sun 13/10/2019

Opera Reviews

Billy Budd, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

David Nice HMS Indomitable: Billy Budd, good but flawed, and on his way to a terrible death

Silence. Near-darkness. Oozy weeds of orchestral strings twist in the mind of Edward Fairfax Vere (John Mark Ainsley), remembering the tragic events of 1797 when he was Captain of the HMS Indomitable. From that awe-inspiring start through to one of the most upsetting of onstage murders, perhaps the greatest parade of major and minor chords in all opera and beyond to some kind of redemption, Michael Grandage's Glyndebourne production - his first in the operatic sphere - of Britten's...

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Tosca, English National Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Rarely have I seen an opera where so much of the activity, so much of the detailed business of relating, loving, falling out and hating, has rung so true for so much of the time. And never do I remember this truthfulness coming from such simplicity. For, in terms of set, costume and conception, this is a very ordinary, recognisable, dependable, 19th-century Tosca.

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La Fille Du Régiment, Royal Opera

ismene Brown

You can take the girl out of the barracks but you can’t take the barracks out of the girl would be one way to sum up Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment (Daughter of the Regiment), which I can’t conceive could have a more ribtickling production, more brilliantly sung, than the delight that opened last night at Covent Garden. Kill, as they say, to get a ticket. It has Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Ann Murray and Dawn French, and in a starring supporting role comes one of the...

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After Life, Barbican

alexandra Coghlan

"We need to inform you officially. Mr Walter, you died yesterday. I’m sorry for your loss." It comes as no great surprise to learn that Michel van der Aa’s opera After Life is based on a Japanese film. The Borgesian hyper-real scenario, the no-place location and meditative pacing all point, or rather - rejecting anything so crass - bow respectfully to their original source.

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Juan Diego Florez, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson

Can we clear something up once and for all, please? Yet again this week an all too familiar headline caught my eye: “Is Juan Diego Florez the heir apparent to Pavarotti?” Or words to that effect. Why do these lazy (and/or ill-informed) editors and their headline writers keep asking the same rhetorical question? Surely they should know by now that the answer is a great big resounding “no”.

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Powder Her Face, RO, Linbury Studio Theatre

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Sexy but not scandalous: the 'vocally terrific' Joan Rodgers as the Duchess

Let's get straight to the fellatio, shall we. The blow job - and its Polaroid rendition - that led to the 1960s divorce trial of the dissolute Duchess of Argyll forms the centrepiece aria (an aria that "begins with words and ends with humming") in Thomas Adès's opera Powder Her Face. And how good we were: as silent as a row of...

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Aida, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

David McVicar's new Aida production had an opening mise en scène of such unashamed ugliness, a revolving main feature (a wall of scaffolding) of such audacious featurelessness, a wardrobe of such brazen tastelessness (think Dungeons and Dragons), that my critical faculties sort of went into a coma.

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Elegy for Young Lovers, ENO, Young Vic

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

We all know what you get when you find yourself snowed in with your family up a mountain: thunderous carpets, corridors of blood, redrum and a head in the snow.

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Prima Donna, Sadler's Wells

David Nice

Why write gluey pastiche Massenet and Puccini when you could compose as your flamboyant self? Why collaborate on a cliché-ridden French text when your song lyrics declare themselves so piquantly in English? Rufus Wainwright must have his own reasons for concocting a fantasy of what opera might, or used to, be.

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Platée, Opera du Rhin

ismene Brown

French geography has a significant hand in the small but exuberantly formed opera and dance that comes out of that civilised country - scaled for the important theatres that lie far beyond Paris and which have a great deal to teach Britain about creating a vivid national landscape.

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