Tag Archives: ROH

Otello, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

Putting Shakespeare on stage demands theatricality, which Keith Warner’s new production delivers right at the start with Iago spotlighted on a dark stage, an image repeated at the start of Act III with Otello himself. The massive ship in Act I, and actors creating merry havoc in the fight that Iago provokes between Cassio and …

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Royal Ballet Mixed Bill: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude/ Tarantella/ Strapless/ Symphonic Dances, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2017

The main focus of this mixed bill is its final item, Liam Scarlett’s new work to Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. The abundant melody of this 1940 composition allows ideas to emerge in and around each other, skilfully expressed in Scarlett’s choreography. For the forces of nature in this music, brilliantly conducted by Koen Kessels, Scarlett and …

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Jewels, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

On the back of the cast list is an ad for jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels, who though failing to bankroll Balanchine’s original production, are delighted to have their name associated with the eventual result: Emeralds to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande; Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra; and Diamonds to …

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Royal Ballet Triple: The Human Seasons/ After the Rain/ Flight Pattern, ROH, March 2017

This wonderful triple bill of modern ballets sees revivals of two very successful works and a new ballet by Crystal Pite, all superbly conducted by Koen Kessels. First came David Dawson’s Human Seasons, inspired by Keats’s poem that refers to human life in terms of its spring, summer, autumn and winter. Dawson refers to a …

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Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, ROH, February 2017

The second run of Sleeping Beauty this season started in grand style with Marianela Nuñez as Princess Aurora and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, and a cast close to that for the live cinema relay at the end of the month. In Act I Nuñez showed the thrill of a teenager at her own coming …

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Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2017

Since Covent Garden revived this opera in 2010 for the first time in over a century a quite different production set in a 1930s fascist state was unveiled at Holland Park. Both this and the original 1730 setting in the theatrical world of Paris, lovingly recreated in David McVicar’s production, work well, and with superb …

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Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2016

The essence of Robert Carsen’s powerful new production is time. By setting it in the period of its creation, the early twentieth century rather than the mid-eighteenth, he compresses time, giving those glorious late nineteenth century waltz melodies and the story itself the feel of a world about to be changed forever, as indeed it …

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Norma, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2016

So many crucifixes — a veritable forest of them in the land of the druids, portrayed here as a Christian community with priests and lay people in standard Catholic attire. Such is the modern take on Norma by Spanish-Catalan director Àlex Ollé, complete with modern décor and flat-screen TV for the living quarters of Norma …

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Il Trovatore, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, July 2016

Darkness, fire and blood are the elements around which director David Bösch has built his new co-production with Frankfurt Opera, debuting here at Covent Garden. Darkness is inherent in the main events of this opera, for example in Act I when Leonora mistakes the Count di Luna for her lover Manrico, and indeed in Act …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Obsidian Tear/ The Invitation/ Within the Golden Hour, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2016

Royal Ballet triple bills rarely begin with a new ballet, but this one started with the world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear to a half-hour orchestral piece by Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. Salonen, better known as a conductor, takes up the baton to direct his own music, named Nyx after the Greek goddess of the …

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Oedipe, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2016

After a gestation period of over twenty years, Enescu’s only opera saw its first performance in 1936. Since then it has been a rarity, and despite this interesting production, originally created in 2011 for La Monnaie in Brussels, one sees why. Enescu’s inspiration was Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, considered one of the finest dramas …

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Tannhäuser, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2016

This first revival of Tim Albery’s 2010 production was very welcome, with a cast in some ways stronger than that of five seasons ago. The most prominent feature of the production is the on-stage version of the main proscenium arch complete with Royal Opera House curtains, representing the entrance to the Venusberg. Its later decayed …

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Winter’s Tale, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2016

Christopher Wheeldon’s representation of this Shakespeare play, where King Leontes of Sicilia goes insane with jealousy, only recovering after the damage is done and then many years later seeing the younger generation sort out the mess their elders have made, is a marvellous evocation of the story presented in fine Shakespearean style. A painting is …

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Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2016

Arrogance. In her first classical opera for the ROH — she produced Written on Skin earlier — controversial theatre director Katie Mitchell treats Donizetti’s masterpiece with too little respect. Predictably enough it was loudly booed. I didn’t mind the change to the story where the women take control. Lucia seduces Edgardo, becomes pregnant — throwing up …

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Boris Godunov, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, March 2016

The background to this opera is the reign of Ivan the Terrible, who curbed the power of the boyars and surrounded himself with reliable, talented men such as Boris Godunov, who became regent to the weak-minded Fyodor on Ivan’s death. During the regency, a later son named Dmitri died in slightly mysterious circumstances, and after …

