Tag Archives: Stephen Barlow

Alzira, Buxton Festival, July 2018

This early Verdi opera is set in Peru, based on a play that Voltaire designed to criticise the smug superiority of conventional Christianity in a foreign context. Its libretto by Salvatore Cammarano of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples ignored most of Voltaire’s subtleties, but Verdi was delighted to be working with him and continued …

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Roméo et Juliette, Grange Park Opera, GPO, July 2018

Of the half-dozen or so operas on this Shakespeare play, Gounod’s is undoubtedly the best, and Patrick Mason’s staging in pre-war fascist Italy gives an interesting modern take on the background to the feuding families. Knives and baseball bats come out amidst threats and fights, leaving Juliette a prey to her own burgeoning emotions, her …

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Macbeth, Buxton Festival, July 2017

Last year the Buxton Festival put on a very successful Leonora, rather than its later version Fidelio, and this year sees the original 1847 version of Verdi’s Macbeth. Its directness and freshness are illuminated by Elijah Moshinsky’s minimal, darkly-lit, and very effective staging with excellent movement conveying the powers of hell embodied in the witches, …

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Die Walküre, Grange Park Opera, GPO, West Horsley Place, July 2017

The recent tendency to set operas in the period leading up to the first world war seems to inspire this production by Stephen Medcalf. The Valkyries are in spiked helmets, Wotan is a general, and we are in a grand house furnished with varying collections of such things as butterflies and daggers. In addition to …

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Leonore, Buxton Opera Festival, July 2016

As an opera composer the 34-year old Beethoven was not a natural and his 1805 Leonore caused him no little trouble. Its poor reception by an audience composed largely of soldiers in Napoleon’s army, who would mostly not have understood the German Singspiel, did not help and a year later he cut it from three acts …

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La Bohème, OHP Young Artists, Holland Park, June 2016

Stephen Barlow’s production, which already debuted earlier this month, gives us a Café Momus scene full of fun in Act II, almost as if specially designed for this Christine Collins’ Young Artists performance on 24th June. I loved the sixteenth century costumes, and the numerous small entertaining vignettes by members of the Company. This was …

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Lucia di Lammermoor, Buxton Festival, July 2015

This interestingly minimalist production by theatre director Stephen Unwin sets the story in the 1940s with mafia overtones, particularly notable in the figure of Enrico’s retainer Normanno (Richard Roberts) a sleazy chain-smoker, tie-less and wearing a hat indoors even during the Act II wedding scene. ‘Tis he who writes the forged letter from Lucia’s beloved …

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La Bohème, Grange Park Opera, GPO, June 2015

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

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The Jacobin, Buxton Opera Festival, July 2014

The Jacobins were the hard-core French revolutionaries who inspired the Reign of Terror, and in this Dvořak opera the Count has been persuaded that his son Bohuš has become a Jacobin. Correcting this calumny and persuading the Count he has been misled appears to recede into the distance towards the end … yet suddenly the …

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Peter Grimes, Grange Park Opera, June 2014

Having heard negative comments from one friend about Jeremy Sams’s new production of Grimes, and from another that it was first rate, I was intrigued to see for myself. Sets and costumes were reliably authentic from a time somewhere in the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century, and the superb video illusion of the sea rippling to …

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

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

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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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Dialogues des Carmélites, Grange Park Opera, June 2013

This opera about life and death, about choices made under conditions where society has been led into temporary insanity, deserves and received a production of great simplicity that allowed Poulenc’s music to speak for itself. With excellent vocal performances and orchestral playing under the direction of Stephen Barlow this was a deeply moving experience. The …

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Cavalleria Rusticana, and I Pagliacci, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2013

After an unusually long winter, walking across Holland Park for the opening of the OHP season it seemed that summer had really arrived. As the orchestra played the Prelude to Cavalleria Rusticana the set opened to reveal Turiddu in bed with Lola, and after the chorus entered to sing of orange blossom, over a dozen …

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Don Pasquale, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2011

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

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Don Giovanni, Holland Park Opera, July 2010

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

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Capriccio, Grange Park Opera, June 2010

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

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Tosca, Royal Opera, July 2009

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

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