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 …

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Royal Ballet Triple: The Human Seasons/ After the Rain/ Flight Pattern, ROH, March 2017

This wonderful triple bill of modern ballets sees revivals of two very successful works and a new ballet by Crystal Pite, all superbly conducted by Koen Kessels. First came David Dawson’s Human Seasons, inspired by Keats’s poem that refers to human life in terms of its spring, summer, autumn and winter. Dawson refers to a …

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Partenope, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, March 2017

When this Handel opera first opened in London in 1730 it came as something of a surprise from a composer known for his serious opera (opera seria). Despite a structure that follows that form however, its romantic complications and gender confusion make for a light-hearted comedy. Partenope, the founder of Naples in classical legend, appears …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, March 2017

As the Royal Opera and Kasper Holten part company, this is his last throw of the dice. Like many continental European directors he delivers us a ‘concept’, and in the first two acts I was puzzled to know why it necessitated the abandoning of the church, Sach’s house, Pogner’s house, and the street. Act I …

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Patience, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2017

What fun! Just the ticket for an evening out, and Liam Steel’s witty production makes this a fine riposte to the absurdities and pretentions of modern life. Of course, Gilbert’s libretto is poking fun at the sophistry and ‘art for art’s sake’ attitude that infected the Victorian aesthetic movement, personified here by Reginald Bunthorne. He …

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Tosca, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2017

Opening night was a complete sell-out, justifiably so. Not only is this one of the great operas, but in Paula Sides the ETO produced a superb heroine, clothing her in a glorious green silk dress that would not shame a Vermeer painting. The simple sets include all the essentials, and the separate desk and small …

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The Winter’s Tale, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2017

Nearly three years ago the Royal Ballet put Winter’s Tale on the ballet stage, and now it’s the opera’s turn. In a remarkable compression of Shakespeare’s five acts to an hour and forty minutes of music and drama, composer Ryan Wigglesworth has created a score that moves from the sparest flicker of passing time to …

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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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