sun 05/07/2020

Opera Reviews

Piccard in Space, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

I reviewed excerpts of Will Gregory's new opera, Piccard in Space, last year. His funky, plushly Moog-ed, concerto-like suite struck me as rather tasty. I even said that I couldn't wait for last night's fully worked-out operatic world premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. How wrong I was.

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Fidelio, Royal Opera House

David Nice

I have no problem at all with updating Beethoven's early-19th-century paean to love and liberty: there are any number of tyrants and prisoners of conscience to whom its universal message could apply.

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Intermezzo, Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

David Nice

A glittering, gaudy surface and an epic, sometimes disturbing underbelly are what many of Klimt’s canvases and Richard Strauss’s autobiographical bourgeois comedy of marital misunderstanding have in common. It was the main idea of Wolfgang Quetes’s Scottish Opera extravaganza to bring those mythic resonances in harmony with the realist conversation-piece aspect of the opera. But you don’t do Intermezzo without a capricious heroine of huge charisma like Glyndebourne charmers...

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Orlando Furioso, Barbican Hall

alexandra Coghlan Jean-Christophe Spinosi: Fails to translate the excitement of the recording studio to the concert hall

Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso has yielded more than its fair share of operatic spin-offs. Inspiring three operas apiece from both Handel and Vivaldi, as well as works from Lully, Haydn, Caccini and Rameau, its vivid stories of love, magic and revenge were plundered freely by composers for the better part of two centuries. It’s a rich seam of works, and one the Barbican is celebrating with a triptych of concerts. We’ve already had an exceptional Alcina from Minkowski...

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The Return of Ulysses, ENO, Young Vic

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Wars have no end. Soldiers may come home, battlefields may be vacated, peace treaties signed, but scars remain. The violence of combat has a way of revisiting itself on the victors and vanquished and ravaging soul and state.

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A Magic Flute, CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Barbican Theatre

David Nice Abdou Ouloguem, one of the two actors out-charming the singers in a purgatorial dream world

Without the definite article, what kind of a Flute is Peter Brook's - beyond, that is, the literal manifestation of a stick on a string that makes no soothing noises? Best describe it as a crescent moon of a version, loosely based on Schikaneder's text with less than half of Mozart's music and matching slivers of voices, attached to mostly fledgling stage presences. The diminishing returns of Brook's operatic deconstructions, from the bold Tragedy of Carmen through the more...

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Rodelinda, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music

alexandra Coghlan Eduige (Rosie Aldridge) plots her most stylish revenge on Grimoaldo

A highlight of the London Handel Festival’s annual season is the opera, generally chosen from one of the dustier, more spidery corners of the composer’s repertoire. What a surprise then to see Rodelinda taking its turn this year. An undisputed classic, it’s also the opera that played perhaps the biggest part in reviving Handel’s fortunes on the stage in the 20th century. With aria after aria of generous and dramatic vocal writing and plenty of crowd-pleasing numbers, it’s also a...

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Cautionary Tales!, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Grand Theatre

graham Rickson 'A glam-rock vision in blue shiny fabric and Heseltinian blond wig': Mark Le Brocq as Ponto the Lion

Trying to introduce children to classical music is a tricky business. The benchmarks are still Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Poulenc’s Babar – both characterised by witty, quirky music and strong storylines. Opera is a harder sell – there’s the slowness of it, the sheer lunacy of characters striding about on stage expressing their inner feelings at full volume, accompanied by a 70-piece orchestra. So credit is due to Opera North’s education department for...

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Aida, Royal Opera House

David Nice

What kind of Aida would you prefer: one in which singing actors stretched to the limits find Verdi's human volcano of emotions beneath the cod-Egyptian rubble, or a stand-and-deliver production with a stalwart cast of beaten-bronze voices? Having had a taste at least of the former once in my life, I wasn't very happy to succumb to the latter in this Covent Garden revival. It was the wall of sound in the big Act II ensemble which made me at least willing to be convinced.

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Dialogues des Carmélites, Guildhall School of Music & Drama

David Nice

Let's begin at the end. Isn't the nuns-to-the-scaffold scene which concludes Poulenc's ultimate testament of doubt and faith the deepest, most heart-wrenching finale in all opera? It even has the edge over Richard Strauss's Rosenkavalier trio and duet, in that the singers often end up in tears as well as the audience.

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