From the House of the Dead, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2017

Hugely powerful and strangely life affirming. Janáček’s opera on Dostoyevsky’s novel about convicts in a Siberian prison camp might seem unpromising material, but the composer was a master at turning stories into dramatic masterpieces and this — his final opera — is extraordinary. Composed on hand written staves that did not always extend to a …

Read more >


Barber of Seville, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Oct 2017

This truly wonderful production by Jonathan Miller, now in its thirteenth revival, is a star in the ENO firmament, and a friend seeing it for the first time was bowled over by the costumes, sets and lighting. Under revival director Peter Relton, whose Tosca launched the new Grange Park opera this past summer, it looks …

Read more >


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 >


Khovanshchina, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2017

This great opera portrays late seventeenth century events in Russia before Peter the Great came to power. Musorgsky, who wrote his own libretto, invents some love interest, notably in the character of Marfa, though the true historical background and exigencies of getting operas to stage are well described in the excellent programme essays, which also …

Read more >


La Bohème, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2017

Forget the fine new production for a moment – this was a fantastic performance. The musical dynamics of Antonio Pappano’s conducting allowed Puccini’s score to express itself in every note. His consummate musical direction supported a gripping performance by Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo, with a sweetly sung yet hugely powerful Mimi by Nicole Car, both …

Read more >


La Clemenza di Tito, BBC Prom 59, Royal Albert Hall, RAH, August 2017

Hearing the overture without the stage trickery of the Glyndebourne production allowed us to fully appreciate the glorious dramatic intensity and lightness of spirit given to Mozart’s music by Robin Ticciati and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The absence of efforts at contemporary relevance by a director — one of the joys of …

Read more >


The Damnation of Faust, BBC Prom 31, Royal Albert Hall, RAH, August 2017

Opera at the Proms is one of the glories of the summer season, allowing music and singers to communicate directly, with no director’s vision getting in the way. Two nights ago, Khovanshchina helped lay bare the soul of Russia, and now Berlioz’s magnificent musical evocation on the Faust myth, where the brilliant scholar veers into …

Read more >


Khovanshchina, BBC Prom 29, Royal Albert Hall, RAH, August 2017

As an old opera buff once told me, anyone confused by the story line in Khovanshchina should simply treat it as a series of tableaux — wise advice since Mussorgsky telescoped the history of three different uprisings onto a massive musical canvas painted with emotional confrontations, religious fundamentalism, human ambition and a struggle for the …

Read more >


Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, July 2017

In Wagner’s final and most abstract opera, Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s superb production sets the mystical land of the Grail in the Middle East. The exact location appears fleetingly on a map during the Act 1 journey to the Grail ceremony where Gurnemanz explains that space and time become one, which they do at the speed …

Read more >


Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth Festival, July 2017

At the end of Petra Lang’s beautifully sung Liebestod following her glorious performance of Isolde, a loud lonely boo broke the magic of this sublimely sung performance under the baton of Christian Thielemann. This was no criticism of Ms Lang nor Mr Thielemann, but a clearly premeditated, and hugely ill-mannered, expression of one person’s anger …

Read more >