wed 26/06/2019

Opera Reviews

Phaedra, Linbury Theatre review - from confusing passion to blazing afterlife

David Nice

Leaving a revival performance of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, a friend asked Hans Werner Henze, also in the audience, that dreaded question: "what did you think?" "Very competent and extremely well performed," came the answer.

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Semele, Monteverdi Choir, EBS, Gardiner, Alexandra Palace review - Handel's cornucopia lavishly served

David Nice

Louise Alder, lyric soprano of the moment and vivacity incarnate, had yet to be born when John Eliot Gardiner made his first recording of Handel's Semele with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in 1981.

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Aida, Opera North review - militarism soundly subverted

Robert Beale

Opera North created something approaching a new art form when they performed Wagner’s Ring in "concert stagings", putting their large orchestra in full view, with singers symbolically dressed and given limited front-of-stage space, and a continuous projected screen backdrop.

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'The orchestra becomes the landscape': Annabel Arden on Opera North's concert staging of Aida

Annabel Arden

This will be the latest in Opera North’s acclaimed concert stagings of large-scale works, which have previously included Wagner’s Ring cycle, Puccini’s Turandot and Strauss’s Salome.

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Billy Budd, Royal Opera review - Britten's drama of good and evil too much at sea

David Nice

On one level, it's about Biblically informed good and evil at sea, in both the literal and the metaphorical sense. On another, the love that dared not speak its name when Britten and E M Forster adapted Hermann Melville's novella is either repressed or (putatively) liberated. The conflicts can make for lacerating music theatre, as they did in Orpha Phelan's production for Opera North.

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SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, Isango Ensemble, Linbury Theatre - evocative and essential lyric theatre

David Nice

While Bach's and Handel's Passions have been driving thousands to contemplate suffering, mortality and grace, this elegy for black lives lost over a century ago also chimes movingly with pre-Easter offerings.

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Faust, Royal Opera review - fusty Gounod still dances

David Nice

Goethe's cosmic Faust becomes Gounod's operatic fust in what, somewhat surprisingly, remains a repertoire staple. You go for the tunes, hoping for the world-class voices to do them justice and prepared for a pallid quarter-of-an-hour or two.

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Franco Fagioli, Il Pomo d’Oro, Birmingham Town Hall review - flair and flamboyance

Miranda Heggie

For the final, and only UK, date of his Vinci Arias tour, virtuoso countertenor Franco Fagioli gave an animated and arresting recital of baroque arias at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday afternoon with the Italian period instrument group Il pomo d’oro.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress, RNCM, Manchester review – a theatrical triumph

Robert Beale

The Royal Northern College of Music’s spring opera is a theatrical triumph and musically very, very good. It’s 27 years since they last presented what Vaughan Williams called his "morality" – that was a triumph too, and they made a CD of it which I still have. They may not be issuing a sound recording this time, but as an experience in the theatre, it is even more compelling.

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Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel, English National Opera review - powerful ensemble, wrong subject

David Nice

If you can’t put a name to any of Jack the Ripper’s victims – and spin it however you please, victims they remain – then you shouldn’t buy the publicity about this new opera "bringing dignity back" to the murdered women in question. Isn’t it time to stop feeding the troll/killer, much as Jacinda Ardern did so swiftly and movingly under different circumstances last week, and let the five eviscerated corpses return to dust in peace?

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