thu 16/08/2018

Opera Reviews

Opera Italia, BBC Four

David Nice

The backlash begins here with the first of Flavia Rittner's three documentaries: not an operatic wannabe or a gushing celebrity outsider to present, only a conductor who knows and loves his job inside out and a parade of gorgeous, energetic singers all at the very top of their hard-working game in state-of-the-art productions.

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Guillaume Tell, Chelsea Opera Group, QEH

David Nice Swiss artist Fuseli's depiction of the oath on the Rütli, grand finale to Rossini's Act Two

Was Rossini, credited with the unsinkable comment that Wagner had "beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour", hoist by his own petard in his last and grandest opera? For while Wagner, at least in performances as well-paced as the one I heard of Siegfried in the hands of last night's valiant field marshal Dominic Wheeler, really ought to have no dull moments, Rossini's Guillaume Tell offers many stunning quarters of an hour but just a couple which are so-so. In Chelsea...

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The Lion's Face, Opera Group

stephen Walsh 'A frighteningly convincing portrait': Dave Hill as Alzheimers sufferer Mr D, with Rachel Hynes

An opera about Alzheimer’s disease might seem an idea calculated to send the most community-minded audience rapidly to the nearest exit. Yet there's a longish history of theatre – musical and otherwise – about loss of memory and the failure of language, from Wagner to Bartók to Beckett to (even) Michael Nyman; and if Elena Langer's new piece for The Opera Group, The Lion's Face, ultimately fails to measure up dramatically to that tradition, it may be because, in approaching the...

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Così Fan Tutte, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

ismene Brown Nick Hytner's production of 'Così fan tutte': from a cool start to a blazingly tense end

Cosi fan tutte’s arc of human experience is peculiarly effective when heard at Glyndebourne. With the mid-way picnic and wine in the setting sun, how much more aware are you of how easy it is as a day goes by to take leave of one’s senses and behave in a very silly way with serious consequences. Most seriously, to discover things about oneself that one did not want to know.

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Rusalka, Opera North

graham Rickson

A thousand miles away from the Disney version, the transformation scene in Dvořák’s Rusalka is bleak and terrifying. With not a cauldron, bat or cobweb to be seen, the heroine is strapped to an operating table before imbibing the witch’s magic potion intravenously. Then her legs, until now swaddled together, are literally torn apart. It’s a brutal, shocking moment; no surprise that some audience members giggled nervously.

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Ottone in Villa, Barbican Hall

alexandra Coghlan Sonia Prina enjoys some rare moments of comedy as Vivaldi's gullible Emperor

A beloved regular of concert hall, radio and recording, the music of Vivaldi has more or less failed to find its way into the contemporary opera house. If we are to believe his own claims, the composer died with over 90 operas to his credit – double the output of even the extraordinarily prolific Handel – making the omission all the more striking. And suspicious. In...

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Billy Budd, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

David Nice HMS Indomitable: Billy Budd, good but flawed, and on his way to a terrible death

Silence. Near-darkness. Oozy weeds of orchestral strings twist in the mind of Edward Fairfax Vere (John Mark Ainsley), remembering the tragic events of 1797 when he was Captain of the HMS Indomitable. From that awe-inspiring start through to one of the most upsetting of onstage murders, perhaps the greatest parade of major and minor chords in all opera and beyond to some kind of redemption, Michael Grandage's Glyndebourne production - his first in the operatic sphere - of Britten's...

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Tosca, English National Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Rarely have I seen an opera where so much of the activity, so much of the detailed business of relating, loving, falling out and hating, has rung so true for so much of the time. And never do I remember this truthfulness coming from such simplicity. For, in terms of set, costume and conception, this is a very ordinary, recognisable, dependable, 19th-century Tosca.

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La Fille Du Régiment, Royal Opera

ismene Brown

You can take the girl out of the barracks but you can’t take the barracks out of the girl would be one way to sum up Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment (Daughter of the Regiment), which I can’t conceive could have a more ribtickling production, more brilliantly sung, than the delight that opened last night at Covent Garden. Kill, as they say, to get a ticket. It has Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Ann Murray and Dawn French, and in a starring supporting role comes one of the...

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After Life, Barbican

alexandra Coghlan

"We need to inform you officially. Mr Walter, you died yesterday. I’m sorry for your loss." It comes as no great surprise to learn that Michel van der Aa’s opera After Life is based on a Japanese film. The Borgesian hyper-real scenario, the no-place location and meditative pacing all point, or rather - rejecting anything so crass - bow respectfully to their original source.

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