Tag Archives: Opera

Semiramide, BBC Proms, Prom 68, Royal Albert Hall, 4 September 2016

Based on a drama by Voltaire, this Rossini opera centres round the legendary if fictional Queen Semiramide (Semiramis) of Babylon, a source of endless fascination for Classical and Renaissance authors, who based their fables on Persian sources. The legend is derived from at least two Assyrian queens: Sammuramat (the origin of the name) in the …

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Pincher Martin, Royal College of Music, RCM, July 2014

This remarkable one-act opera by Oliver Rudland is based on William Golding’s third novel Pincher Martin. A drowning naval officer whose ship was torpedoed survives on a rocky island in the North Atlantic, with rainwater to drink and shell fish to eat. He intends to survive … or so it seems, and this meditation on …

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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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Maria Stuarda, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2013

In Schiller’s play Maria Stuart, the original drama for this Donizetti opera, Elizabeth I meets Mary Queen of Scots. Such a meeting never took place, but it makes for gripping theatre, and this second opera in the WNO ‘Three Queens’ series is a winner. The designs by Madeleine Boyd continue to use the sombre black …

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Lohengrin, Bayreuth Festival, July 2011

The video projections of rats fighting and metaphorically trying to take over the kingdom were clever, and I loved the opening of Act II with a dead horse and overturned carriage.

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Tannhäuser, Bayreuth, July 2011

What fun this was at the end! The production team were booed to the rafters with not a handclap to be heard, and Venus was so roundly booed she didn’t return for her second curtain call.

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Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2011

… here at Longborough I wouldn’t have wanted Act I to last a minute less, because Daniel Brenna and Colin Judson were riveting as Siegfried and Mime.

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William Tell, in concert, Prom 2, Royal Albert Hall, July 2011

This opera is Rossini’s last, fulfilling a commission for a grand opera made five years earlier when he took up residence in Paris. The press had been buzzing with information on its progress, and in his book on Rossini, Francis Toye tells us that “On August 3rd, 1829, it was finally produced before an audience …

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Tosca, with Gheorghiu, Kaufmann, and Terfel, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2011

The orchestra, under brilliant direction by Antonio Pappano, started with a bang and the tension kept up throughout. Lukas Jakobski made a strong entrance as the escaped prisoner Angelotti, and as he left, Jeremy White came on as a humble Sacristan followed by a madding crowd of children. All very good theatre, before Cavaradossi enters, …

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Seven Angels, Royal Opera House, Linbury Studio, July 2011

This is a story about the desecration of the environment, told in the form of gluttony and the abandonment of boundaries in the bringing up of a spoiled young prince.

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Le Nozze di Figaro, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2011

There were chainé turns as servants enter and exit the stage, along with the occasional pas-de-deux, all very well rehearsed and executed. The Crazy Day is the other title for Beaumarchais’ original play, and this production by Liam Steel, who also did the choreography, certainly gave full rein to the craziness.

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Cendrillon, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2011

The solid-looking walls in this production carry the text of Perrault’s fairy tale Cinderella, as if to reassure us that our lovely heroine will indeed eventually get her prince.

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Rinaldo, Glyndebourne, July 2011

The Siege of Jerusalem in 1099 is represented here by public schoolboys versus St. Trinian’s. Hockey sticks against lacrosse sticks. Super fun, and a rather good background for all the youthful amour and magical manipulations that form the heart of this Handel opera. The main feature of the story is that Rinaldo is in love …

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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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Peter Grimes, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2011

This production brings out the horrid awkwardness of Grimes’s estrangement from the local community, eliciting our sympathy for him …

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Cocteau Voices, Linbury Studio, ROH2, Covent Garden, June 2011

The main attraction was La Voix Humaine by Poulenc, brilliantly performed by Nuccia Focile with the Southbank Sinfonia under the direction of Garry Walker. It was given in English, and Ms. Focile’s enunciation was extremely good, which was important since there are no surtitles at the Linbury. The fact that she retained my attention for her 50 …

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L’amico Fritz, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2011

This is Mascagni’s second opera after his great success with Cavalleria Rusticana, and Stuart Stratford’s conducting of the City of London Sinfonia brought out its high moments most beautifully.

