Iolanthe, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2018

“A group of bombastic fairies going into battle with all these silly old buggers from the House of Lords” says director Cal McCrystal “… joyful and fun, with a hint of satirical steel”. McCrystal has a knack, a brilliant knack, of knowing what makes an audience laugh, never more so than in the Act II …

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La Forza del destino, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2018

Fate, personified by a tall, elegant, funereal character, strikes the stage with a staff at the very start of this production, and after the Marquis of Calatrava’s accidental death the blood on the wall is a constant reminder to his daughter Leonora and her lover Don Alvaro of their inability to be reconciled with him …

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Carmen, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2018

Carmen as a musical is what the first part (Acts 1 and 2) felt like, but a musical needs better dance sequences, and the choreography was ineffective. Yet Barrie Kosky, whose production of Shostakovich’s Nose appeared at Covent Garden in late 2016, is ever a theatrical innovator. The orchestra starts without warning as the proscenium …

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Satyagraha, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2018

Non-violence — is there a positive word for it? In creating a proactive term for non-violence in action Gandhi invented satyagraha from two Sanskrit roots, satya meaning truth, and agraha meaning holding on to. It is the underlying theme for the three acts of this opera, representing past, present and future, but standing outside time …

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Tosca, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2018

From the ringing tones of his Recondita armonia in early Act I to the passion and pathos of E lucevan le stelle in a last cry to life and love, this was Joseph Calleja’s night. His Cavaradossi was the shining highlight of opening night in this revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production. Calleja’s interactions with …

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The Return of Ulysses, Royal Opera, Roundhouse, January 2018

This new production, some might say semi-staging, by John Fulljames gives space to the singers but the theatricality that Monteverdi brought to his stage works has gone missing. The dull costumes fail to express the essence of the characters, and make little distinction between gods and mortals, but Paule Constable’s lighting is magical. The action …

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Salome, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2018

This third revival of David McVicar’s production sees subtle changes in Salome’s dance. She engages in a more sensuous interaction with Herod, without the rag doll she used previously, but it suited the conducting of Henrik Nánási, more lyrical than lecherous at this point, while the restrained power he produced from the orchestra drove Strauss’s …

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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

If you can get past the wanton incoherence of the first scene in David McVicar’s darkly seedy production, this was a performance — dedicated to the late, much-missed Dmitri Hvorostovsky — of huge power and pathos. A philanderer and serial sex offender enjoying unlimited power molests numerous young women, inspiring shame and anger among their …

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Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

In this beautiful and perennially popular Peter Wright production, Drosselmeyer appears in his workshop at the start, gazing at a portrait of his nephew Hans-Peter, now maliciously trapped inside the Nutcracker Doll. To escape he must slay the Mouse King, which becomes a turning point when Clara clobbers the monster with her shoe, and in …

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Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

When Leoncavallo wrote Pagliacci he had in mind the brilliant success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana — written to win a prize competition — and in this production of the double bill, director Damiano Michieletto cleverly combines the two operas. The travelling players of Pagliacci appear in the village where Cavalleria Rusticana takes place, and in …

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