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Giselle, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2016

For the opening night in this new run of Giselle, Sarah Lamb took over the title role at short notice from Natalia Osipova and delivered a flawless performance. Her emotional energy and light, floating steps in Act I portrayed the slightly out-of-this world girl she represents before her beautifully executed mad scene, and in Act …

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Wheeldon Triple: After the Rain/ Strapless/ Within the Golden Hour, Royal Ballet, February 2016

This was the first outing at Covent Garden for each of these three ballets, and for Christopher Wheeldon’s new narrative work Strapless a world premiere, framed here by the two abstract pieces. The first, After the Rain is a lovely ballet in two sections to music by Arvo Pärt, premiered by the New York City …

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L’Étoile, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2016

Is this little-known French farce the sort of thing Covent Garden should be doing? Whatever the answer — and audience reception on its first night was very positive — the ROH certainly did it with great verve. The production by Mariame Clément with designs by Julia Hansen is a blaze of colour and clever ideas, …

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Royal Ballet: Rhapsody/ Two Pigeons, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2016

Under Artistic Director Kevin O’Hare the Royal Ballet is thankfully giving more time to the choreography of Frederick Ashton, a genius at creating movement attuned to the music. He originally created Rhapsody for the Queen Mother’s eightieth birthday in 1980, to be danced by Baryshnikov, and in this performance its quick darting steps and rapid …

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Elizabeth, Royal Ballet, ROH Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, January 2016

This ballet on the life and loves of Elizabeth I, originally shown in 2013 at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, is now making a well deserved appearance at the Royal Opera House. It is a remarkable creation by Will Tuckett, with text and co-direction by Alasdair Middleton, and music by Martin Yates. Yates has …

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Eugene Onegin, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2015

In February 2013 this was Kasper Holten’s first new production after being appointed opera director, and it is ironic that this revival occurs less than two weeks after he handed in his notice. It is now a co-production with Turin and Opera Australia, and has undergone changes. There is slightly less use of the dreadful …

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The Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2015

This Christmas sees the Royal Ballet reviving Nutcracker — absent last year in favour of Don Q and Alice — in the Peter Wright production that has been with the Company for over thirty years. Yet it still looks entirely fresh, as did the dancers on opening night with Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell making …

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Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci, Cav and Pag, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2015.

Damiano Michieletto’s production of Rossini’s William Tell in June this year was widely panned, so I awaited his new production of Cav and Pag with some apprehension. I need not have. The gritty realism of Giovanni Verga’s 1880 short story Cavalleria Rusticana, later made into a play and taken up by the young composer Pietro …

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Royal Ballet Double Bill: Monotones I and II, The Two Pigeons, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2015

Why were there inexpensive empty seats? This is a wonderful mixed bill of Ashton ballets, including his delightful Two Pigeons featuring Jacques Dupont’s glorious set with its window to the city and sky of Paris beautifully lit by Peter Teigen. Yet before this colourful drama of two lovers reunited after one flies the nest, we …

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Royal Ballet Mixed Bill: Viscera/ Afternoon of a Faun/ Tchaikovsky pas-de-deux/ Carmen, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2015

The big draw of the evening was Carlos Acosta’s new Carmen, but the three preceding ballets, all superbly danced, were arguably worth the whole evening. Liam Scarlett’s Viscera made a welcome return after its first performances three years ago, with Leticia Stock and Nehemiah Kish in the tranquil pas-de-deux that shows the tentative attraction between …

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2015

Wow! This riveting performance under the baton of Lothar Koenigs gave Strauss’s music just the cheery insouciance and serious emotional depth it needs. And with Karita Mattila, Ruxandra Donose and Jane Archibald repeating the roles of Ariadne, Composer and Zerbinetta from summer 2014 it was a vocal and theatrical treat. How absurd that there are …

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Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Lamb, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2015

Things are looking up at the Royal Ballet with new music director Koen Kessels. From the first bars it was clear that a new hand was at work, and his conducting on the opening night of the Company’s new season put recent musical performances deservedly into the shadows. At the end of the first Act …

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Orphée et Eurydice, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, ROH, September 2015

It seems the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is flavour of the year. Monteverdi’s Orfeo appeared at the Roundhouse in January in an artless staging by the Royal Opera, before the BBC Proms gave it a beautifully elegant semi-staging under John Eliot Gardiner this summer. Now it’s the Royal Opera’s turn to succeed, this time …

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Guillaume Tell, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2015

