mon 06/07/2020

Opera Reviews

Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera

David Nice

In the event, Covent Garden's first glitzy star vehicle of the current season turned out to be a handsome ensemble piece, with three of the four leads bringing special gifts (though not quite the full picture) to their stagey roles, tender and nuanced yet less than ideally pacy conducting from Mark Elder and about as much interpretation and telling...

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Don Giovanni, English National Opera

alexandra Coghlan

Theatricality has always been English National Opera’s go-to manoeuvre, the uppercut to the jaw of heavyweight international vocal talent up the road at Covent Garden. The witty provocations of last year’s Le Grand Macabre and even the bizarre excess of...

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Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

We sophisticates aren't really meant to enjoy Gounod. His simple 19th-century brew - five parts sentimentality, one part religiosity - isn't supposed to wash with modern palettes that crave layers of meaning, irony and social context. The ENO's solution last month was to present a version of Gounod's Faust that had these elements filled in. It flopped.

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La Bohème, English National Opera

alexandra Coghlan Isabella Bywater's muted sets make for an unusually sober 'Bohème'

Debuting last February at the height of the economic crisis, Jonathan Miller’s freshly minted Bohème was a timely operatic glance in the social mirror. Almost two years on, and the hardships of his young Bohemians seem no less apt. With fiscal collapse so conveniently on the horizon, a lesser director might have succumbed and offered up a “relevant” contemporary treatment. It is to Miller’s credit (and one in the eye to those critics who so routinely deplore his smugness) that he...

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The Merry Widow, Opera North

graham Rickson

It’s such a pity that the more striking elements in Franz Lehár’s orchestration are heard so fleetingly, such as the tiny glints of cimbalon which give the best parts of the score an authentic bohemian - or Pontevedran - flavour. But too often the relentless parade of waltzes and polkas begins to grate, and you’re about to nod off when suddenly something ear-catching happens – a sequence of gorgeous string portamenti, a languorous violin solo, or stopped horn chords that sound as if they’ve...

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The Duenna, English Touring Opera, Linbury Studio Theatre

alexandra Coghlan Adrian Thompson, Richard Suart and Damian Thantrey celebrate 'a bumper of liquor'

Christmas has come early to the Royal Opera House this year. Without a single shout of “He’s behind you!” or even an implausibly-uddered dancing cow, pantomime season is well and truly underway in the form of The Duenna – a corset-straining, britches-splitting, liquor-quaffing delight of a comedy. All of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s familiar wit and whimsy are here, and if they frequently need to pause and sprawl themselves out upon a comfortable melody, then so much the better. What...

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The Turn of the Screw, Opera North

graham Rickson

To paraphrase a cliché, it’s rare to leave a theatre humming the lighting. But here, Matthew Haskins’ lighting designs help make this production so powerful and evocative, whether projecting grotesque, distorted shadows on the back wall of Madeleine Boyd’s claustrophobic set, or illuminating characters’ subtle facial expressions.

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Welsh National Opera

stephen Walsh

Ariadne auf Naxos, according to its librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, is all about fidelity: fidelity in love, fidelity in art, fidelity in spirit. Ariadne on her island, abandoned by Theseus, can give herself to Bacchus only by persuading herself that he’s a god. The actress Zerbinetta gives herself to every man in sight, including the Composer (played, incidentally, by a girl), who for a moment weakens in his lofty contempt for these comic actors who intrude on his high ideals...

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Radamisto, English National Opera

alexandra Coghlan

If interior décor could shout, then last night’s music might have proved altogether incidental. The curtain rises to reveal a set gift-wrapped – ramparts, city walls and all – in the brightest of hot-pink damasks: a Nicky Haslam acid trip. Ladies and gentlemen, we are now entering operatic Orient 2.0, a sexy, postmodern take on the original you know and love, complete with an oversized menagerie of animals, evil tyrants and exotic princesses.

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Les Pêcheurs de Perles in concert, Royal Opera House

David Nice Nicole Cabell: Gorgeous presence, classy phrasing as Hindu priestess Léïla

Ditch the divers, the video-projected sea and the Relevance with a capital R of ENO's production last season - which managed all three very well indeed - and what remains of Bizet's Pearl Fishers in concert (and in French)? Three ravishing arias, three passionate duets, orchestration and harmony of a subtlety way beyond the plot's cod...

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