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Simon Boccanegra, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2011

At the end of this opera, Boccanegra is finally reconciled with his arch-enemy Jacopo Fiesco, and blesses the marriage of his long lost daughter Amelia with the young Gabriele Adorno, a previously sworn enemy. Now, dying of a slow poison, administered by his right hand man Paolo, he asks Fiesco to make Adorno his successor …

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Don Pasquale, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2011

Don Pasquale is Donizetti’s sixty-fourth opera, and one of his most successful. The title character is a wealthy but crotchety older man who disapproves of the marital choice of his nephew Ernesto. This young man wants to marry the high-spirited, youthful widow, Norina, so Pasquale has decided to take a young wife for himself, and disinherit …

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Tosca, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2011

… the main plaudits go of course to Serafin and Giordani, along with Antonio Pappano in the orchestra pit. Act III starts beautifully quietly — this is wonderful music, and Pappano directed it with immense sensitivity …

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Macbeth, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2011

… it was huge pleasure to hear Liudmyla Monastyrska as Lady Macbeth, with her superb vocal technique, and her breathtaking power.

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne, May 2011

This new production of Meistersinger by David McVicar elicited thunderous applause at the end. And what an end it was, with Hans Sachs’s monologue being given its full force in a way I’ve not seen before. When Walther refuses the award of Mastership from Pogner, Gerald Finley as Sachs draws him aside to stage right, and his …

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, May 2011

…if you’re willing to accept a representation of mysterious forces in the otherwise mundane world of human beings, then this is strongly recommended as an intriguing take on Britten’s opera.

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Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, May 2011

The second act of Walküre is the axis about which the whole Ring turns, and I’ll restrict my remarks mainly to that part. In the first Ring opera, Rheingold, Wotan is persuaded to give up the mighty ring that he stole from Alberich. This is when the earth goddess Erda appears from the depths warning him to Flieh’ des …

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Clemency, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, May 2011

In Genesis Chapter 18 three unknown men visit Abraham. He welcomes them warmly and gives them food. In return they tell him that his wife Sarah will have a child, though “it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women”. She laughs, but the Lord promises to return a year hence when she …

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Don Sanche, St. John’s Smith Square, London, May 2011

Liszt harboured ambitions to be an opera composer, but Don Sanche or Le château de l’amour is his only work in that genre — yet it received its first performance in Paris in 1825 before he had even reached his 14th birthday! Hearing this tuneful composition, reminiscent of Rossini and Donizetti, was an unalloyed pleasure. The story is that Don …

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The Damnation of Faust, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, May 2011

This is ostensibly a French opera sung in English, though it’s not really an opera but a légende dramatique by Hector Berlioz — a musical and vocal canvas on which a clever director can paint his own picture. And this is exactly what Terry Gilliam does by turning the whole thing into a history about the rise …

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Werther, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2011

There they are in a lonely room within the stage, while snow falls outside, and the red shawl Charlotte wrapped around her white dress before rushing to Werther’s side matches the red blood on his white shirt. It’s a sad and lovely scene, and the audience roared their approval of Rolando Villazon in the title role, …

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Gianni Schicchi, Beijing, National Centre for the Performing Arts, April 2011

Gianni Schicchi is such a witty opera one can hardly go wrong, and this was all enormous fun. The singers were wonderfully animated, all clearly looking forward to the death of Buoso, a silent mime that I’ve seen staged in other productions and found rather effective.

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The Tsar’s Bride, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, April 2011

This is about love, jealousy, guilt and remorse — ideal material for opera — ostensibly set in the time of Ivan the Terrible (late Tudor period in England). The power of the oligarchs and the state security police (theoprichniki) is part of the story …

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Opera Shots: The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Doctor’s Tale, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, April 2011

Stewart Copeland’s wonderful adaptation of this story to the opera stage …

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The Three Pintos, University College Opera, UCL, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2011

In the end, Gaston admits that the original Don Pinto, who seemed to have gate-crashed the wedding party, is in fact the real one, and the astonished Gomez then turns to Gaston and says, “but you’re Don Pinto”. “So there are three Don Pintos!” says the astonished father, giving us the title of the opera …

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A Magic Flute, C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, at the Barbican, March 2011

Essentially this is a pared down version of Mozart, played on the piano, with singers who would not hold their own with an orchestra, and sometimes had difficulty filling the Barbican concert hall.

