fri 19/08/2022

Opera Reviews

Mavra/Pierrot Lunaire, Linbury Theatre review - operatic madness tempered with plenty of method

alexandra Coghlan

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it domestic farce and a fever-dream fantasy of a song-cycle: Stravinsky’s Mavra (1922) and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912) make for an unexpected double-bill. But, if the two stand slightly awkwardly next to one another, they are both facing in the same direction – each looking back into the musical past.

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Serse, The English Concert, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - star turns from five remarkable women

David Nice

You know great singing when you hear it. In Handel, for me, that was when Lucy Crowe took over a Göttingen gala back in 2013; in Mozart, most recently, it came from Emily D’Angelo making her Royal Opera debut in La clemenza di Tito. Last night, in an opera of genius from first note to last, both shone, but neither eclipsed other performances or took the spotlight from the ravishingly beautiful playing of Harry Bicket’s English Concert.

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Lohengrin, Royal Opera review - a timely return to warzone Brabant

Gavin Dixon

David Alden’s Lohengrin is back at Covent Garden for a first revival. The defining image the first time round, in 2018, was of the ending, a political rally for King Henry’s regime, with Lohengrin and the swan as its icons. That felt crude – a two-dimensional morality, and tangential to the story.

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The Handmaid's Tale, English National Opera review - a red-hot classic for our times

Jessica Duchen

However familiar you are with The Handmaid’s Tale in Margaret Atwood’s novel or its TV adaptation, you might still be knocked sideways by the impact it makes as an opera. Poul Ruders’s music plunges us viscerally into its emotional world, where his ambitious adaptation, premiered in 2000 and first heard in the UK three years later, packs one hell of a punch, its intensity terrifying and relentless.

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Oberto, Chelsea Opera Group, Cadogan Hall review - Verdi’s first opera bounces into life

David Nice

There are quite a few dull patches in the early Verdi operas that aren’t Nabucco, Ernani or Macbeth, so I wasn’t expecting so very much from the 26-year-old composer’s first shot. That was without taking into account how spiritedly the ad hoc Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra would play for conductor Matthew Scott Rogers, whizzing this shortish opera along but never breathlessly, and how well the main roles would be taken.

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The Gondoliers, Scottish Opera, Hackney Empire review - G&S con amore

David Nice

Having sung the Gondoliers’ Duet with an Iranian tenor who’d been a big pop star in his native land, I know that internationalism hit performances of the Savoy operas some time ago (this superb but all-white ensemble admittedly doesn't follow the general phenomenon). The master composer and the verbal wit may not have travelled the world musically speaking, apart from a famous little excursion into Japonisme, but we can safely acclaim them as lifelong Europeans.

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Rigoletto, Opera North review - Covid shocks, debut pleasures

David Nice

Beware of joining the Duke of Mantua’s sleazy feast in time of Covid too late, as I did on Opera North’s Newcastle leg of its Verdi journey. You may find more than a couple of the distinguished guests on stage have fallen sick – three, no less, on Wednesday night, including the Rigoletto and the Gilda, as well as the main conductor. But if you’re lucky, as I also was, you may discover unanticipated compensations.

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Opera Triple Bill, Royal Academy Opera review - three centuries of female suffering

alexandra Coghlan

When we first meet Sarah, the teenage heroine of Freya Waley-Cohen’s WITCH, she’s alone in her bedroom Googling “How to stop feeling shitty?”. She’s being bullied and sexualised by boys at school, but she could just as easily be asking on behalf of any one of her operatic forebears: Manon; Carmen; Armida; Alcina; Butterfly; Elvira.

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The Miserly Knight / Mavra, Scottish Opera review - a bold double act in the heart of Scotland

Christopher Lambton

To stage a double bill of unusual 20th century Russian operas would be brave at the best of times. To do so in the Fair City of Perth amply demonstrates Scottish Opera’s laudable commitment to extend its influence beyond the Edinburgh-Glasgow cultural axis.

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St John Passion, English Touring Opera, Lichfield Cathedral review - free-range Bach doesn't quite add up

Richard Bratby

JS Bach’s Passions as music theatre? Well, why not? Whatever the aura of untouchability around these works, they were always conceived as part of a bigger picture: a communal sacred ritual in which the divide between performer and audience wasn’t so much blurred as nonexistent.

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