After the superb Proms concert performance of this opera four years ago, under Pappano with some of the same cast, this keenly anticipated new production fell sadly short. A black-clad SWAT team with machine guns, lighting from stage rear that glares out at the audience, on-stage characters not in the drama — seen it all before. …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Afternoon of a Faun/ In the Night/ Song of the Earth, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2015

The Royal Ballet’s season finale at Covent Garden appears as the Company prepares for its American tour, which starts with Acosta’s Don Quixote in Washington and Chicago before moving to New York with two mixed bills, one including Song of the Earth. The casts for Song in London were similar to those planned for New …

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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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Król Roger, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2015

Apollo versus Dionysus — Apollonian/Dionysian dualism — so central to this remarkable work, is brilliantly exposed in Kasper Holten’s intriguing and highly inventive production, the first ever at Covent Garden. He also brings out Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s homoerotic yearnings, using ostensibly naked male dancers. A standard production might use the composer’s imagined settings of …

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La fille mal gardée, with McRae and Osipova, Royal Ballet, ROH, April 2015

Inspired by a mid-eighteenth century painting, Jean Dauberval first created this ballet in 1789, and it was premiered in Bordeaux two weeks before the storming of the Bastille. Two years later it was presented in London where the musicians wrote ribald comments on the pastiche score, though that all changed in 1828 when a student …

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La fille mal gardée, with Muntagirov and Morera, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2015

Wonderful freshness and vitality from the whole company in this revival of Ashton’s delightful ballet, and Vadim Muntagirov as Colas was perfection. His deft technique and control — and those glorious split jumps in second — combined with a boyish charm made him an irresistible foil to Laura Morera’s quietly understated Lisa. The idyllic happiness …

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Il Turco in Italia, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2015

Huge fun — and springtime is just the right time to revive this stylish and colourfully stylized production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. Its previous outing in 2010 was also in Spring, the four main principals being the same as today: Thomas Allen as poet and opera librettist Prosdocimo, Alessandro Corbelli as the cuckolded …

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The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, March 2015.

This is not an easy work to stage, emerging as it does from two slightly incompatible attitudes, by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, as to its eventual form. Its genesis lay in a series of songs — the Mahagonny Gesänge — published by Brecht in April 1927, which inspired Weill to fulfil a commission he …

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Swan Lake, with Osipova and Golding, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2015

The performance on 21 February was the best I’ve seen so far in the present run, not least because Boris Gruzin in the orchestra pit gave a superb rendering of Tchaikovsky’s score. It was far better than the brash energy of the first night — given no doubt after insufficient rehearsal time, since Gruzin has …

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Onegin, with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2015

For John Cranko’s 1960s take on Pushkin’s verse narrative the husband and wife partnership of Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares is about as perfect as it gets. The tearing up of one another’s letters — a Cranko innovation absent from Pushkin, where Onegin rejects her advances in a far gentler way — was effected with cool …

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Andrea Chenier, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2015

In an entirely unexpected coincidence this new production of an opera about the 1794 French Reign of Terror had its first night less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I refer to the execution of journalists at Charlie Hebdo who, like the real André Chenier, transformed their pens into sharp weapons against …

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Orfeo, Royal Opera, Roundhouse, January 2015

In Spring last year at the new Sam Wanamaker Theatre the Royal Opera put on Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, one of the earliest operas ever performed in a public opera house (the San Cassiano in Venice). This year they have reached further back to 1607, a time before public opera houses existed, performing Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Camden …

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Un Ballo in Maschera, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2014.

This new Ballo by German director Katharina Thoma is a co-production with Dortmund where it had its premiere in September. The Germans, who display a fondness for Regie-Theater, criticized it for timidity and bowing to the dull tastes of a Royal Opera House audience where tourists expect something simple. Such a misunderstanding of the Covent …

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Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2014

Does Tristan know Isolde intends to kill him with the drink in Act I? No doubt at all in Christof Loy’s production where both of them lie down to die. But though Isolde sings of hatred, the orchestra carries the truth — love — and Mr. Loy, concerned that the emotional content of the stage action …

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Don Quixote, with Nuñez and Acosta, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2014

What joy to see Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nuñez in a beautifully rehearsed first cast for this year’s revival of Acosta’s new Don Q. Gone was the tension of the Gala opening last year, and from their first appearance in Act I he made a superb young Basilio, with Nuñez on fire as his beloved …

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L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2014

With Lucy Crowe, Vittorio Grigolo and Bryn Terfel this was quite a cast, and under revival director Daniel Dooner they made the most of Laurent Pelly’s delightful production. In Act I the bikes, the dog, the funny swaying movements of the chorus, and the tiny version of Dulcamara’s van at the end all add colour, …