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The Return of Ulysses, English National Opera, ENO, at the Young Vic, March 2011

The return of Odysseus to Ithaca and his faithful wife, Penelope forms the end of the Odyssey, that magnificent epic by Homer. The Latinised version of Odysseus is Ulysses, and this opera by Monteverdi tells of Penelope’s anguish, the shenanigans of her suitors, and the unruly behaviour of some servants. Ulysses returns after twenty years away, …

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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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Aida, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2011

Exiles and refugees in the modern world can take their gods with them, but it was not always so … and when Roberto Alagna as Radames sings in Act III that Aida is demanding he abandon his homeland, and therefore his gods too (Abbandonar la patria, l’are de’ nostri dei!), it was a riveting moment.

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Il Tabarro, and Gianni Schicchi, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2011

Of the operas dealing with unfaithfulness in marriage, where a man kills his wife’s lover, the two that really get to me are Mascagni’s Cavalieri Rusticana, and Puccini’s Il Tabarro. The Puccini is a superbly dark and intense drama and, like his other operas, combines musical depth with gripping theatre. Moored on the Seine is a barge …

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Iphegénie en Tauride, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, February 2011

This was Gluck’s penultimate opera, and the purity of its music endows the story with enormous clarity.

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Anna Nicole, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2011

This is an opera for today’s celebrity culture, where parts of the media, eager for salacious details, are happy to pick on anyone available. But Anna Nicole Smith was not just anyone — she worked as a stripper and snagged an 89 year-old billionaire, J. Howard Marshall I, though it’s said they never lived together. He …

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Parsifal, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2011

Easter comes late this year but Parsifal is early, and stepping into the warmth of the London Coliseum from a washed-out winter’s day was a treat. As the first bars came out of the orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting showed the clarity and quality Wagner’s music demands, and sent tingles down my spine.

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Nixon in China, Metropolitan Opera live relay, cinema, February 2011

Peter Sellars exuded enthusiasm from his toes to the end of his extraordinary hair-do, extolling Adams’s music and saying “it builds and has tension . . . rather like Mozart”.

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Anna Nicole, Royal Opera House Insight Evening, February 2011

This ‘Insight’ evening gave the audience some background to the forthcoming new opera by Mark-Anthony Turnage, and it was most informative and well presented. For a review of the first night, click here. “What’s it like to see your picture all over the London Underground?” asked Elaine Padmore, director of opera, referring to the ubiquitous …

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Die Zauberflöte, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2011

When the curtain opens a huge serpent appears on stage, which Christopher Maltman, as a very engaging Papageno, later claims to have killed. His body language confirms that the ladies of the night are right to gag him for his lies, and his attitudes provide an excellent contrast to the noble Tamino, beautifully sung by Joseph Kaiser.

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Lucrezia Borgia, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2011

A mother’s anger leads unintentionally to the death of her adored illegitimate son. Shades of Verdi’s Rigoletto here, where a father’s anger leads to the death of his beloved daughter, but there are strong differences. Where Rigoletto is a physically ugly man with a hunchback, Lucrezia Borgia is a beautiful woman, now in her early forties. …

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Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Hoffmannovy Povídky, Tales of Hoffmann), Národní Divadlo (National Theatre), Prague, December 2010

… Atala Schöck sang superbly as the muse and as Hoffmann’s ever-present companion Nicklausse. This Hungarian mezzo has a glorious voice, and I look forward to hearing her again one day.

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Die Walküre, La Scala, Milan, December 2010

… here we had a young and glorious Brünnhilde in Nina Stemme.

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Tannhäuser, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, December 2010

Tannhäuser himself was boldly and strongly sung by Johan Botha, whose ample frame suits the role of one who has taken his fill of earthly delights.

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Don Carlo, Metropolitan Opera live relay, December 2010

It’s a human drama of huge proportions, and Ferruccio Furlanetto in the central role of Philip II of Spain showed to perfection the king’s isolated uncertainty and emotional distress.

