thu 17/10/2019

Opera Reviews

Rick Stein's Food of the Italian Opera, BBC Four

william Ward

Golfing for Cats: Alan Coren once invented the perfect book title on the basis that if you combined those who follow the activities of Tiger Woods with those who adore smaller domestic felines, you have a massive demographic primed to buy your last tome. Likewise for TV commissioning editors, there must be something tempting about the high-concept hybrid.

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The Pearl Fishers, English National Opera

David Nice

To both paraphrase and contradict one of the many French critics who savaged young Bizet, his first stage work of genius mentions no fishers in its gawky libretto but offers strings of pearls in the music. That's to say, much more than the famous duet, the least moving number on offer last night. I’ve come to love this fitfully ravishing score’s gentle, intimate side but had given up on seeing a less than tawdry staging to solve the opera’s gimcrack orientalia.

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Le nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera

alexandra Coghlan

The opening night of Le nozze di Figaro was not so much an opera of two halves as an opera of two teams. In the pit we had Sir Colin Davis and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House offering a crisply incisive rendering of Mozart’s score; onstage we had the Royal Opera Chorus and a selection of soloists, most of whom seemed set on a rather different – and, in the case of the chorus, downright lacklustre – rendition of the score. Now on its second revival, David McVicar’s all-the-...

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Stephen Fry on Wagner, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

Is there anywhere Stephen Fry will not go? I mean in documentaries. We’ve had Fry on depression and Fry on America, Fry on HIV and Fry on endangered species. Movingly, we’ve had Fry on who he thinks he is, an odyssey in which he discovered that much of his family fetched up in the gas ovens. Fry on Wagner? Admit it, you weren’t surprised. You didn't think, not another bloody comedian investigating, in pursuit of ratings, a subject of which he knows next to nothing.

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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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