Tag Archives: Verdi

Aida, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Sept 2017

This brand new Aida from Phelim McDermott, whose stunning Akhnaten for the ENO in 2016 won the Olivier Award earlier this year, showed once again some spectacular theatre aided by the Improbable company. It all started with great subtlety as the curtain peeped open, at first showing just a small triangle of light at the …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Aroldo, UC Opera, UCL, Theatre Royal Stratford East, March 2017

Verdi’s Aroldo is a later adaptation of his Stiffelio about a Protestant pastor who eventually forgives his wife’s adultery. This priest’s tale was not easy one for Italian audiences, and following the huge success of Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata, Verdi wanted to recreate the opera in a different setting. His librettist Piave turned …

Read more >


Rigoletto, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2017

Now that Christopher Alden’s stale and pretentious North American production has been aborted after a single run, we are back with Jonathan Miller’s gangland setting, looking as fresh as ever. Wonderful. This superb production well matches the tragedy that unfolds in what became a turning point in Verdi’s operatic career. Before its premiere in Venice …

Read more >


Macbeth, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2016

Of Verdi’s three Shakespeare works — the others are his final operas Otello and Falstaff — this marks something of a turning point in his career, and its 1847 premiere in Florence was a huge success. In this staging by Oliver Mears, first performed in 2014 by Northern Ireland Opera where he is artistic director, …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Don Carlo, Grange Park, GPO, June 2016

For a large opera house Verdi’s Don Carlo is quite a challenge, even in the four (rather than five) act version seen here. The great auto-da-fé scene at the end of Act II, where Carlo leads in a deputation from Flanders, threatens his father Philip II and is disarmed by Rodrigo, before the burning of …

Read more >


Nabucco, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2016

Complementing the dramatic drive given to Verdi’s music by Maurizio Benini in the orchestra pit, and the terrific power the chorus delivered in this sixth century BC tale of Babylonian conquest and Hebrew captivity, the singers produced gripping vocal performances. Placido Domingo sang with convincing strength as Nabucco, a powerful ruler torn and confused by …

Read more >


The Force of Destiny, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2015

The unusually abstract title of this mature yet seldom-performed Verdi opera could be rephrased as ‘the force of anger’. The Marquis of Calatrava’s ferocity at his daughter Leonora’s choice of husband leads to his accidental death, and his son Don Carlo’s furiously determined revenge leads to his own death and that of his sister. “Vengeance …

Read more >


Giovanna d’Arco, Buxton Festival, July 2015

This Verdi opera, like Rossini’s William Tell, is originally based on a play by Schiller that deals with a central heroic figure who rallies people and fighting men against an occupying force. Comparing mature Rossini to early Verdi one might expect the Rossini to win easily, yet by contrast with the Royal Opera’s current clunky …

Read more >


Aida, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2015

For the fourth performance on July 4, the orchestra under Manlio Benzi produced a thrilling and vivid account of Verdi’s score, helped by excellent singing and a colourful and imaginative production. It starts with a black-tie cocktail party in a gallery of Egyptian antiquities, and director Daniel Slater takes a delightfully tongue-in-cheek attitude to Acts …

Read more >


La Traviata, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2015

hooAt the start of this production there is nothing on stage but a plain chair, and in the final scene, isolated from Annina, Dr. Grenvil, Germont, and even Alfredo, who leaves the stage to join the others in the auditorium, Violetta sits on it, alone. Finally she recedes into darkness beyond the back of the …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Otello, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, September 2014

After the end of a terrific performance, director David Alden was presented with two gifts to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his work with the ENO, whom he extolled as his favourite opera company in the world. That they work so well together is amply illustrated in this production whose huge enclosing set allows the stage …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Rigoletto, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2014

The original Victor Hugo play (Le roi s’amuse) that underlies Verdi’s Rigoletto takes place in the sixteenth century French court of François I. This touch of lèse majesté made the censors reject it, and the action was eventually transferred to Mantua with the King as a Duke, but the main point is that he has …

Read more >


Falstaff, Metropolitan Opera, live cinema relay, December 2013

On stage at Covent Garden last year, Robert Carsen’s new production showed Falstaff on a horse in Act III, and though I missed that on the Met cinema screening the comedy seemed more natural than in London. There was an appearance of spontaneity, with the performers playing the whole thing in a rambunctiously convincing way, …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Joseph Calleja sings Verdi, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, September 2013

Glorious singing from Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja in Prom 72 with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi under their chief conductor Xian Zhang. The theme of the concert was anguish and despair, well suiting Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony in the second half. Manfred, based on Byron’s poem of the same name, bears a burden of …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