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A Dog’s Heart, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, November 2010

The production by Simon McBurney is riveting. There is perpetual action and movement without in any way detracting or distracting from the music, and the puppetry by the Blind Summit Theatre is excellent.

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Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2010

As I took my seat on the first night a young man said to his companion that this was better than Puccini. On the other hand I know of someone who walked out of the dress rehearsal at the first interval saying this was not opera. My opinion falls in between such strikingly different reactions.

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Don Pasquale, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, November 2010

There was electricity aplenty, and that marvellous Act 3 duet between Kwiecien and Del Carlo was carried off with wonderful speed and sparkle.

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Don Giovanni, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, November 2010

This production by Rufus Norris with sets by Ian MacNeil had some nice aspects … but the plethora of good ideas was all a bit too much for me.

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Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2010

Piotr Beczala’s performance of Romeo’s cavatina “Ah! lève-toi, soleil!” elicited huge applause and moved the performance into a higher gear.

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La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, October 2010

… Mimi herself was the star of the show, gloriously sung by Elizabeth Llewellyn, making her ENO debut.

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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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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2010

The duke gets many of the best tunes, but the most important character is the jester, Rigoletto, and we are lucky in this new run to have Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the role. He was sensational, both in singing and acting …

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Promised End, English Touring Opera, Royal Opera House Linbury Studio, October 2010

One might expect an operatic treatment of King Lear to be of Wagnerian proportions, yet Alexander Goehr’s version lasts only one and three quarter hours, including an interval.

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Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera live relay, October 2010

One cannot help feeling sympathy with Alberich as he cries out, “O Schmerz!” (What pain!), and Eric Owens sang and acted the role brilliantly. His dark, rich voice expressed his anguish and determination, …

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Radamisto, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, October 2010

On 27th April 1720, a month before his sixtieth birthday, King George I attended the opera with his son the Prince of Wales. They’d only recently reunited after not speaking to another for three years, so this was just the right opera to see.

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Les pêcheurs de perles, in concert, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2010

As the evening warmed up we were treated to a very fine duet between Osborn and Cabell in Act II, and a lovely soliloquy by Finley in Act III.

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Stephen Fry: Wagner and Me, cinema screening, September 2010

“You stand waiting hours for a Valkyrie and then they all come at once”. So quips Stephen Fry in a studio at Bayreuth with four Valkyries in rehearsal. Bayreuth is the small town in Bavaria where Wagner built his own opera house, and in this delightful documentary we learn how he acquired the money for …

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The Makropulos Case, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, September 2010

Emilia Marty, Ellian MacGregor, Eugenia Montez, Elsa Müller, Ekatěrina Myškin, all E.M., just like her original name Elina Makropulos. This beautiful woman, born in Crete to Hieronymos Makropulos, is now 339 years old but has not aged since she was 39.

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Faust, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, September 2010

Overall some lovely singing from Toby Spence and Melody Moore, but I left feeling underwhelmed.

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In the Penal Colony, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, September 2010

The music was rhythmically intense, as one would expect from Glass, and its energy carried the strange plot forward.

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Don Pasquale, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2010

It’s wonderful fun, and this Jonathan Miller production is a delight …

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Cosi fan tutte, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2010

A theologian friend of mine tells me that when the angels perform for the new arrivals in heaven they play Bach, but en famille with God they play Mozart.

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Tristan und Isolde, with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Festival Hall, September 2010

Esa-Pekka Salonen produced glorious sounds from the Philharmonia, giving us moments of explosive tension and of gentle lyricism.

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La Forza del Destino, Holland Park Opera, OHP, August 2010

I’ve always found [this] terrific stuff, and was delighted with the excellent musical direction by Stuart Stratford, whom I remember doing an equally fine job at Holland Park last summer with Katya Kabanova.

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Francesca da Rimini, Holland Park Opera, August 2010

Zandonai was a very talented composer, whom Puccini favoured for completing Turandot, though his son Tonio vetoed the choice and it went to Alfano. In this opera there is no release from the tension in the music, so what ought to be wonderful moments are lost in the overall fabric, and there is no clear focus.

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Die Walküre, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2010

… indeed the whole cast came over with supercharged energy, giving us a Walküre to treasure in anticipation of its reappearance in a full Ring during Wagner’s bi-centenary year.

