Tag Archives: Puccini

La Bohème, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2017

Forget the fine new production for a moment – this was a fantastic performance. The musical dynamics of Antonio Pappano’s conducting allowed Puccini’s score to express itself in every note. His consummate musical direction supported a gripping performance by Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo, with a sweetly sung yet hugely powerful Mimi by Nicole Car, both …

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Tosca, Nevill Holt Opera, NHO, June 2017

This year’s Tosca at Nevill Holt produced by Oliver Mears, an intelligent director who clearly cares about the music, augurs well for his new appointment as artistic director of the Royal Opera. The setting, the troubled Italy of the 1970s when anti-establishment forces such as the Red Brigades were causing havoc, developed from an original …

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La Rondine, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2017

Opera Holland Park aims to make opera more accessible, and by launching their 2017 season with Puccini’s light and fizzing Rondine they help do just that. Its lively melodies and Parisian sentimentality may lack the tragic depth of La Traviata or the drama of La Bohème, but if it’s dramatic punch you need, Katya Kabanova …

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La Bohème, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, January 2017

For a touring production with limited scope for elaborate stage designs this is little short of miraculous. Tim Mitchell’s lighting works wonders with the rooftops of Paris, the romance and passion of Act I turning to a scene of paradise after death in Act IV as Mimi lies alone in the Bohemians’ apartment. I loved …

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Turandot, Bregenz Festival, July 2016

Opening the Bregenz festival was Franco Faccio’s Hamlet in the 1,800 seat Festspielhaus — see my Telegraph review — followed by Turandot on the vast Seebühne (Lake Stage), visible to an open-air audience of nigh on 7,000, on the second night. The main part of the stage is relatively close to the water, but the …

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Madam Butterfly, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, May 2016

Anthony Minghella’s hugely successful Butterfly production, which the Metropolitan Opera in New York has broadcast to cinemas around the world, could hardly come at a better time for the ENO. Cinema screenings are one thing, but live in the London Coliseum is an experience not to be missed, and this revival under the superb baton …

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La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2015

Bohemia in Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème is a state of mind, rather than a Central European province, so setting it in modern times rather than mid-nineteenth century Paris could work very well. But Benedict Andrews, who made his name as a theatre and film director, has created a staging that seems to …

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La Bohème, Grange Park Opera, GPO, June 2015

There seem to have been a plethora of Bohèmes recently. The one by English Touring Opera last autumn shows a performance can tug unbearably on the heart-strings accompanied by only the simplest of sets, and the final run of John Copley’s Covent Garden production shows that even with the most glorious sets and world’s top …

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La Bohème, Calleja and Netrebko, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2015

John Copley’s 1974 production of La Bohème — the longest-running in the Royal Opera’s repertoire — has been 41 years with the Company, and this farewell run is the last chance to see those glorious period sets by Julia Trevelyan Oman. Sad, but at least the ROH is giving it a great send-off by starting …

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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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La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2014

This excellent Jonathan Miller production with its bifurcated set, easily manoeuvred into three different sets, was graced with the beautiful voice of Angel Blue as Mimi. More on her later, but in the meantime the rest of the cast produced fine singing and for the most part vivid portrayals of their roles. George von Bergen …

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The Girl of the Golden West, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2014

The ENO deserve to score a big hit with this new Richard Jones production of Fanciulla. Three acts, each with its own gloriously simple set by Miriam Buether, along with costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, evoked the quintessential clarity of the American far west. Jones drew superb acting from the large cast, and Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn …

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Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2014

The coldness of Jonathan Kent’s new production, and the barrage of boos greeting the creative team at the curtain calls, contrasted with the huge warmth of the singing and conducting. Antonio Pappano, who has claimed this to be his favourite Puccini opera, fully brought out the vividness and emotion of the composer’s first major success. The …

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La Fanciulla del West, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2014

The 2014 opera season at Holland Park started off with a bang — a terrific production of Puccini’s Fanciulla. During the overture the stage fills with soldiers viewing an atomic explosion in the Mojave desert, reflecting the setting in California, albeit a century later than the time of the gold rush in the original, and …

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Manon Lescaut, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2014

Who is Manon? At the end of this production, Des Grieux’s confusion is represented by two identical versions of her on stage, elegantly dressed in black raincoat and high heels. The bleak plains of Louisiana are absent, replaced by what is a running theme in this staging — the modern world of airports and train …

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Madam Butterfly, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2013

Puccini’s Madam Butterfly may not be my favourite opera, but this Anthony Minghella production is magical. The silent pulling of a rope to raise a screen before the start, and then the mime that pre-signifies the trapped Butterfly at the end, opens us to a world different from our own. In Act I the extraordinarily …

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La Rondine, with Jaho and Ayan, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2013

This Puccini opera, first produced at Monte Carlo in 1917, was not seen at the Royal Opera House at all during the twentieth century. Then in 2002 a co-production with the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse appeared at Covent Garden with its magnificently spacious sets by Ezio Frigerio and swirling Act I frescos à la Alphonse …

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Tosca with Opolais, Lee and Volle, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 20 March 2013

In this new cast, Kristine Opolais and Yonghoon Lee complemented Michael Volle, who has sung Scarpia all this month at Covent Garden. From my previous experience of him in other bass-baritone roles (from Salome to Aida) he more than lived up to expectations, but it was Yonghoon Lee as Cavaradossi who was the new find …

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Double Bill: Zanetto/ Gianni Schicchi, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2012

Mascagni, friend of Puccini and composer of the hugely successful Cavalleria Rusticana, produced more than a dozen other operas. Cav was his second, and L’amico Fritz (OHP last year) the third. Now Opera Holland Park have produced a later one, Zanetto which, like Fritz, suffers from a very weak libretto. But it was gloriously sung by Janice Watson as the wealthy, celebrated, but lovelorn Silvia, and Patricia …

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Madam Butterfly, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, May 2012

Anthony Minghella died four years ago, but his wonderful English National Opera production of Madam Butterfly lives on. Created in 2005 it attracted huge acclaim and won the Olivier Award for best new opera production. Those who attend live relays from the Metropolitan Opera in New York may have seen it in the cinema in 2009, but it’s better in …

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La Bohème with Calleja and Giannattasio, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

This production by John Copley, first staged in 1974, has been revived twenty-four times so far — not surprising since it just gets everything right. So indeed did Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo, bringing real depth and lyricism to the role. From the very start Calleja exhibited a catching youthful energy, and after taking Mimi’s cold hand in his …

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La Bohème, Opera Australia live cinema relay, April 2012

Transferring the action from late nineteenth century Paris to early 1930s Berlin allowed director Gale Edwards some extra scope with Act II. The Café Momus has become a cabaret venue, replete with scantily dressed girls in stockings and corsets, including one topless, and hints of bisexuality. With a superb performance by Taryn Fiebig as a very glamorous Musetta, this was …

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Tosca, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2011

Catherine Malfitano’s production of Tosca opens with a bang, not just from the excellent conducting of Stephen Lord, but the sudden appearance of the escaped prisoner Angelotti, centre stage at the rear of the church. He turns and flies forward, a dramatic move that sets the scene for this most theatrical of operas. Cavaradossi’s entrance …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Tosca, Royal Opera, July 2009

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

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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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La Rondine, live relay from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Jan 2009

La Rondine hovers uneasily between opera and operetta … a lively courtesan wants to see what true romance is really like, so she falls in love; but being unable to explain her history to her lover, she reluctantly returns to her life as a courtesan. It’s a wonderful vehicle for the soprano, and Angela Gheorghiu sang the main role of Magda beautifully, looking and acting the part to perfection.

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