Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, December 2018

Tchaikovsky’s final ballet contains some of his most glorious music, but you wouldn’t know it from this dull and occasionally too forceful rendering of the score conducted by Barry Wordsworth. A pity too because the dancing was superb. As Clara, Anna Rose O’Sullivan was full of lightness and youthful wonder, with beautiful arm movements, and …

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La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2018

Thank goodness for this fourth revival of Jonathan Miller’s staging, replacing the ill-advised new production of 2015 where the ‘Bohemians’ were druggies shooting up on a brightly lit stage. Isabella Bywater’s excellent sets and Jean Kalman’s dark lighting recall a time when life hung by a more slender thread, candles lit up intimate surroundings, and …

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Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2018

Wow! Superb playing from the orchestra under the baton of Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, one time music director of the Komische Oper Berlin. His command of the musical forces exhibits wonderfully restrained power, just like his conducting of Salome in January this year. It allows the orchestra to swell with emotion, as in the glorious father/ …

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Lucia di Lammermoor, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2018

This 2008 production by David Alden expresses the idea that the Ashton family’s dour Calvinist attitudes have arrested the emotional development of their leader Enrico. He plays with his toys at one point, and even embraces his sister Lucia in a lecherous manner. There is much to be said for this psychological approach, but the …

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Der Ring des Nibelungen, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2018

Keith Warner’s production of the Ring  alludes to connections with modern physics: in Rheingold  the tarnhelm deforms the gridlines of Cartesian space to the curved space-time of Einstein’s General Relativity, and in Götterdämmerung,  Siegfried’s Rhine journey traverses both space and time. In Siegfried  Act 1, Mime adds mathematical symbols to those already written and in …

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War and Peace, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2018

With the recent shenanigans of Russia’s not-so-secret security services, this opera gives form to the history that partly underpins the current regime’s paranoia. Tolstoy’s vast War and Peace, embracing the defeat of Napoleon’s 1812 invasion, expresses the soul of Russia, and Prokofiev’s monumental opera acquired new impetus from the German invasion of 1941. Stalin was keen …

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Vanessa, Glyndebourne, August 2018

Appreciation of a previously unknown opera can be helped enormously by the staging, and Keith Warner’s production evokes the mystery and repressed sensuality of this intriguing work by Samuel Barber. The story is that Vanessa, living with her mother the Baroness, and her niece Erika (possibly her daughter?), awaits the return of her one-time lover …

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Lohengrin, Bayreuth Festival, July 2018

This is a copy of my review in the Sunday Telegraph on 29th July 2018. The Wagner Festival in Bayreuth dates from 1876 when the composer’s extraordinary new opera house, with its recessed orchestra pit invisible to the audience, hosted the first complete performance of his four-part Ring cycle. After Wagner died in 1883, his …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

In this revival of last year’s successful new Meistersinger director Barrie Kosky there seems to an excess of stage farce that rather weakens the overall effect. Too much mockery is expended on Beckmesser, rendering him not just a klutz but a pathetic creature shuffling over to Eva on his knees in Act 3 as his prize …

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Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

Parsifal in Bayreuth is one of opera’s great experiences. It is also the location of its first performance in 1882 where the marvellous acoustic of the Festspielhaus welcomes the huge dynamic range that this ‘sacred festival drama’ embodies. A thirty-year moratorium forbade stage performances elsewhere until the end of 1913, though the Royal Albert Hall hosted …

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