Tag Archives: English Touring Opera

Patience, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2017

What fun! Just the ticket for an evening out, and Liam Steel’s witty production makes this a fine riposte to the absurdities and pretentions of modern life. Of course, Gilbert’s libretto is poking fun at the sophistry and ‘art for art’s sake’ attitude that infected the Victorian aesthetic movement, personified here by Reginald Bunthorne. He …

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Tosca, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2017

Opening night was a complete sell-out, justifiably so. Not only is this one of the great operas, but in Paula Sides the ETO produced a superb heroine, clothing her in a glorious green silk dress that would not shame a Vermeer painting. The simple sets include all the essentials, and the separate desk and small …

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Ulysses’ Homecoming, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, October 2016

The text for this 1640 opera was written specially to attract the 73-year old Monteverdi to Venice, where opera had gone public for the first time just three years earlier. It is a remarkable work based on the second half of Homer’s Odyssey, starting with the Phaecians taking the hero back to Ithaca after 20 …

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La Calisto, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, October 2016

This 1651 opera by Venetian composer Francesco Cavalli (1602–76), based on a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, concerns a nymph called Calisto (‘most beautiful’ in Greek), lusted after by Jupiter who disguises himself as her mistress Diana in order to woo her. Diana herself is secretly drawn to one of her admirers, the youth Endymion, setting …

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Don Giovanni, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2016

This intriguing new production sets the action in the underground world of Vienna during the early 1900s, and a junction of two tunnels at the rear of the stage later becomes the memorial to the Commendatore. His dramatic appearance in ghostly silhouette towards the end well suits this subterranean world. Though slightly different from the …

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Pia de’ Tolomei, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2016

While working on the Siege of Calais, performed by the ETO this time last year, Donizetti and his librettist wanted to duplicate their great success with Lucia di Lammermoor. Casting around for another gentle and loving heroine, whose death would evoke huge pathos, they settled on Pia de’ Tolomei from Dante’s Purgatorio, and in James …

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Iphigénie en Tauride, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2016

In Greek tradition, Iphigenia was sacrificed so the gods would supply her father King Agamemnon with a wind to sail his becalmed fleet against Troy. Euripides tackled the subject in Iphigenia at Aulis, followed later by Iphigenia in Tauris, the basis for this Gluck opera in which Artemis — here called Diana — has already …

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The Tales of Hoffmann, English Touring Opera, ETO, Britten Theatre, RCM, October 2015

Offenbach’s greatest work, which he regarded as a last chance for recognition as a composer of serious opera, remained incomplete at his death in autumn 1880. Its main character Hoffmann — jurist, composer, critic, cartoonist, and author of fantastic tales that form the basis for Nutcracker, Coppelia and Schumann’s Kreisleriana — himself became a character …

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Shackleton’s Cat, English Touring Opera, ETO, May 2015

Opera — an elitist art form? You must be joking. This was real opera presented to children from three South London primary schools, and performed at Shackleton’s old school, Dulwich College. No tragic love affair this, but a new opera commissioned by the ETO and performed in a way that really appealed to the young …

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La Bohème, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2015

This new ETO production boasts a terrific Rodolfo in David Butt Philip, who sang the same role to critical acclaim for the English National Opera last autumn. This time his more relaxed attitude allowed a fine interaction with the excellent Mimi of Russian soprano Ilona Domnich, and in their Act I meeting the eloquent message …

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The Wild Man of the West Indies, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2015

This opera, mixing tragic and comic elements, has a Shakespearean tinge in the relationship of its main character Cardenio to a local slave named Kaidamà, like King Lear and his fool, though the ending is pure Donizetti. The back-story is that the unfaithfulness of Cardenio’s wife Eleonora — with his brother Fernando to boot — …

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The Siege of Calais, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2015

Donizetti had once hoped to make his entry to Paris with this opera, but it was not to be. The weakness was Act III, wisely cut by James Conway in this production, leaving us with the departure of six burghers from Calais being sent to their deaths on the command of England’s king Edward III, …

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Life on the Moon, English Touring Opera, ETO, October 2014

This is all huge fun and the packed audience at London’s Hackney Empire clearly loved the staging of this Haydn opera by comedy specialist Cal McCrystal. The plot is simple; a wealthy but miserly widower named Buonafede (good faith), superbly sung by Andrew Slater, is tricked into giving dowries to his daughter and his maid …

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Magic Flute, English Touring Opera, ETO, March 2014

Producing Mozart’s Magic Flute can be tricky for a touring company, but ETO rises magnificently to the challenge. The contrast between the serious, sombre realm of Sarastro, the lightheartedness of Papageno, the threatening nature of the Queen of the Night’s world, and the magic that brings two couples together is well expressed in a single …

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Paul Bunyan, English Touring Opera, ETO, Linbury Studio, ROH, February 2014

