thu 20/06/2024

Opera Reviews

Il Trittico, Welsh National Opera review - another triumph for a hard-pressed company

stephen Walsh

It’s somehow typical of the Welsh National Opera I’ve known now for the best part of sixty years that it should confront its current funding difficulties with brilliant productions of two of the more challenging works in the repertory.

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The Merry Widow, Glyndebourne review - fun and frolics in the Embassy

stephen Walsh

Why would anyone want to stage a work like The Merry Widow in this day and age? Silly question. It’s the music, stupid. Of course, it’s an entertaining story and there are some good jokes. But I'd bet that if Heuberger had composed the music to this libretto, as he started doing, instead of Franz Lehár, who took it on afterwards, I wouldn't now be writing about Cal McCrystal’s new Glyndebourne production, or anyone else’s for that matter.

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Giulio Cesare, Blackwater Valley Opera Festival review - characterful, lustrous Handel on parade

David Nice

Recreating Handel’s Egypt with a first-rate cast on the summer opera scene could have been the exclusive domain of Glyndebourne, bringing back its revival of David McVicar’s celebrated Giulio Cesare in July. Yet over the Irish sea, in the grounds of a castle with exquisite gardens above the lushly wooded valley of the river Blackwater, they’ve pulled it off. This is a singular triumph of which Caesar would be proud.

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Tosca, Opera Holland Park review - passion and populism

Boyd Tonkin

Set in a tensely polarised Roman neighbourhood, with an election in the offing and radicals scrapping with reactionaries under poster-plastered walls, Stephen Barlow’s smart update of Tosca from 1800 to 1968 might have felt like a double dose of period-piece on its first outing at Opera Holland Park in 2008. Strongly cast and crisply delivered, this polished and gripping revival gives us Puccini the prophet as well as the pot-boiler. 

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Die Zauberflöte, Glyndebourne review - cornucopia of visual inventiveness eclipses everything else

Rachel Halliburton

Five years after it first clattered onto the Glyndebourne stage, André Barbe and Renaud Doucet’s visually exuberant Die Zauberflöte – featuring everything from dancing carcasses to a monster made out of blue-and-white crockery – continues to dazzle as much as it entertains.

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Carmen, Glyndebourne review - total musical fusion

David Nice

It’s what you dream of in opera but don’t often get: singers feeling free and liberated to give their best after weeks of preparation with a master conductor. Glyndebourne Music Director Robin Ticciati leads the way with a peerless London Philharmonic Orchestra in Bizet’s absolute masterpiece, and Tunisian-Canadian mezzo Rihab Chaieb’s Carmen stuns in a vocally magnificent cast.

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L'Olimpiade, Irish National Opera review - Vivaldi's long-distance run sustained by perfect teamwork

David Nice

In Vivaldi’s more extravagant operas, some of the arias can seem like a competition for the gold medal. L’Olimpiade is relatively modest in most of its demands, with one notable exception, and Irish National Opera’s track record in exemplary casting across the board gave us a relay race from an ideal team, keeping the work’s trajectory from modest introductions to greater depth and fire in the set pieces stylishly on course.

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Götterdämmerung, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - outside looking and listening in, always with fascination

David Nice

Four years embracing pandemic, genocide and rapid environmental degradation predicted by Wagner’s grand myth have passed before the Southbank Brünnhilde could become a new woman – literally, in this Ring. Since Das Rheingold, the “preliminary evening”, in 2018, the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski has grown ever more idiomatic and resplendent. Casting of the main roles, however, had more than its usual peaks and troughs this time round.

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Simon Boccanegra, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - thrilling, magnificent exploration

Robert Beale

If ever more evidence were needed of Sir Mark Elder’s untiring zest for exploration and love of the thrill of live opera performance, it was this ground-breaking collaborative event with Opera Rara – a performance coupled to a new studio recording of the original version of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

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Aci by the River, London Handel Festival, Trinity Buoy Wharf Lighthouse review - myths for the #MeToo age

Boyd Tonkin

“Site-specific” performance locations rarely come more atmospheric, or evocative, than this one. Beyond the East India Dock basin, with the hedgehog-backed dome of the O2 looming just across the Thames on a gusty spring evening, a cavernous “chain store” abuts the Trinity Buoy Lighthouse. For the London Handel Festival, director Jack Furness transforms this haunting (and haunted) chunk of early-Victorian dockland architecture into the studios of “Cyclops Pictures”.

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