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The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Opera Australia, Sydney Opera House, July 2010

Teddy Tahu Rhodes was particularly good as a strongly voiced yet surprisingly vulnerable Figaro. So often this character comes over as all too knowing, never seriously fearing for the loss of Susanna’s love, but here …

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La Fanciulla del West (Girl of the Golden West), Opera Australia, Sydney Opera House, July 2010

A good opera production eschews extraneous effects and irrelevant imagery, allowing the music and singing to convey the story directly to the audience, and this Nigel Jamieson production is a fine example.

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Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne, July 2010

Gerald Finley is the perfect Don, suave and brutal … both he and Luca Pisaroni as Leporello performed with an insouciance that gave the impression either one would happily shop the other if push came to shove.

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Die Meistersinger, in concert at the Proms, 17 July 2010

…Terfel gave a wonderfully nuanced performance. He built up gradually through Acts I and II, and in Act III his Wahn monologue was beautifully done, and he ended very strongly with his Verachtet mir die Meister nicht . . .

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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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Don Giovanni, Holland Park Opera, July 2010

This production by Stephen Barlow gives a clear and convincing take on the story … and Robert Dean did a very fine job conducting the City of London Sinfonia.

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Salome, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2010

The evening belonged to Angela Denoke in the title role, and Hartmut Haenchen in the pit, who drew a mixture of gentle lyricism and immense power from the orchestra.

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Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2010

It’s a sell-out, but if you can get hold of tickets, don’t hesitate. At the end the entire main floor gave it a standing ovation.

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Manon, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2010

Laurent Pelly’s current Covent Garden production of La Fille du Régiment is wonderful, but I don’t think this opera should be played with the comic touch that he is so good at.

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Idomeneo, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, June 2010

… The music is wonderfully expressive of the conflicting emotions, and was superbly conducted by Edward Gardner …

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Capriccio, Grange Park Opera, June 2010

… what really made the evening was the superb singing of Susan Gritton as the Countess. Her soliloquy towards the end was mesmerising. I was bowled over.

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The Pearl Fishers, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, June 2010

Penny Woolcock’s fine production, with sets and costumes by Dick Bird and Kevin Pollard, gave a beautiful context for the story. As soon as the first bars of the prelude come from the orchestra we are treated to pearl divers sweeping down to the seabed through clear blue waters …

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Le Nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2010

it’s the performance that really counts, and we were lucky to have two superb men: Erwin Schrott as Figaro, and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count. Along with Eri Nakamura as Susanna, their flawless singing and acting was an absolute delight.

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Billy Budd, Glyndebourne, May 2010

The music — and this is wonderfully powerful music by Britten — was brilliantly played by the London Philharmonic under the baton of Mark Elder.

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Tosca, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, May 2010

this production by Catherine Malfitano is, if I can put it this way, a singers’ production. It’s produced by a singer who fully understands the nuances of the characters and their interactions, and it allows the performers to give their best, which they certainly do.

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La Fille du Régiment, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2010

Then to top it all there was the beautiful musical direction of Bruno Campanella. His conducting had a rhythmic energy that received a spontaneous round of applause immediately after the overture

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La Traviata, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2010

Mr. Hvorostovsky sang gloriously … it’s worth going to this brief run of five performances just to hear him. Both Ms. Jaho and Mr. Pirgu sang strongly after a rather nervous start …

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Armida, Metropolitan Opera live relay, April 2010

Renée Fleming … performs here with consummate skill and brilliant characterisation, very ably supported by Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo.

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Aida, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, April 2010

David McVicar’s new production strips away the Egyptian baggage and places events in an ancient time of masculine combat, female sexual energy, and human sacrifice.

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Il Turco in Italia, Royal Opera, April 2010

Rossini’s music is full of fun, and this production has a sense of spontaneity, as if it were Commedia dell’arte.

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Genoveva, University College Opera, UCL, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2010

University College London have done a superb job of staging this work, continuing a tradition of putting on a relatively obscure opera every year for over half a century.

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The Cunning Little Vixen, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2010

But this is an opera to be seen as well as heard, and William Dudley’s designs, along with the movement directed by Stuart Hopps, have a wonderful charm. Magical realism is …

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Katya Kabanova, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, March 2010

… this dark and theatrically powerful opera is a must-see, and you would have to go a long way to find better singing or conducting — they were both virtually unbeatable.