Paul Bunyan was a legendary folk hero in nineteenth century America, a lumberjack of mythical size and strength. The myth may have started with a French Canadian, Paul Bunyon, who led fellow loggers in a rebellion against British troops in 1837, but whatever the origin, stories told around campfires enhanced his size to gigantic proportions, …

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King Priam, English Touring Opera, ETO, Linbury Studio, ROH, February 2014

This opera is all over in two and half hours including an interval, which is extraordinary because the story is HUGE. This is the Trojan War, told from the perspective of Troy. Act I gives us the background, starting with King Priam’s dilemma on whether to let his baby son Paris live, or have him …

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Jason, English Touring Opera, ETO, Britten Theatre, RCM, October 2013

This Cavalli opera, Giasone in Italian, was followed a couple of years later by La Calisto, which the Royal Opera produced for the first time in autumn 2008. Both feature characters from classical mythology engaging in emotional and sexual liaisons, which somehow manage to end in harmony after complications and frustrations attendant on the rambunctious …

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The Siege of Calais, English Touring Opera, Hackney Empire, March 2013

This is stirring stuff. Although Donizetti’s L’assedio di Calais (The Siege of Calais) with its unsatisfactory third act is rarely performed, James Conway’s production, which eliminates Act III and its happy ending, is a revelation. This opera, which immediately followed Lucia di Lammermoor, deals with real historical events. In 1346, towards the start of the …

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Così fan tutte, English Touring Opera, Hackney Empire, March 2013

If this were Shakespeare we might find our performers to be spirits melted into thin, thin air, for we know nothing about them. They are ciphers on which Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte created a piece of theatre at once frivolous and profound, expressing a joy, playfulness and inanity inherent to life itself. The …

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The Lighthouse, English Touring Opera, ETO, Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, October 2012

Just after Christmas in the year 1900 a steamer went to the Flannan Islands Lighthouse bringing a keeper to relieve one of the three keepers already there. The Flannan Isles are a lonely spot beyond the Outer Hebrides, and when the steamer arrived the three keepers had vanished into thin air. What happened? This remarkable …

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Albert Herring, English Touring Opera, ETO, Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, October 2012

This delightful comic opera by Benjamin Britten creates a deftly woven musical tapestry performed by thirteen instrumentalists and roughly the same number of singers. Eric Crozier based his libretto on a tale by Guy de Maupassant, transferring it to a Suffolk town and creating a glorious critique of small town mentality, pomposity and sexual repression. …

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The Emperor of Atlantis, English Touring Opera, ETO, Linbury Studio, October 2012

This extraordinary one-act opera was composed in the Nazi concentration camp Terezin (Theresienstadt), located in what is now the Czech Republic near the German border. Its composer Viktor Ullmann (1898–1944), born in a small town near the meeting point of what is now the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, was a serious musician who had …

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Eugene Onegin, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2012

Having seen Onegin performed on a large stage by major opera companies, with glamorous ball scenes and spacious settings for the Larin country estate, I approached this smaller stage production with some trepidation. But it was a revelation. The simple sets provide the perfect atmosphere, and the performance gives a wonderful insight into Tchaikovsky’s representation of Pushkin’s drama. The solo …

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The Barber of Seville, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2012

Clever designs and glorious costumes by Rhys Jarman give a fine dramatic underpinning for this production of Rossini’s Barber, and Grant Doyle made a marvellous entrance as the barber, Figaro. This was the first night, and after a nervous start things came together in Act II. Kitty Whately made a beautifully inspiring Rosina, mistress of the situation despite the machinations …

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The Fairy Queen, English Touring Opera, ETO, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, October 2011

Purcell for the twenty first century — or perhaps the seventeenth, or the nineteenth — and it’s enormous fun. This semi-opera, based on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a series of masques written by Purcell a century later in the early 1690s, and this production is based on the incarceration in a mental hospital of nineteenth …

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Xerxes, English Touring Opera, ETO, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, October 2011

Power and youthful passion are grist to the mill of Handel’s plots, and James Conway’s production is set on a World War II air base with Xerxes as the new ruler, whose enthusiasm for the Spitfire is matched by his infatuation for the lovely wartime nurse and singer Romilda. His brother, fighter pilot Arsamenes, is also …

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La Clemenza di Tito, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, London, March 2011

Redemption for all guilty parties has to wait for the second and final act, which shows in stark detail the magnanimity of Titus.

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The Duenna, English Touring Opera [ETO], Royal Opera House Linbury Studio, October 2010

It’s a pleasure to see English Touring Opera in London, and know that they will be taking this delightful production to other cities. It deserves to be a sell-out everywhere.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, English Touring Opera, Sadler’s Wells, London, March 2010

While much of the music and action is on a rather ethereal level, an excellent contrast was created in this production by the interaction between Tytania and Bottom as a priapic ass.

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