wed 20/11/2019

Opera Reviews

Lucrezia Borgia, English National Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

When future historians write the story of 21st-century film, Mike Figgis will play a founding father-like role. Figgis's Timecode (2000) was one of the world's first and most ambitious digital films. I still remember the excitement the day I saw it, the unified screen before me shattering into shards of narrative. This was the first film to sing in four simultaneously cast parts in the manner of a Bach fugue.

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Rameau's Castor et Pollux, Theater an der Wien

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

For us Ramistes the brilliance came as no surprise. But did the genius come across to the uninitiated? This new production of Castor et Pollux, one of Rameau's finest tragédie en musique, was the Baroque composer's Austrian stage premiere.

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Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

alexandra Coghlan

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia comes gift-wrapped in its own candy-striped box – packaging that sets the tone for the brittle, sugary entertainment within. Trading satire for slapstick, politics for aesthetics, and subversion for celebration, the production is generous in laughs but lingers scarcely longer in the mind than on the lips. With previous alumni including Mark Elder, Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez, there are some long...

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Carmen, Opera North

graham Rickson

“If you’re not careful, the opening act could become a costume parade: there are the townspeople, the children, the guards, the factory women – up to 350 people on stage in 20 minutes, before Carmen even enters, singing a catchy jingle from a recent TV advert.” So wrote director Daniel Kramer in last week’s Guardian. This may fill Carmen fans with nervous apprehension, but none should be felt, as this production is one of the most visually spectacula

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Hänsel und Gretel, Royal Opera

ismene Brown

Fairy tales are fear tales really, the sweetening (and sharpening) of every child’s worst nightmares, emotions long buried in adulthood but very easily tapped back into with good theatre productions. The Witch in Hansel and Gretel should be the queen of the team of the ogres who lurk in forests or homes waiting to kill children, along with lieutenants the Wolf in Red Riding Hood, Snow White’s wicked stepmother and Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty.

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Bellérophon in Concert, Les Talens Lyriques, Rousset, Versailles

David Nice

bellerophon-front

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Tannhäuser, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

The double standards in opera are amazing. If heldentenor Johan Botha - a man the size of a small Eastern European country - had been a woman, he would have been refused re-entry to the stage till he'd had a gastric band fitted. But his size was the least of our worries.

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Handel's Alcina, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Classical music does not get any cooler than mezzo Vesselina Kasarova. She jived. She grooved. She shuffled. She shimmied. She possessed the Barbican stage last night, an awesome black jumpsuit hanging off her rangy, kinetic figure, her neck sliding about like an Indian dancer's, her feet (in kitten heels) spinning like a jazzer's, her bullying arms posturing and prodding, her mouth flashing its whites like a primate's. Her voice? Extraordinarily weird, moving, honest, explosive. Her...

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The Cradle Will Rock, Arcola Theatre

David Nice Aaron Shirley's corrupt supremo meets his match in steelworker Larry Foreman (Chris Jenkins)

Events surrounding the birth of the unrepentantly "un-American" Marc Blitzstein's early (1936-7) shot at socially aware music-theatre prove much more interesting than the show itself. Heck, I got more out of reading the programme than I did sitting through the whole darned thing. Let's face it, Blitzstein's mostly foursquare marriage of words and music sucks. Not that the dynamic Mehmet Ergen's latest Arcola team didn't give it their best shot.

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Die Entführung aus dem Serail, OAE, Queen Elizabeth Hall

alexandra Coghlan Susan Gritton: A powerful force as Mozart's most virtuosic of heroines

A problem child in any number of ways, Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail doesn’t always get the professional attention it deserves, certainly not from London companies. The opera’s last outing at the Royal Opera House dates back almost a decade, and you’d have to look even further back to find it in English National Opera’s performing catalogue. If a director manages to get past the knotty Orientalist issues of staging then there are those of the dialogue, not to mention two of...

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