality, of a health service that is free at the...

Saul, Glyndebourne review - from extravaganza to phantasmago...

It's swings and roundabouts for Glyndebourne this season. After the worst of one director currently in fashion, Stefan Herheim, in the unhappy...

Gary Numan, Assembly Hall, Worthing review - hot and hammeri...

Arriving back onstage for an encore a broadly smiling Gary Numan bathes in roared football chants of “Numan! Numan!”. He tells us it’s just over...

CD: Pram - Across the Meridian

Birmingham outfit Pram achieved profile amongst alt-...

L'Ange de Nisida / JPYAP Summer Programme, Royal Opera...

Two rules should help the non-Donizettian: avoid all...

theartsdesk at Cornbury: Pixie Lott, Amy MacDonald and Alani...

Cornbury Festival holds a very special place in my heart. When the babies were young, we realised that if we were going to be up all night without...

A Monster Calls, Old Vic - wild, beautiful theatre that begu...

A raw pagan vitality animates this extraordinary story about a teenage boy wrestling with tumultuous emotions in the face of his...