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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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Tamerlano, Royal Opera, February 2010

Unfortunately [Domingo] was unavailable, but his replacement, Kurt Streit sang [Bazajet] superbly — one could not have asked for better.

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Satyagraha, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, February 2010

The production … has a rather ethereal quality, and as a friend of mine said, “I was left humming peaceful thoughts all the way home”.

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The Elixir of Love, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, February 2010

… Sarah Tynan singing beautifully as a charmingly shrewd Adina …

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The Gambler, Royal Opera, February 2010

In the last two productions I’ve seen … the stage has been darkly lit, in keeping with the coldness and scheming inherent in the story, but this production by … is quite different.

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Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, a retrospective, February 2010

Five Wagner operas in six days … was quite a marathon, but well worth it, particularly for three of the productions.

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

Rossini’s comment that, “Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour” was spoken before Die Meistersinger was created, and this opera has, for me, not a dull moment — it’s one glorious thing after another. Of course a determined director can spoil it, as happened at Bayreuth this past summer in Katharina Wagner’s diabolical production, …

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Tannhäuser, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

… what really made the evening was Stephen Gould’s Tannhäuser. He was forceful and articulate with a superb tone and strong stage presence. This is the sort of singer one wants as Tristan or Siegfried — Covent Garden please note.

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Der fliegende Holländer, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

I’m afraid Tatjana Gürbaca was not up to the job. She was probably more concerned with her own strange concept, in which the men were shown as financial traders, and the women as performers and party girls.

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Rienzi, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

In the second part … it all came together. The amateurish rise to power of the clown-like Rienzi is over. Here he is shown in his bunker on the ground level of the stage, with the people on the street level above.

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Lohengrin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

Friedrich’s excellent staging is well supported by the performers, particularly Waltraud Meier, who plays the evil Ortrud with subtle malice, and Eike Wilm Schulte, who portrays a fiercely tendentious Telramund with a commanding voice — this nasty pair both exhibit great stage presence.

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Simon Boccanegra, Metropolitan Opera live relay, February 2010

… she meets Boccanegra, finding out that he is her real father. This recognition scene was marvellously done, and I only wish I had seen it on stage …

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Lucia di Lammermoor, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2010

Altogether, David Alden has created a particularly malicious take on the story, and it works.

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Wagner Week at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, February 2010

I shall be in Berlin for a week of Wagner operas at the Deutsche Oper: Lohengrin, Rienzi, Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, and Meistersinger.

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Carmen, Metropolitan Opera live relay, January 2010

At the end of this opera, Roberto Alagna as Don Jose made me think that here is the man who killed the gypsy, which says something about the success of this new production by Richard Eyre.

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Elektra, in concert with Valery Gergiev and the LSO, Barbican, January 2010

The name Elektra means ‘shining’ — as in the alloy electrum — and Gergiev with the LSO gave us a shining performance.

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Der Rosenkavalier, Metropolitan Opera live relay, January 2010

Renée Fleming’s … soliloquy on the passing of time in Act I was done with immense sensitivity and feeling. What a performer!

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Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera, a second view, December 2009.

However the trio at the end was gloriously sung, and well worth waiting for.

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Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Metropolitan Opera live relay, December 2009

Alan Held, Joseph Calleja, and … Kate Lindsey, were the driving forces behind this fine performance, well aided by James Levine in the orchestra pit.

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La Bohème, Royal Opera, December 2009

This production by John Copley, with designs by Susan Trevelyan Oman, suits the Royal Opera House perfectly. Its depiction of wintery cold in Paris combines well with the human warmth of the story, and our protagonists were young singers whose charm and vivacity gave a welcome freshness to this frequently performed opera. Note: this is …

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Review — Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera, December 2009

With Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko giving Strauss’s music more colour than I ever remember hearing, this was a musical feast.

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Review — The Tsarina’s Slippers, Royal Opera, November 2009

This sparkling production by Francesca Zambello has lovely set designs … includes serious ballet work, some electrifying Cossack dances and acrobatics …

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Turandot, Metropolitan Opera live relay, November 2009

… this opera was brilliantly performed. And it shows the Met to be setting a template for opera performance that puts into a shadow some of the more confusing and hyper-intellectual nonsense that one occasionally meets.

