sat 14/12/2019

Opera Reviews

In The Penal Colony, Music Theatre Wales, Linbury Studio Theatre

alexandra Coghlan The Officer (Omar Ebrahim) contemplates his beloved machine

The pairing of Philip Glass and Franz Kafka is a natural one. A shared fascination with obsession, with developing a simple premise to its most densely worked-out, most logical conclusion is evident in both, and it is only perhaps surprising that it took until 2000 for Glass to produce In The Penal Colony. Exploiting the minimal surroundings of the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre to maximal effect, this UK premiere production forgoes inference and suggestion in favour of all-out...

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Don Pasquale, Royal Opera

David Nice

Anticipating revivals of productions that were hardly vivacious in the first place, you can always find reasons to hope. Perhaps there'll be a dazzling house debut. Maybe someone, preferably the revival director, will bring a more focused individual zest to the kind of rough character sketches Jonathan Miller leaves flailing around his beautifully conceived historic locales. Not on this occasion.

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Bliss, Opera Australia, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Igor Toronyi-Lalic 'The low was Peter Coleman-Wright's Harry, not unstable enough for a man enduring an earth-shattering mid-life crisis'

Here we go again. Art takes on capitalism, round 4,598,756. The blissful life of Harry Joy, ad exec extraordinaire, beloved father of two, is (surprise, surprise) not quite what it seems. His wife is having an affair, his daughter is fellating his son for drugs and his business clients are spreading cancer. He thinks he's in hell. But this ain't hell; it's the greedy, bourgeois reality of a capitalist West. Stalin would have been mighty proud of Australian Brett Dean's new opera, Bliss...

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Hänsel und Gretel, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Ticciati, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice

Everyone concerned has, of course, total confidence and bags of experience at the end of a riotous run, warmly applauded by Edward Seckerson at Glyndebourne. Yet there were dangers to be negotiated.

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Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shadwell Opera, Rosslyn Chapel

David Nice

Forget Dan Brown’s phony grail trail which has led so many paying pilgrims to Rosslyn outside Edinburgh. For the last week of the Festival Fringe the Chapel, most intricate and mysterious of 15th-century sanctuaries, has become a temple of high art dedicated to Mozart, Shakespeare and Britten. Ambitious indeed of a bunch of Cambridge undergrads and alumni to mount The Magic Flute and the operatic Midsummer Night’s Dream side by side. Did they pull it off?

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Eugene Onegin, Bolshoi Opera, Royal Opera House

David Nice

Nobody knows any real happiness, and human kindness is rarely to be found, in Dmitri Tcherniakov's Bolshoi production of Tchaikovsky's "lyric scenes" - the most disciplined and real piece of operatic teamwork I've seen ever to come from the Russian establishment.

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Stravinsky, The Rake's Progress, Glyndebourne

Edward Seckerson

Thirty-five years on and this is still as much David Hockney’s Rake as it is Stravinsky’s or W H Auden’s. How rarely it is that what we see chimes so completely and utterly with what we hear. The limited palette of colours, the precisely etched cross-hatching, the directness and the cunningly conceived elements of parody – am I talking about Hockney or Stravinsky? Two great individualists in complete harmony. So why the disconnection?

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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Rattle, Royal Albert Hall

alexandra Coghlan

In 1860 Wagner sent a full score of his recently published Tristan und Isolde to Berlioz, inscribing it: “To the great and dear composer of Roméo et Juliette, from the grateful composer of Tristan und Isolde.” The bonds between these two works go far beyond emotion, as last night’s inspired piece of programming from Simon Rattle and the Orchestra of the Age of...

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Francesca da Rimini, Opera Holland Park

David Nice

They're having a laugh at Holland Park, surely: offering 700 pay-what-you-like tickets to hook newcomers on the wonderful world of opera, and then serving up a Pythonesque staging of an immoveable Italian dinosaur.

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Hänsel und Gretel, Glyndebourne

Edward Seckerson Alice Coote and Lydia Teuscher in Cardboard City

Glyndebourne’s Hänsel und Gretel comes in a large cardboard box, with plain brown wrapper, duct-tape and a barcode. There’s a public health warning, too: sugar and spice and all things nice come at a price. The evil witch Rosina Sweet-Tooth is nothing more, nothing less than rabid consumerism masquerading as a smart lady in a pink two-piece suit. Yes, Laurent Pelly’s 2008 staging was/ is the first environmentally aware Humperdinck. It had to come. For revival read recycle.

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