wed 17/04/2024

Opera Reviews

The Cunning Little Vixen, Opera North review - magic of a classic staging

Robert Beale

It’s good to think that there are some opera productions – not just compositions – that in themselves can have the status of classics. David Pountney’s 1980 interpretation of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen must be high on a list of contenders for that accolade. It was first seen at the Edinburgh Festival that year, performed by Scottish Opera in a co-production between them and Welsh National Opera.

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Tannhäuser, Royal Opera review - true goodness triumphs in the end

David Nice

It’s always a disappointment when the Venusberg orgy Wagner added in 1861 to his original, 1845 Tannhäuser to suit Parisian tastes gives way to foursquare operatic conventions. Especially so in this revival of Tim Albery’s 2010 production, where Jasmin Vardimon’s choreography (pictured below) seems executed with more brilliance than ever and post-viral vocal problems loomed large last night for this hero.

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Least Like the Other, Irish National Opera, Linbury Theatre review - the harrowing of Rosemary Kennedy

David Nice

This multimedia horror revue gave me heart trouble, which is an odd kind of compliment. Not at first: the assault of abrasive music, the one singer having to leap all over the place vocally, competing with spoken word and information overload, can seem self-defeating. And that vile word “lobotomy” is enough in itself to trigger a panic attack. But ultimately the impact is powerful, unforgettable, in tune with great artistic statements about the human condition.

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A Child in Striped Pyjamas, The Cockpit review - a brave tackling of a Holocaust story

Bernard Hughes

The obstacles that have faced Noah Max in the five years since he resolved to make an opera of John Boyne’s Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas would have stymied someone less determined. Not just the usual fundraising and logistical challenges that every opera has to deal with, but also Covid – and the demand from the story’s rights holder for £1 million for their permission.

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Katya Kabanova, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - living every bar of Janáček’s tragedy

David Nice

Amanda Majeski pushed the boundaries as Janáček's tormented heroine for director Richard Jones at the Royal Opera. Here there were confines – no “concert staging” this, but a laissez-faire affair with scores and music stands, occasionally obscuring the stage directions – but she still conveyed the essence in front of Simon Rattle’s throbbing, luminous London Symphony Orchestra and flanked by other cast members of uniform excellence.

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Best of 2022: Opera

David Nice

Looking through everything we’ve covered this year – and some of our reviewers have made their choices from an even wider sphere – I find, as in 2021, that the abundance of classical-concert top choices is richer than the number of truly outstanding opera productions. Personally, I’ve seen only three performances in the UK that ticked all boxes (production, singing, conducting, top quality work) and three abroad, despite limited travel.

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Die Zauberflöte, Royal Opera review - classic show but disappointing conductor

Sebastian Scotney

“The great thing about this production,” Colin Davis observed in 2003, during rehearsals for its very first run, “is that the director [David McVicar] hasn’t attempted to shock anybody. He has tried to tell the story of The Magic Flute. And thank God for that.”

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Die Fledermaus, RNCM, Manchester review - a champagne cork-popping celebration

Robert Beale

The Royal Northern College of Music is in the mood for celebration. Its 50 years of existence warrants popping the champagne corks big-time, so for its end-of-year operatic production Die Fledermaus is just what the doctor ordered.

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Don Pasquale, Irish National Opera review - stock comedy shines at close quarters

David Nice

Only a group of top musicians stood, or mostly sat, between a full but necessarily small house and Dr Malatesta’s Plastic Surgery Clinic in the bijou surroundings of Dun Laoghaire’s 324-seater Pavilion Theatre.

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It’s a Wonderful Life, English National Opera review - Capra’s sharp-edged sentiment smothered in endless schmaltz

David Nice

Looking for a sparkly operatic musical, well sung and played, slick and saturated in a range of mainstream styles that stop short in the year the movie masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life was released, 1946? Then Jake Heggie’s 2016 confection may be for you. One thing’s for sure, though: it may be trying to do something different from the Capra classic, and it’s welcome to have the Bailey family as African Americans, but this isn't a patch on the rather more layered film.

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