Tag Archives: Nicky Spence

Jenufa, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

Czech verismo with attendant Central European melancholy, this carries quite a punch. There are four principal characters, Jenufa who is pregnant by Števa, her step-mother the Kostelnička (church sexton), and Števa’s half-brother Laca who adores Jenufa, but jealously cuts her face, disfiguring her. She adores Števa but he rejects her, and Laca is horrified by …

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Lulu, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2016

For those who saw this same William Kentridge production in live cinema relay from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the performance on the stage of the London Coliseum is a revelation. Seeing all the action all the time, the mime artists, the subtle animations of charcoal drawings on the printed pages of a dictionary …

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Jenufa, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2016

This is exactly what the ENO should be doing, presenting a straightforward staging with fine singers and a conductor capable of fully realising the drama. Mark Wigglesworth, who resigned as music director three months ago, allowed Janáček’s score to express the emotional power it embodies and the second act, where the drama makes its turning …

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The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2015

Although one of the greatest operas ever written, it is not unknown for directors and conductors to make a mess of it, even at Wagner’s own temple in Bayreuth, but not at the ENO, thank God! This resounding success throws down the gauntlet to those Beckmessers in the Arts Council who not only mark down …

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Moses in Egypt, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2014

Congratulations to WNO for staging a Rossini masterpiece that in its day “marked the final and complete emancipation of the bass singer … for the purposes of opera seria” (Francis Toye). Hitherto it had been conventional to restrict important bass roles to opera buffa, but here both Moses and Pharaoh are basses. The sacred theme …

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William Tell, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2014

For the first Milan production of this opera, after its earlier première in Paris, there was predictable trouble with the Austrian authorities. The scene with the apple was cut, the oppressors became the English, and Tell was William Wallace. How appropriate then that the WNO have given the first performance of David Pountney’s new production …

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Benvenuto Cellini, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2014

What fun this was! Terry Gilliam has done it again, following his opera directing debut with The Damnation of Faust in 2011. Mr. Gilliam’s earlier success was with a later Berlioz opera, and he has now turned to the composer’s first with a story involving the mad genius Benvenuto Cellini, Pope Clement VII and his …

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Dialogues des Carmélites, Grange Park Opera, June 2013

This opera about life and death, about choices made under conditions where society has been led into temporary insanity, deserves and received a production of great simplicity that allowed Poulenc’s music to speak for itself. With excellent vocal performances and orchestral playing under the direction of Stephen Barlow this was a deeply moving experience. The …

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Billy Budd, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2012

This Benjamin Britten opera, based on Herman Melville’s story of the same name, is a tragedy set in 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars. It’s a hugely strong work, and Edward Gardner in the orchestra pit gave it everything. The orchestra played with great power, the chorus was magnificent, and the singers were wonderful. The opera …

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Two Boys, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2011

This is great theatre. But it’s also more than that. This is a wonderful opera — a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, who put together composer Nico Muhly and librettist Craig Lucas.

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Fidelio, Holland Park Opera, OHP, July 2010

Beethoven’s only opera is a plea for justice, an idealistic cri de coeur from a composer who originally wanted to dedicate his third symphony to his hero Napoleon, only to be vastly disappointed when the general declared himself emperor.

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