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Royal Ballet Triple Bill: Ceremony of Innocence, Age of Anxiety, Aeternum, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2014

This triple bill takes us from the loss of childhood innocence to the memory of parents passed away, ideas that frame the first and third items, both to music of Benjamin Britten. Ceremony of Innocence appears in W B Yeats’ poem The Second Coming as ‘The ceremony of innocence is drowned’, a line that Britten …

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Idomeneo, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2014

The story of a man who promises to sacrifice the first person he meets on his safe return home, if only the god will rescue him, was imported to Greece from the Ancient Near East. It appears for instance in the Biblical story of Jephthah who made such a vow in order to defeat the …

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La scala di seta, Royal Opera Young Artists, ROH Linbury Studio, October 2014

First produced in Venice when Rossini was just 20, this comic farce is a little gem. Its quality is sometimes called into question by a story that the impresario who commissioned it served the young composer with a poor libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa to which Rossini responded with slapdash music. Whatever the truth of …

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Royal Ballet Mixed Bill: Scènes de ballet, Five Brahms Waltzes, Symphonic Variations, Month in the Country, Covent Garden, October 2014

Four Ashton ballets in one evening — what a spoil. The first and third created just after the Second World War, the other two in 1976. Scénes de ballet is a perfect opener. Stravinsky’s music, originally commissioned for a Broadway revue, was conducted with suitable astringency by Emmanuel Plasson, making a striking contrast to one …

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I due Foscari, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2014

Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, and at the end of this opera, Loredano, one of the Venetian decemviri (ten men who govern Venice) gladly consumes the knowledge that the two Foscari are dead. Noble men both, gone to their graves in agony. Placido Domingo showed the anguish of the elder Foscari — Doge …

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The Trial, Music Theatre Wales, Linbury Studio, ROH, October 2014

In Kafka’s novel The Trial an ordinary intelligent man is caught up in a process to which he earnestly hopes he can find a clear end, and this musical realisation by Philip Glass, with a libretto by Christopher Hampton, captures the comedy and close observation of the original. There could, I suppose, be a temptation …

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Manon, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2014

First seen in March 1974 this ballet has aged beautifully, and opening night of the current run fully recaptured the vivacity and despair of the story. Marianela Nuñez’s subtle development of Manon’s character, from the gentle grace of her first entrance in Act I to the femme dangereuse of Act II and eventually the victim …

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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2014

Is it not time the Royal Opera House abandoned David McVicar’s 2001 production? The fake licentiousness of the first scene may be huge fun for the supers and for movement and revival director Leah Hausman, but it detracts from the drama and spoils the music, which at times becomes mere background to unmusical whoops and …

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Maria Stuarda, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2014

In forty to fifty years time young audience members may take pride in saying they once saw Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda. She was sensational, and when it was over and the curtain rose to reveal her centre stage, the thunderous applause was followed by huge cheers for other cast members until the production team …

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2014

Returning to direct this second revival of his 2002 production, Christof Loy gave us an Act I that presented the young composer in far better form than the first revival of 2008. Beautifully and strongly sung by Ruxandra Donose, he (she) showed fire in the belly, and frustration with the philistines around him. It was …

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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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Royal Ballet Triple: The Dream/ Connectome/ The Concert, May 2014

The clever mockery in the first and third items in this excellent triple bill contrasted well with the brilliant new ballet by Alastair Marriott that lay between them. Connectome is named after a scientific term referring to the neural connections of a brain — in other words its ‘wiring diagram’ — and though only that …

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Dialogues des Carmélites, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2014

Premiered at the Netherlands Opera in 1997, Robert Carsen’s award winning production has done the rounds before making its London debut as the first Carmélites at the ROH since 1983. Aesthetically abstract, it uses clever lighting on an open stage, and the vast number of chorus and extras emphasise the mass psychology underpinning the reign …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Serenade/ Sweet Violets/ DGV, Covent Garden, May 2014

Liam Scarlett’s dark narrative ballet Sweet Violets was beautifully framed here by Balanchine’s Serenade and Wheeldon’s Danse à grande vitesse. The Balanchine work, his first in America, originated from a series of evening classes he gave in New York, the seventeen girls at the start being the number who attended the first class. Among sixteen …

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La Traviata, with Pérez, Costello, Keenlyside, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2014

Nothing could take away from the stunning performance of Ailyn Pérez as Violetta — not the Royal Opera House gremlins that turned the house lights on and off again during her final aria in Act II, nor the management that failed to provide flowers for the curtain calls. This was magic, the first of four …

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Le Nozze di Figaro, with Esposito, Evans, Finley, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2014

