wed 23/10/2019

Opera Reviews

Lucia di Lammermoor, ENO

David Nice

Is Donizetti's fustian operatic mash-up of Sir Walter Scott worth staging seriously? On CD, stupenda Sutherland and divina Callas continue to give us goosebumps with their darting, florid stabs at poor mad Lucia. If the difficult-to-achieve match of bel canto and dramatic intensity rests only with the lead tenor, as it did last night, what's left?

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Così fan tutte, Royal Opera/ Joyce DiDonato, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Two very different lessons on love this week. From the Aphrodite-like Joyce DiDonato at the Wigmore Hall, there emerged a correct, wise, honest way to achieve an enamoured state; from the familiarly fickle cast of Così fan tutte - an almost unwatchably faulty bunch of emotional primitives in Jonathan Miller's production for the Royal Opera - very much the wrong way.

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War and Peace, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

David Nice

Two hundred costumes, over 60 solo roles and the world premiere of a great operatic composer's first thoughts: it's a task which would daunt the best-resourced opera company in the world.

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The Rake's Progress, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Not everyone was playing for the same team in last night's revival production of The Rake's Progress. On the one side were the conductor, choir and soloists, all focused in their service and submission to unravelling this quietly brilliant piece of neoclassicism by Stravinsky - mostly pretty effectively.

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Phaedra, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

In 2005, having completed the first act of his opera Phaedra and killed off his lead Hippolyte, Hans Werner Henze contracted a mystery illness. No one understood it or saw a way out of it. He stopped eating, then speaking. His eyes began to fail him. He fell into a coma. The musical world began to fly out to his Italian village outside Rome to pay their last respects and prepare for his funeral. Then, two inert months into the grief and the start of the obsequies, Henze "just...

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Popstar to Operastar, ITV1

Adam Sweeting

Naturally it would be impossible to reach an objective verdict on what is the worst programme ever shown on television, but it is at least safe to say that Popstar To Operastar is determined not to get left behind in the race to the bottom. This could also be said of some of its contestants, whose unfamiliarity with the concept of "singing" seemed surprising in people who perform music for a living, albeit of the non-operatic kind.

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La Bohème, Opera North

graham Rickson An improbably attractive cast: Bülent Bezdüz as Rodolfo and Anne Sophie Duprels as Mimì

This is a revival of the 1993 production originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame). Directed on this occasion by Peter Relton, it still works brilliantly. Lloyd has updated the setting to 1950s Paris with her young bohemians wearing polo necks, jeans and berets. A gleaming motorbike is one of the objects adorning their living space, its condition degenerating along with the health of Mìmi until it is replaced by a pedal cycle in the final act.

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Elektra, Gergiev, LSO, Barbican Hall

ismene Brown Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909): 'It can and should be moving, as well as unsettling'

Richard Strauss’s 1909 opera Elektra is a diabolical piece of work - less an opera than an event determined to cut its mark. A vast orchestra of 112 players unleashes a two-hour tsunami of sound across the stage, on which female voices are buffeted like pieces of driftwood, shrieking of mothers who murder husbands, daughters who want to murder mothers, rivers of blood, flayed horses, dogs, bodies. Subtle it isn’t. Loud it is. In the hands of Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Edward and Igor look back at 2009

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Nina Stemme gives a career-defining performance as Isolde at Covent Garden in Autumn 2009

Since before Christmas theartsdesk has been reviewing the past decade and previewing the year to come in the arts. As an extra we offer this special edition of The Seckerson Tapes, in which Edward Seckerson and Igor Toronyi-Lalic discuss the year in music, which, in the concert hall, saw the triumph of the new romantics in conductors Riccardo Chailly and Yannick Nezet-Seguin and, operatically, saw the arrival of three penetrating new productions of operatic classics: the...

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Classical and Opera 2000-9: The Highs and Lows

theartsdesk

 

No great new movements or radically transformational figures emerged to dominate classical music in the Noughties (not even him up there). Just one small nagging question bedevilled us: will the art form survive? Well, it has. What appeared to be a late 20th-century decline in audience interest in the classical tradition was in fact a consumer weariness with the choices on offer.

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