thu 27/02/2020

Opera Reviews

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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The Elixir of Love, English National Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

It takes roughly, ooh, about five minutes for Jonathan Miller's new production of Donizetti's The Elixir of Love (whose 1950s set had the audience gawping smilingly within seconds) to start electrifying the nerve-endings into orgasmic spasm.

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The Gambler, Royal Opera House

David Nice

Fasten your seatbelts; it's a bumpy ride to the casino. In Prokofiev's wilful but uncompromising take on Dostoyevsky's tale of obsession, all the private paths of love, lust and greed lead to the gambling tables - eventually. The composer saves up one of the most adrenalin-charged scenes in 20th-century opera for the last act, giving director and conductor some headaches in generating interest and comprehensibility along the way. With a dedication we can only imagine, Richard Jones and...

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Ruddigore, Opera North

graham Rickson A magical Ruddigore: Richard Burkhard as Sir Despard Murgatroyd (left) and Grant Doyle as Robin Oakapple

The plot of this rarely performed Gilbert and Sullivan spoof melodrama is gloriously amusing. The male heirs of the Murgatroyd family suffer under a witch’s curse which forces them to commit a crime each day, or suffer an agonising death. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd has fled the ancestral home and now lives under a pseudonym, meaning that his younger brother Despard has had to assume both the baronetcy and the duty to commit the daily crime. Unlike his older brother's dastardly penchant for stealing...

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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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