Tag Archives: Paula Sides

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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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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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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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 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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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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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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