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Bluebeard’s Castle, and Rite of Spring, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2009

Clive Bayley sang an autistic and threatening Bluebeard, with Michaela Martens as a powerful Judith.

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Aida, Metropolitan Opera live relay, October 2009

… a heavy weight production well matched by the singers, who were superb.

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The Turn of the Screw, ENO, English National Opera, October 2009

With thirteen musicians in the pit, under the direction of Charles Makerras, the musical rendering could not be better

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Tosca, Metropolitan Opera live relay, New York, October 2009

This was a new production by Luc Bondy, with Karita Mattila as Tosca, Marcelo Alvarez as Cavaradossi, and George Gagnidze as Scarpia.

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Carmen, Royal Opera, October 2009

With Elina Garanča as Carmen, and Roberto Alagna as Don José, both entirely convincing in their parts and singing so powerfully, this was a glowing performance.

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Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera, October 2009

The orchestra performed with distinction under Antonio Pappano, and the Opera House had put together a superb cast, led by Nina Stemme as Isolde. She was terrific throughout, and in the Liebestod she rose effortlessly above the orchestra

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Rigoletto, ENO, English National Opera, September 2009

The jester, named Triboulet in Hugo’s play, becomes Rigoletto in the opera, and is surely one of Verdi’s great creations, sung here by Anthony Michaels-Moore, who played him with enormous sensitivity.

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Le Grand Macabre, ENO, English National Opera, September 2009

This musical work by Ligeti (1923–2006) is related to opera rather in the way a painting by Hieronymus Bosch is related to a landscape.

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Don Carlo, Royal Opera, September 2009

Imagine a Christian Taliban in Spain, putting men, women and children in Flanders — all heretics — to the sword.

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Linda di Chamounix, Royal Opera, September 2009

This was a concert performance, brilliantly conducted by Mark Elder, and the cast, headed by Elise Gutierrez as Linda, and Stephen Costello as gloriously voiced Carlo, was excellent.

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Rusalka, Glyndebourne, August 2009

…this was a revelation, and I congratulate Glyndebourne for putting it on.

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Tristan und Isolde, Glyndebourne, August 2009

This was Glyndebourne’s 2003 production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff,…[and] it works terrifically well, with a set by Roland Aeschlimann featuring a broken vortex of huge curved girders.

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Katya Kabanova, Holland Park Opera, August 2009

This performance was a team effort, led with great emotional sensitivity by Stuart Stratford in the orchestra pit.

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The Ring, Maryinsky Opera, London, July/August 2009

Valery Gergiev unfolded the music beautifully … never rushing, but never flagging

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2009

…this year’s production of Meistersinger was apparently even more ludicrous that last year’s.

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Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2009

On this first night of the 2009 Bayreuth festival, under the new direction of Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner, we had the singers for the parts, but not the parts for the singers in this wretched production.

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Un Ballo in Maschera, Holland Park Opera, July 2009

The key scene in the opera is the midnight rendezvous between the king and Amelia, where they are surprised by Amelia’s husband Anckarstrom, and she veils her face.

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Review — Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera, July 2009

Ferruccio Furlanetto and Alessandro Corbelli are terrific singing actors with perfect comic timing, but what really made the evening was Joyce DiDonato as Rosina.

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Tosca, Royal Opera, July 2009

What really made this evening terrific was the riveting performance of Bryn Terfel as Scarpia.

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Review — L’Amour de loin, English National Opera, London Coliseum, July 2009

…based on a love poem by a famous troubadour from 12th century Aquitaine … a period when troubadours sang in the Provençal language of amor de lonh (distant love),

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Review — La Traviata, Royal Opera, June 2009

Renée Fleming gave a superbly sensitive performance as Violetta, brilliantly showing her fragility and death at the end, and Joseph Calleja sang like a god as Alfredo.

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Parthenogenesis, Royal Opera House, Linbury Studio, June 2009

The inspiration for this opera was far more striking than the result.