In this latest revival of David McVicar’s 2006 production, Gerald Finley’s beautifully nuanced and stylish performance of the Count was a joy to behold. Full of restrained power, his premonition of success with Susanna expressed by the recitative and aria early in Act III showed a man in huge command of his household, only of …

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Winter’s Tale, Gartside and Nuñez, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, 16 April 2014

This was the first performance by the second cast, originally scheduled for last Saturday but postponed due to lack of rehearsal time. Second cast it may have been, but prima ballerina Marianela Nuñez gave a beautifully nuanced performance of Hermione filled with emotional expression. Her solo in Act I, with her husband Leontes (Bennet Gartside) …

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Winter’s Tale, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2014

For Christopher Wheeldon to take on Shakespeare is a bold move. The words are of huge importance, but so they are in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which Wheeldon successfully produced as a ballet three years ago, and when he expressed an interest in tackling the Bard at that time, Nicholas Hytner suggested Winter’s Tale. …

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Faust, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2014

With only a few weeks to go before opening night, Anna Netrebko pulled out from the role of Marguerite, but we need not have worried. Her replacement, 32-year old Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, due to sing the same role at the Vienna State Opera next month, more than made up for the loss. She brought …

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Sleeping Beauty, Choe and Golding, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 27 March 2014

Tonight Natalia Osipova was supposed to have made her role debut for the Company as Princess Aurora, but a day earlier she fell in rehearsals and was hospitalised. Her replacement, Yuhui Choe was the star of the evening, sensational in the Rose Adagio of Act I, looking her princes in the eye and moving with …

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L’Ormindo, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London, March 2014

The last time the Royal Opera House put on a Cavalli opera was in autumn 2008 with an elaborate post-modern take on La Calisto. This time the emphasis is on authenticity, and the star of the show is the new small and intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a candlelit auditorium recently attached to the Globe Theatre. …

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Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2014

Frau ohne Schatten is Richard Strauss’s Magic Flute, where two couples on different levels undergo severe trials before man and woman truly find one another. Like Flute there are tripartite divisions, but rather than analyse Hofmannsthal’s mysterious story, as modified by and interpreted in Strauss’s extraordinary score, let us turn to this production by German …

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Sleeping Beauty, with Choe and Hirano, and Lamb and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 13 March 2014

What a huge pleasure to see Yuhui Choe and Ryoichi Hirano in the main roles at the matinee. Her dancing, so full of joy, was absolutely on the music, and a better Rose Adagio one could hardly hope for. With Hirano’s noble and dashing Prince their partnership gave a beautiful expression of the story, helped …

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Sleeping Beauty, with Cuthbertson and Golding, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 22 February 2014

This is a brief review of the Saturday matinee on 22nd February, in which Matthew Golding made a wonderful replacement for Rupert Pennefather as the Prince. The easy grace of his entrance in Act II, followed by his solo adagio exhibited a glorious lightness of being, complemented by an air of quiet authority as he …

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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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Royal Ballet Triple: Rhapsody/ Tetractys—The Art of Fugue/ Gloria, Covent Garden, February 2014

When Frederick Ashton choreographed Rhapsody to Rachmaninov’s Variations on a theme by Paganini he created the principal male role on Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the quick darting steps were sublimely performed here by Steven McRae. He has the power, he has the leaps, and his fast chainés towards the end were stunning. It was an extraordinary …

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Don Giovanni, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2014

After his controversial Eugene Onegin in February last year, Kasper Holten has come out with a corker. This intriguing new production ends with Giovanni, a man defined by his conquests and interactions with others, condemned to the hell of being alone. The set went slowly blank as the writing on the walls disappeared, the auditorium …

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Giselle, with Osipova and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2014

Out of this world — Natalia Osipova took us to realms where dance and emotion combine into an ethereal unity. The easy grace of her first appearance in Act I drew distant kisses from Carlos Acosta, and I have rarely seen young love so beautifully expressed in this role. As Act I moves forward the …

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Parsifal, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2013

The Royal Opera House’s choice for Wagner’s bicentenary is a new production of Parsifal by director Stephen Langridge and designer Alison Chitty, the same team who gave us Birtwistle’s Minotaur five years ago. Here they achieved similar dramatic clarity using a Cube, which changes from opaque to translucent to open, partly to illustrate scenes from …

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Romeo and Juliet, with Acosta and Osipova, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2013

Having now joined the Royal Ballet as a Company member rather than a guest artist, Natalia Osipova’s performance of Juliet was much anticipated. Her technique and dramatic flair served her well, particularly in the final scene of Act III when her body crumpled like a rag doll in Carlos Acosta’s arms. It was a fine …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Chroma/ The Human Seasons/ Rite of Spring, Covent Garden, November 2013