I Lombardi, University College Opera, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2013

After UCOpera’s production of a Rameau work last year, which suffered from over-ambitious direction that didn’t gel, I was unsure what this year’s I Lombardi would be like. I need not have worried — it was terrific. Suits of armour and chain mail are expensive, so director Jamie Hayes has updated it to warring gangs …

Read more >


Rigoletto, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, 16 February 2013

The idea of Rigoletto in early 1960s Las Vegas during the days of the Rat Pack made me apprehensive, but the superb sets by Christine Jones and costumes by Susan Hilferty won me over completely. Count Monterone as an Arab sheikh, the colourful tuxedos of the men, the stylish dark green and purple of Sparafucile’s …

Read more >


La Traviata, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2013

Four scenes with no intermission and no sets, except for multiple curtains and a chair — but it works! This is Traviata cut to its essentials, concentrating on Violetta, and to a lesser extent Germont père. Corinne Winters was a phenomenal Violetta, and as the opera ends she stands alone on stage facing Germont, Alfredo and Annina in the auditorium. …

Read more >


Un Ballo in Maschera, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, December 2012

David Alden’s vivid production of Verdi’s Ballo, portrays the main characters Riccardo and Renato in their historical roles as the Swedish king Gustav III and his murderer Anckarström. The assassination took place at a masked ball, and in an account written by a Polish officer who was present, the king received an anonymous warning “N’allez pas …

Read more >


Otello, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, 27th October 2012

Wonderful costumes by Peter J. Hall, excellent sets by Michael Yeargan, all beautifully lit by Duane Schuler help bring this Elijah Moshinsky production to life, along with deeply expressive music from the orchestra under the direction of Semyon Bychkov. The star of the show was Renée Fleming as Desdemona, always beautiful and coming through in …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Ballo della Regina, with Nuñez and Kish/ La Sylphide, with Cojocaru and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2012

Ballo Della Regina (The Queen’s Ball) is a short Balanchine work set to music that was cut from Verdi’s opera Don Carlo. This ballet involves a sequence of variations, first with twelve girls in blue, joined by two principals in white. After a pas-de-deux for the principals, four soloists in violet come on one at a time, and …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Ernani, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, February 2012

After Verdi’s first four operas were premiered at La Scala, La Fenice in Venice commissioned the fifth, and the composer eventually plumped for Victor Hugo’s play Hernani, a drama on Castillian honour. The resulting opera Ernani may lack the irony and humour of the original play, but it supplies four glorious roles for soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass. Requiting Spanish honour leads to …

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


Rigoletto, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2011

Rigoletto himself was brilliantly sung and performed by Robert Poulton. He didn’t overdo the nastiness of this character, as sometimes happens, yet his determination to take revenge came over very well when he makes the fatal mistake of telling his daughter to go home alone, after showing her the Duke’s real character.

Read more >


Simon Boccanegra, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, June 2011

At the end of this opera, Boccanegra is finally reconciled with his arch-enemy Jacopo Fiesco, and blesses the marriage of his long lost daughter Amelia with the young Gabriele Adorno, a previously sworn enemy. Now, dying of a slow poison, administered by his right hand man Paolo, he asks Fiesco to make Adorno his successor …

Read more >


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.

Read more >


Ballo della Regina/ Live Fire Exercise/ DGV:Danse à Grande Vitesse, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2011

This triple bill made for a rather fragmented evening, because the first two pieces took only 36 minutes between them, while the two intervals lasted half an hour each. But it was all worth it because the final item, Christopher Wheeldon’s Danse à Grande Vitesse, was wonderfully invigorating and performed with great energy. A clear stage …

Read more >


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.

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


La Forza del Destino, Holland Park Opera, OHP, August 2010

I’ve always found [this] terrific stuff, and was delighted with the excellent musical direction by Stuart Stratford, whom I remember doing an equally fine job at Holland Park last summer with Katya Kabanova.

Read more >


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.

Read more >


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 …

Read more >


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.

Read more >


Rigoletto, ENO, English National Opera, September 2009

The jester, named Triboulet in Hugo’s play, becomes Rigoletto in the opera, and is surely one of Verdi’s great creations, sung here by Anthony Michaels-Moore, who played him with enormous sensitivity.

Read more >


Don Carlo, Royal Opera, September 2009

Imagine a Christian Taliban in Spain, putting men, women and children in Flanders — all heretics — to the sword.

Read more >


Un Ballo in Maschera, Holland Park Opera, July 2009

The key scene in the opera is the midnight rendezvous between the king and Amelia, where they are surprised by Amelia’s husband Anckarstrom, and she veils her face.

Read more >


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.

Read more >