fri 19/08/2022

Opera Reviews

Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera

David Nice

Seeking the snows of yesteryear, I remember a time when John Schlesinger's Covent Garden Rosenkavalier filled every moment of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's rococo libretto and Richard Strauss's jewel-studded score with life and meaning. 25 years on, its creator is no more, a revival director (Andrew Sinclair) fails to pull a dramatically variable cast together and many startling new productions have shown more readiness to engage with the opera's Viennese time machine...

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Otello, LSO, Sir Colin Davis, Barbican

David Nice Sir Colin Davis rehearsing the LSO last week: Starbursts and moonshine, but less of the broader sweep

Let's suppose that off-centre genius among opera directors Richard Jones had been asked to bring his imagination to bear on Sir Colin Davis's latest Verdi-in-concert. I imagine he might have weighed up leading men, chorus and the conductor's unexpected blend of manicure with flash alongside swathes of masterful beauty, and decided to follow up his 1940s Windsor Falstaff at Glyndebourne with a 1970s Otello set in Surbiton.

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Swanhunter, Opera North

graham Rickson Andrew Rees as Lemminkäinen with Yvonne Howard as Lemminkäinen's Mother

The violin figure which opens Jonathan Dove’s delightful Swanhunter evokes Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat. The allusion is surely deliberate. Like L’Histoire, and in contrast to Pinocchio, Dove’s large-scale Opera North commission of two years ago, Swanhunter is a 70-minute, chamber-sized work designed for performance in small venues.

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The Tsarina's Slippers, Royal Opera House

David Nice Larissa Diadkova (Solokha) and Maxim Mikhailov (the Devil) in The Tsarina's Slippers

A vain, capricious girl sends her lunk of a suitor on a quest for the best ruby slippers in the world, while said lunk's mother, the village witch, cosies up to the Devil. It's a whimsical Christmas Eve tale, exuberantly narrated by Nikolay Gogol in his Ukrainian-based Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka; but you wouldn't think there would be much room for pathos and sentiment. Trust Tchaikovsky to favour the heartfelt and the melancholy in his very characteristic early opera Vakula...

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Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Adam Sweeting

The famously tempestuous Romanian soprano is, we learn, living a separate life from her husband Roberto Alagna. If Opera's Most Romantic Couple is no more, will Brand Angela be terminally damaged? Surely a showcase performance in the South Bank's International Voices season would be just the thing to rally the faithful and reaffirm Ms Gheorghiu's spectacular star quality, but I must admit that by the time we reached the interval, I was beset with gnawing doubt.

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Maria di Rohan, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Krassimira Stoyanova's Maria di Rohan was the show-stopper

So many 19th-century opera plots park themselves on fertile historical ground, amid all the colour, character and juice you could ever want, and then spend three hours picking at some anaemic daisies at the edges. It was a worry last night as I watched Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan in concert at the Royal Festival Hall.  By sidestepping the heavyweight power players of Louis XIII’s reign, the eminently operatic figures of Cardinal Richelieu (endlessly...

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Duke Bluebeard's Castle/Rite of Spring, ENO

Ismene Brown

There are horrors in the world so vile that few of us want to think about them. None more so than such cases as Josef Fritzl - or Jaycee Lee Dugard, or Arcedio Alvarez, or Raymond Gouardo, or Wolfgang Priklopil, or Marc Dutroux... but you get the picture. Cases where men abduct girls and turn them into sex slaves and father multiple children by them, often incestuously, hiding them in garages, basements, behind walls, sometimes for decades undiscovered, sometimes murdering them.

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The Turn of the Screw, ENO

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw is first and foremost a psychological horror. And psychological horrors are all about rocking the mental boat. Capsizing the mental boat. Sinking the mental boat. David McVicar’s production of The Turn of the Screw for the English National Opera does not rock the mental boat. He doesn't rock any boat. I'm not sure McVicar is in a boat. He plays the work so supremely safe, so PG-safe, so two-condom safe, that I feel McVicar is...

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L'Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Will UK Gold now be permanently available at the Royal Opera House? Or was Italian TV being beamed into the auditorium last night by mistake? The 1970s scene before us actually just meant the return of Richard Jones’s inspired sitcom treatment of Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi to Covent Garden. Even before the curtain had lifted we were raising a 1970s titter, being prepped for a...

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The Adventures of Mr Brouček, Opera North

graham Rickson

To a bewitching, shimmering prelude, a back-projected astronaut plants a Czech flag on the lunar surface. So begins one of those evenings where you skip out of the theatre grinning and promising yourself that you will buy tickets for all your opera-disdaining friends.

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