tue 05/07/2022

Opera Reviews

Alcina, Glyndebourne review - Handel on the strand

stephen Walsh

Reviewing the Grange Festival production of Tamerlano the other day, I noted the difficulty Handel poses the modern director with his byzantine plots and often ludicrous love tangles, expressed through music of surpassing brilliance but mostly stereotyped forms. But at least Tamerlano is a comprehensible story with its feet planted firmly in a sort of reality. 

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Così fan tutte, Royal Opera review - vibrant youth and vocal beauty

David Nice

Irish soprano Jennifer Davis, a stunning Elsa in this Royal Opera season's revival of Wagner’s Lohengrin, was the lure to sit through Jan Philipp Gloger's Mozart Così again (the title, by the way – "All Women Do It" – belies the complexity applied to a schematic plot). As it turned out, the mixed-up couples were all love’s young dream, which made it all the more of a shame that this production remains determined to squash their hopes and even their new matches.

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Violet, Music Theatre Wales/Britten-Pears Arts review - well sung and played, but to what end?

David Nice

Best new opera in years, they said – don’t ask who – after the Aldeburgh Festival premiere of Tom Coult’s Violet. I’d have been happy in Hackney had it been as good as, say, Philip Venables’ 4.48 Psychosis or Stuart MacRae’s The Devil Inside. Alas, nowhere near.

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Die tote Stadt, Longborough Festival review - Korngold on the way back

stephen Walsh

Will Erich Korngold, the great cinema composer, ever be recognised as a great composer for the live theatre? Probably not, at least until the prejudices that did for him in his lifetime – the prejudice against film and popular music and the prejudice against Jews – are fully corrected in practice as well as in people’s minds. Korngold, happily, is on the way back, though it has taken a long time. Die tote Stadt should, if justice be done, clinch his return.

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Otello, Grange Park Opera review - angels and demons

Boyd Tonkin

The devil, in Verdi’s Otello, doesn’t quite have all the best tunes. Desdemona trumps him there. But the arch-manipulator Iago boasts a part of such polished, seductive wickedness that (as in Shakespeare’s tragedy) the villain can often make off with the show.

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Eugene Onegin, Opera Holland Park Young Artists review - intimacy and reflection

Gavin Dixon

Sitting in a huge marquee on a June evening, with the sun peeking through every gap in the canopy, it is quite a stretch to imagine yourself in the remote countryside of rural Russia. But this new production of Eugene Onegin manages that, and with a minimum of means.

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La bohème, Glyndebourne review - a masterpiece in monochrome

Miranda Heggie

According to the programme, La bohème is (probably) the most performed opera, by the most performed operatic composer. Ever. So, what is it about this piece that continues to enthral, inspire and intrigue artists and audiences alike?

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Maria Stuarda, Irish National Opera review – two queens sing for the crown, with spectacular results

David Nice

You don’t plan a production of a Donizetti opera without having top voices in mind. For what, after all, is his simplification of Schiller’s Mary Stuart but bel canto business as usual with a bit of high drama attached? Internationally celebrated Irish singers Tara Erraught and Anna Devin (Amy Ní Fhearraigh at some performances) are the royal cousins at deadly loggerheads. They don’t disappoint; nor do the rest of the cast, orchestra and chorus.

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Tamerlano, The Grange Festival review - Handel brilliant in parts, but you have to wait for the drama

stephen Walsh

Handel’s operas have long posed, and still pose, severe problems for the modern theatre, and especially the modern director  all those endless streams of wonderful but emotionally more or less generalised arias hitched to interchangeable characters in fabricated love stories about crusaders or Roman emperors or oriental potentates.

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The Excursions of Mr Brouček, Grange Park Opera review - biting satire from bouncing Czechs

Jessica Duchen

Now for something completely different. The Excursions of Mr Brouček is Leos Janáček’s least typical opera and is rarely performed. Among his tragic tales such as Jenufa and Kat’a Kabanova, the charm of The Cunning Little Vixen and the strangely heart-twisting The Makropoulos Case, the Czech composer's biting satire – in which the time-travelling anti-hero is chiefly "blotto" – faces an uphill struggle for a look-in.

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