The world premiere in this triple bill was the second ballet by David Dawson, making his Royal Ballet debut as a choreographer. I know someone who skipped the first item, and another who skipped the third, but both were in full anticipation of the second and neither was disappointed. The evening started with Wayne McGregor’s …

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Wozzeck, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2013

October 2013 is the bicentenary of Georg Büchner, whose play Woyzeck is the basis for Berg’s opera. The play is sparely written, and after a few cuts and slight rearrangement of scenes, Berg produced an opera of striking power and musical invention. It is not an easy task for the singers, with its four different …

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Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Obraztsova, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2013

For dancing and characterisation of the roles this second performance in the current run was close to perfection. Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova, guest principal from the Bolshoi Ballet, took us to an ethereal world beyond technique. When we first encounter her with her nurse she charmed us with her airy grace, and her sweetness …

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Les Vêpres Siciliennes, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2013

For this opera, Verdi was presented with a script by Eugène Scribe, who simply modified an old libretto for Donizetti. The new Verdi opera was supposed to be based on the Sicilian uprising against French rule in 1282, whereas the earlier libretto (Le duc d’Albe) for Donizetti was based on events in 1573 when the …

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Don Quixote, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 30 September 2013

The Royal Opera House knows how to put on a celebration, and on this Gala opening for Carlos Acosta’s new version of Don Quixote the House was decked with hundreds of red carnations. As the ballet ended scores of flowers were thrown down onto the stage, a fitting end to the final scene, in which …

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Elektra, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2013

For this revival of Elektra, in Charles Edwards blood soaked production (previously seen in 2003 and 2008), the orchestra produced terrific emotional power under the direction of Andris Nelsons. They played with huge conviction, and the cast sang superbly, none more so than Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. From her first entrance to the final words …

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Capriccio in Concert, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2013

Though only a concert performance with orchestra on stage, the ample room in front allowed the singers to dramatise their feelings, none more so than Danish baritone Bo Skovhus as the Count. He injected huge life, lustiness and levity into the performance of this engaging philistine, a wonderful counterpoint to the artistic sensitivities of his …

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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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La Donna del Lago, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2013

Two tenors love the same soprano — Elena, the Lady of the Lake — but she ends up with her beloved mezzo, Malcolm. The tenors, Uberto, really King James V of Scotland, and Highland Chieftain Rodrigo, are politically and militarily opposed, and though Elena’s father Duglas insists she marry Rodrigo, he is conveniently killed and …

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Die Zauberflöte, with Keenlyside, Staples, Bevan, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2013

A new set of principals for Zauberflöte in May saw Simon Keenlyside as Papageno, Andrew Staples as Tamino, Sophie Bevan as Pamina, and Matthew Rose as Sarastro. Albina Shagimuratova, who also sang in April, was a gloriously lyrical and luminescent Queen of the Night, showing a welcome vulnerability in Act I. Combining a melodious voice …

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Don Carlo, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2013

What a privilege to witness such an outstanding performance of opera, with the incomparable Jonas Kaufmann in the title role. You want to stay and savour the applause, to recall the extraordinary soliloquy by Ferruccio Furlanetto as Philip II at the start of Act IV, when he expresses in words the emotional pain he has …

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Nabucco, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2013

After Verdi’s dissatisfaction with his second opera he nearly gave up, but thank goodness he didn’t because this third one is magnificent, apart from its rather weak ending. Placing the action in the 1940s rather than the original setting of 586 BC is a good idea, but it never really gelled and I found Daniele Abbado’s …

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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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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with Sarah Lamb, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2013

This cleverly whimsical ballet, reflecting the essence of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, provides stage magic for the whole family. You don’t need any experience of ballet to appreciate the various vignettes, including the Adagio for the Queen of Hearts and four playing cards in Act III, a wicked take on the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty. …

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Written on Skin, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2013

The ROH Insight Evening for this opera described it as being about sexual emancipation and jealousy with a tragic ending that they declined to specify. The emancipation angle is a good spin for modern audiences, but the story is an old one. A man treats his wife as a chattel and she experiences a sexual …

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Ashton Mixed Bill, with Yanowsky and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, February 2013

This review is for the cast on the second night, and what a treat it was again to have Emmanuel Plasson as maestro for this delightful mixed bill of short Aston pieces. As a serious conductor who is happy to perform ballet music he showed a sure touch with orchestra, instrumental soloists and dancers. Musically, Plasson is ideal for …

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Eugene Onegin, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2013

