Lohengrin, Royal Opera, April 2022

In May 1849 after completing Lohengrin, Wagner was on the barricades with the rebels, at least according to his own account, but when Prussian troops arrived he moved to Switzerland. Like the master, his hero Lohengrin, having saved Elsa from certain death, declines to lead the troops into battle, and moves home to the Knights …

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Concert for Ukraine, Royal Opera House, April 2022

Congratulations to the Royal Opera House for this wonderfully emotional concert for Ukraine. As music director Antonio Pappano said in his introduction this is not a denigration of Russian culture, but an expression of sympathy with Ukrainian people, suffering under a Russian invasion, and the musical selections were carefully chosen to fit this — see …

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The Handmaid’s Tale, English National Opera, April 2022

This dystopian view of a 21st century ‘Republic of Gilead’ in America dominated by religious zealots is set to music by Danish composer Poul Ruders that seems to get lost in its own details. It is more a slightly muddled fable on the emptiness of totalitarianism than an opera, and lacks a clear narrative thread. …

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Peter Grimes, Royal Opera, March 2022

In her new production of Peter Grimes Deborah Warner brought the setting up to date with detritus on the beach and yobbos threatening Ellen Orford. As Grimes himself Allan Clayton was outstanding, rough and ready but with mental issues in Warner’s sympathetic portrayal. Excellent contributions from Bryn Terfel as Captain Balstrode, and John Tomlinson as Swallow …

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Jenufa, Welsh National Opera, March 2022

Janaček’s music elevates this tragic to a gripping intensity, given terrific effect under the baton of WNO’s music director Tomaš Hanus, who is Czech, and in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine he spoke to the audience before the performance  saying, “Let’s play today for humanity”. The orchestra responded with huge emotion and energy, …

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Don Giovanni, Welsh National Opera, WNO, February 2022

Welsh National Opera revived their excellent 2011 staging with a cast whose vocal abilities superbly matched the needs of Mozart’s opera. It was as near perfect a performance as one could wish in a production that eschewed over-clever ideas, and was well worth the trip to Cardiff — my review in The Article.

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Swan Lake, Royal Ballet, March 2022

In the Royal Ballet’s 2018 production of Swan Lake the evil Von Rothbart appears in two guises, one as the sorcerer who has turned young maidens into swans, the other at court as the queen’s confidant, looking very much like a younger version of Vladimir Putin. This invites comparisons with Russian history — see my review …

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Cunning Little Vixen, English National Opera, February 2022

Wonderful energy from the children, as various animals and woodland mushrooms, gave colour to an otherwise dull production, set in a wood yard. Some excellent singing from the Vixen, the Fox, and the humans who live in a far more circumscribed world than the animals. My review in The Article.

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La Bohème, English National Opera, Feb 2022

This welcome revival of Jonathan Miller’s production featured a cast headed by the powerful and lyrical singing of Irish soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace as Mimi. She will surely take on heavier roles as her career develops, but her beloved Rodolfo (David Junghoon Kim) was not as consistent — see my review in The Article.

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Theodora, Royal Opera, January 2022

Handel, considered this his finest oratorio though it flopped with the public, but in Katie Mitchell’s new staging it was sublimely musical, and the performance compelling. Handel’s operas tend to be a sequence of recitatives and arias, but his oratorios have a far weightier role for the chorus, as in some modern operas — my review …

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