Tag Archives: Royal Opera

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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Mitridate, re di Ponto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

If beautiful singing and eighteenth century stage spectacle appeals, then Graham Vick’s production of this early Mozart opera, in Paul Brown’s bold designs and gloriously elaborate costumes, certainly hits the spot. The title character, Mithridates VI reigned as king of Pontus, a region comprising much of northern Anatolia and coastal areas of the Black Sea, …

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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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Don Carlo, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2017

That great playwright Schiller did not let historical facts get in the way of a good story, and his Don Karlos is a gripping stage tragedy. Traducung the close and loving relationship between Philip II and his third wife Elizabeth de Valois, step-mother to Don Carlo, it was perfect for Verdi, who added elements of …

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The Exterminating Angel, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

Thomas Adès’ previous opera The Tempest, set on Prospero’s mysterious island, finds a counterpoint here in the ostensibly mundane setting of an elegant dinner party — but all is not as it seems. Both operas feature very high soprano roles, Ariel in the Tempest and three of the ladies in Angel, again with the idea of …

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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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Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2016

This classic 1980 production by John Schlesinger, superbly revived by Daniel Dooner, provides the juxtaposition of magic and reality inherent in so many of E T A Hoffmann’s stories. The play by Barbier and Carré that underlies Offenbach’s opera is based on a selection of his tales that illuminate the dichotomy between life and art, …

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The Nose, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2016

They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but in this case the final moment is the sneeze, which for a man who lost his nose is the true test of recovery. It all starts with the sound of the wonderful John Tomlinson as the barber sharpening his razor on a leather strap. …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Gloriana, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2013

Unlike predecessors such as Peter Grimes (1945) and Billy Budd (1951), Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana may never be part of the standard repertoire, but the ROH has now given us a fine new perspective on this opera. Exactly sixty years after its first performances to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation, this newly imaginative, clever and colourful production …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Christian Gerhaher wins Olivier Award

In the Olivier Awards today, Christian Gerhaher wins the Outstanding Achievement in Opera for his performance last year in the Royal Opera’s new production of Tannhäuser. Well deserved indeed, and as I wrote at the time in my review: “Wolfram’s unassuming love for Elisabeth was convincingly portrayed by Christian Gerhaher, a remarkable baritone who has studied philosophy …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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