Artistic director Kasper Holten decided quite sensibly to take over the scheduled revival of an earlier production, and do something new. He was already endowed with some fine singers, so there were excellent performances here, including sympathetic conducting by Robin Ticciati. Simon Keenlyside sang strongly as Onegin though the production prevented him from giving a full portrayal …

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The Minotaur, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, January 2013

The opening night of this revival ended with a tribute to John Tomlinson for 35 years of wonderful service to the ROH — highly appropriate since composer Harrison Birtwistle has said Tomlinson was the key to writing this opera, which had been brewing in his mind for many years. The first scene shows Christine Rice as Ariadne on …

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Robert le Diable, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, December 2012

Before the first night of this hugely theatrical opera the ROH sent out a dramatic announcement saying they were “extremely grateful to Patrizia Ciofi, who has taken over the part of Isabelle at extremely short notice and will sing the role for the first four performances”. In the event she was wonderful, having sung the …

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L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2012

This 2007 Laurent Pelly production is set in 1950s Italy with Dulcamara, the charlatan purveyor of an elixir, arriving in an articulated lorry housing a mobile café. There are also bicycles, a moped and motor scooter, even a dog, giving a charmingly simple feel to the rural community. In dress rehearsal for this second revival the movements …

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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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Götterdämmerung, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

Under Antonio Pappano’s direction the orchestra gave us a lyrical and multi-layered interpretation of Wagner’s score, ranging from soft moments to huge power. After the prologue with the Norns, followed by Brünnhilde and Siegfried, things really opened out in Act I with John Tomlinson as Hagen in the hall of the Gibichungs. He was riveting …

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Siegfried, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

Wotan’s meeting with Erda that starts Act III of Siegfried is a focal point in his demise.  After awakening her for advice she tells him to ask Brünnhilde, their daughter bold and wise, but learning Wotan has cast her aside, she asks why he who taught defiance punished defiance, why he who ruled by vows now …

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Die Walküre, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

A pivotal point in Wagner’s Ring is Act II scene 1 in Walküre where Fricka faces her husband Wotan. A strong presence is vital here and Sarah Connolly gave a superb portrayal, avoiding the danger of playing her as overbearing but firmly and gently persuading her husband that he is in serious error. It was beautifully done, and she …

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Das Rheingold, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

This prologue to Wagner’s Ring promises a feast of fine singing and acting in the remaining three operas of the cycle. Bryn Terfel sang as well or better than I have ever heard him in the role of Wotan, emphasising maturity and self-awareness, showing he realises he has set in motion something against which the …

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Il Viaggio a Reims, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2012

This anniversary gala concert united Jette Parker Young Artists with several earlier performers from that programme who have since gone on to international careers, and Il Viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Rheims) was the perfect piece to bring them together. Written by Rossini to celebrate the coronation of Charles X in 1825, it all takes place at a spa hotel, where …

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Otello, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2012

We are surely lucky that this revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s wonderful 1987 production — the first since 2005 — was directed by the man himself, and it was hugely effective. The sets with those vast pillars help give the impression that a mere human tragedy is being played out against a world that will carry …

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Les Troyens, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2012

As the Euro crisis deepens, it is salutary to see Cassandra on stage — her foresight ever accurate but never believed. In the first part of this grand opera, Cassandra is the main character, superbly sung and acted by Anna Caterina Antonacci. It all starts with the chorus happily expressing their joy that the Greeks …

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Salome, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

With superb vocal power and control from Angela Denoke as Salome, and thrilling sound from the orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons, it doesn’t get any better than this. This was the second revival of David McVicar’s production, first seen in 2008, and Angela Denoke’s second turn at the title role, since her earlier …

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Falstaff, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

The production team for Robert Carsen’s new staging of Verdi’s Falstaff received a mixed reception. Why so? This is a co-production with La Scala where it will feature in Verdi’s bicentenary there next year. Carsen has updated the setting of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor from Elizabethan times to 1950s England, with Sir John and other men in hunting red at …

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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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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012

In Act III of this opera, Rigoletto takes his daughter Gilda to Sparafucile’s tavern to show her the Duke’s real nature. She hears him singing La donna è mobile, sees him having fun with Maddalena, and is shocked and heartbroken. Her father takes her home, sends her off to Verona, but … being too busy arranging the …

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Miss Fortune, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012

The title of this opera is a play on words, the eponymous character being the daughter of Lord and Lady Fortune, whose riches have melted away, and after the chorus sings, “We think you should go to gaol”, they take off. Miss Fortune stays behind singing that, “I won’t scuttle away … I’m going to live in …

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Rusalka, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2012

Can a force of nature acquire a soul? This is what Rusalka wants, to become human. As she says to the water spirit Vodník, humans have souls and go to heaven when they die. But souls are full of sin, says Vodník, …  and of love she responds. She has seen her prince and wants him to love her. Dvořak’s opera …

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Don Giovanni with Erwin Schrott, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2012

Erwin Schrott was a remarkable Don, good looking, devilishly charming, but with a nasty streak hidden by an insouciant devil-may-care attitude. And his singing was equally remarkable, with an easy casualness as if he were simply talking. As his counterpoint and servant, Alex Esposito as Leporello sang and acted the part with utter conviction. His Madamina aria, where he recounts to …

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La Traviata, with Bobro, Grigolo and Gavanelli, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 23 January 2012.

