Le Vin herbé, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2017

The French title (the wine infused drink) refers to the love potion shared by Tristan and Isolde, and at its first fully staged performance at the Salzburg Festival in 1948 it took the German title Der Zaubertrank (the Magic Drink). Wagner’s famous Tristan und Isolde was partly inspired by his relationship with Mathilde Wesendonk while …

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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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Pirates of Penzance, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2017

What a pleasure to welcome back Mike Leigh’s Pirates, which played to packed houses on its first run two years ago. Leigh, the director of that 1999 film Topsy-Turvy about Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaboration, retains the hard edge of Gilbert’s genius while not stinting on the colour. Indeed the bold colours and central circle 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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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 …

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La Bohème, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, January 2017

For a touring production with limited scope for elaborate stage designs this is little short of miraculous. Tim Mitchell’s lighting works wonders with the rooftops of Paris, the romance and passion of Act I turning to a scene of paradise after death in Act IV as Mimi lies alone in the Bohemians’ apartment. I loved …

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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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Lulu, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2016

For those who saw this same William Kentridge production in live cinema relay from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the performance on the stage of the London Coliseum is a revelation. Seeing all the action all the time, the mime artists, the subtle animations of charcoal drawings on the printed pages of a dictionary …

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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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Anastasia, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2016

In 1971 when Kenneth MacMillan produced this three-act ballet — following an earlier creation in Berlin of what became the final act — there was still uncertainty about whether the main character had once been Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. Now there is none, but the ballet retains its grip …

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