tue 19/11/2019

Opera Reviews

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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The Cunning Little Vixen, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic The Vixen and the lard-arse Hens: 'love and loss and the joys of being alive'

I have no compunction laying into vastly overrated composerscrazily overpaid conductors or ...

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Katya Kabanova, English National Opera

David Nice

It's amazing how much you can tell of what lies ahead from the way a conductor handles a master composer's first chord. Katya Kabanova's opening sigh of muted violas and cellos underpinned by double basses should tell us that the Volga into which the self-persecuted heroine will eventually throw herself is a river, real or metaphorical, of infinite breadth and depth.

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Kaija Saariaho's Émilie, Opéra de Lyon

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Émilie du Châtelet: 'Châtelet (Karita Mattila) staggers around her orrery study barefoot like a 19th-century hysteric: temperamental, mystical and totally doolally.'

The new millennium shimmered into earshot with a musical masterpiece from a female Finn. Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin (2000) appeared to open up an enticing new operatic sound world, less dogmatic, more instinctive, colourful and intense, very much like the work's model, Debussy's Pélleas et Mélisande, had done a hundred years before. Ten years on, the critical establishment descended on Lyon for Saariaho's third opera, Émilie - which comes to the Barbican in...

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Tamerlano, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Graham Vick's Tamerlano is less of an opera and more of a warning. In four and half hours you see 26 ways of how not to handle the Baroque aria. Dramatic success in Handel and his psychological flights of mainly soliloquising fancy is never easy but last night's ill-fated Royal Opera House production (Placido Domingo called in sick a few weeks back) was a lesson in abject theatrical failure.

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Philip Glass: Satyagraha, ENO/ LSO, Alsop, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

It has always been a cornerstone of my personal philosophy that beauty and insight can be found in the very lowest of common denominators. That Big Brother, Friends, Love It magazine or Paris Hilton provide revelations about life that are of as much consequence, of as much wonder, as any offered up by the classic pantheon. That that which the people respond to must and usually does have plenty of merit lurking within it.

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La Traviata, Chelsea Opera Group, QEH

David Nice

Marie Duplessis, Alexandre Dumas the Younger's real-life "lady of the camellias", was only 23 when consumption finally claimed her. Ignore a few lines about youth in Verdi's operatic treatment, though, and there's no reason why courtesan Violetta shouldn't be a woman of advancing years who finds true love with a man half her age or more; think Chéri (Colette's novel, not the film if you please).

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