This performance on January 23 was to have been the first of two with Ermonela Jaho as Violetta, and Vittorio Grigolo as Alfredo, but Ms. Jaho was unwell and her place was taken at the last minute by Slovenian soprano Bernarda Bobro, making her debut at Covent Garden. She has recently sung the role in Estonia, Schleswig-Holstein and Stuttgart, and worked with the Royal Opera House …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, December 2011

This was Antonio Pappano’s first Meistersinger for the Royal Opera, and from the start of the overture to the final chords of Act III, more than five hours later, his peerless conducting drove Wagner’s comedy forward with huge effect. The chorus too was excellent, from the first four-part harmony in the church to their final embrace of Sachs …

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La Sonnambula, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2011

Spanish tenor Celso Albelo was terrific as Elvino, being on top form from beginning to end, and giving serious meaning to the term bel canto.

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Heart of Darkness, Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, November 2011

Wow! This was a remarkable achievement by 33 year old composer Tarik O’Regan, along with a libretto by artist Tom Phillips. They have packed Joseph Conrad’s novella into 75 minutes of gripping musical narrative, starting in London with the old sea captain, Marlow — beautifully sung by Alan Oke — in a moment of recollection, “He was …

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Placido Domingo Celebration, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, October 2011

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Domingo’s first appearance at the Royal Opera House (as Cavaradossi in Tosca), this was a three-part Verdi programme featuring the final acts of Otello, Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra, and amply demonstrating his superb sense of drama. Domingo is a consummate artist — not just a wonderful singer, but a terrific actor. When I …

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Der Fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2011

Jeffrey Tate in the orchestra pit gave Wagner’s Flying Dutchman a wonderful clarity, helped of course by the singers, particularly Anja Kampe as a beautifully pure voiced Senta. This was the role in which she made her Covent Garden debut when the production was new in 2009. The singers for the other main roles are …

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Faust, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2011

Covent Garden has a talent for staging nineteenth century operas in sumptuous productions with excellent singers, and this is another fine example. Gounod’s Faust, with its libretto by Barbier and Carré based on Carré’s earlier play Faust et Marguerite, is loosely fashioned on Goethe’s great work, though it’s hardly Goethe. David McVicar’s production, with its sets by …

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Il Trittico, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2011

Suor Angelica knocked Tabarro right off the stage because of one person — Ermonela Jaho. She was . . . words fail me . . . sublime . . . ethereal.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Songs from a Hotel Bedroom, Linbury Studio, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2010

Kurt Weill is the composer of two operatic works that I like very much — The Threepenny Opera (Berlin, 1928) and Street Scene (New York, 1947) — along with lots of glorious songs from other stage works. I was delighted to hear many of those songs in this drama created by Kate Flatt and Peter Rowe, with …

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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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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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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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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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Spartacus, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, July 2010

What really made it memorable, however, was Ivan Vasiliev as Spartacus. He was phenomenal. This is a ballet that gives us stage-devouring leaps and extraordinary lifts, performed to perfection by Vasiliev, with Nina Kaptsova as a captivating Phrygia, but there was also a musicality here that rendered their performance a sublime experience.

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

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

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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 — 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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Lohengrin, Royal Opera, April 2009

Johan Botha’s Heldentenor voice gave us a superb Lohengrin, with Edith Haller as a beautifully voiced Elsa … very well complemented by the wonderful singing of Petra Lang as Ortrud, and Gerd Grochowski as Telramund

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Il Trovatore, Royal Opera, April 2009

This was a terrific performance, with Sondra Radvanovsky and Roberto Alagna in superb voice as Leonora and Manrico.

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Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, and Acis and Galatea by Handel, Royal Opera, April 2009

Acis and Galatea is a beautiful work, musically speaking … composed as a pastoral serenata, which means it would be sung without elaborate staging, though the performers would probably have worn costumes … This staging by Wayne McGregor was frightfully elaborate, which I think detracted from the beauty of the work

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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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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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