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Review — Lulu, Royal Opera, June 2009

At the end all three husbands reappear in different guises to help destroy Lulu, and Alwa and the Countess are killed in random violence involving Jack the Ripper.

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Roberto Devereux, Holland Park Opera, June 2009

For opening night on June 2, Joan Sutherland was in the audience and when people began to recognise her shortly before the start of the second half, there was a warming round of applause.

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Peter Grimes, English National Opera, London Coliseum, May 2009

…what really drove Britten’s masterpiece home was Stuart Skelton [as Grimes], Felicity Palmer [as Mrs. Sedley], the chorus, and the conductor Edward Gardner.

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La Cenerentola, live relay from the Metropolitan Opera, New York, May 2009

While Elina Garanča as Cenerentola … was the star of the show, Alessandro Corbelli [as Don Magnifico] was superb with his perfect comic timing

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Macbeth, by Ernest Bloch, University College Opera, March 2009

Altogether this was well worth seeing, and I applaud University College Opera for putting it on.

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La Sonnambula, live cinema screening from the Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 2009

With Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez as the lovers Amina and Elvino, this promised to be a superb performance and it was.

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Madama Butterfly, live relay, Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 2009

This production by the late Anthony Minghella — perhaps the best Butterfly I’ve ever seen … portrayed the child as a puppet, which worked extremely well …

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Der Rosenkavalier, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

Daniela Sindram was the best Octavian I’ve ever seen, singing and acting the part of a young man to perfection. … Kurt Rydl’s portrayal of Baron Ochs was superbly natural, without over-acting or stepping over the line into farce, as sometimes happens with this part, and his singing was thoroughly engaging.

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Die Ägyptische Helena, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

This little-performed opera by Richard Strauss received a wonderful staging by Marco Arturo Marelli and his team.

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Cassandra by Vittorio Gnecchi, and Elektra by Richard Strauss, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

Cassandra, by the Italian composer Gnecchi, was written four years before Stauss’s Elektra. It tells of Agamemnon’s return to his wife Klytemnestra, who intends to kill him as revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia …

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

This imaginative and coherent production by Robert Carson sets the opera in modern times, complete with a mobile phone at one point, and it’s the only time I’ve seen the richest man in Vienna actually appear on stage.

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Salome, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

I felt sorry for Manuela Uhl as Salome, because she didn’t come over well until the final scene, and was given no dance.

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Lucia di Lammermoor, live cinema screening, Metropolitan Opera, New York, Feb 2009

Her domineering brother Enrico was brilliantly portrayed by Mariusz Kwiecien, showing a nastiness that made one wish him dead.

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Magic Flute, English National Opera, January 2009

The star of the show was Roderick Williams as a wonderfully engaging Papageno in superb voice.

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Die Tote Stadt, Royal Opera, January 2009

In this imaginative production by Willy Decker, Paul was strongly sung by Stephen Gould, and Marie/Marietta by Nadja Michael, who did a superb job of the part, teasingly sexy, both as girlfriend and among her acting troupe

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The Beggar’s Opera by Benjamin Britten, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, Jan 2009

The failure of Britten’s composition might have been alleviated by the production team, led by Justin Way, but the deliberately ham acting and garish costumes were over the top, and the production did not fit the style of Britten’s music.

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Orfeo ed Euridice, live cinema screening from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Jan 2009

The best thing about this performance was the beautiful singing of Stephanie Blythe as Orfeo, and the conducting of Gluck’s wonderful music by James Levine.

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Salome, in a live cinema screening from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Oct 2008

Karita Mattila gave an excellent performance of the title role, and Juha Uusitalo was superb as John the Baptist, drawing deep power from mysterious sources.

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Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Royal Opera, November 2008

Olympia was sung and acted to perfection by Ekaterina Lekhina … and I shall always remember this as the highlight of the evening.

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Dr. Atomic, live cinema screening from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Nov 2008

The music by John Adams is wonderful, but the libretto by Peter Sellars falls far short of expressing the potential drama of this story. As a piece of theatre this opera fails …

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Tamerlano, live cinema screening from Madrid, October 2008

Placido Domingo was wonderful as Bajazet, full of emotion and determination, and Monica Bacelli was superb as Tamerlano, looking and acting the part in the way Handel surely intended.

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