The Makropulos Affair, Welsh National Opera, September 2022

A centuries-old lady retains her youth and beauty thanks to an elixir. In Karel Čapek’s story, the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II — notorious for his patronage of the occult — asked his alchemists to create a potion that would confer an additional 300 years of life. He was told to try it out on his sixteen …

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Salome, Royal Opera, September 2022

Based on Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play Salomé, this opera uses the nexus of eroticism and death to dramatise proto-Christian ideas in the Holy Land. Its main protagonists are the anti-heroine Salome and John the Baptist whose head she demands on a platter. Conducting by Alexander Soddy fully brought out the drama, sexuality and passion of …

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Der Ring des Nibelungen, Bayreuth, August 2022

To say that this new Ring at Bayreuth never quite settles down is to put things politely. The young director Valentin Schwarz has lots of ideas, but they never really gel. There is no coherent vision bringing them all together. To put it bluntly his efforts are a failure — see my review in The Article.

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Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Bayreuth, Aug 2022

No gold. No Ring. This new production at Bayreuth has offended almost everyone, but contains interesting ideas while departing from Wagner’s story in many ways. For example it is not Hunding who kills Siegmund, but Wotan himself. Sieglinde is already pregnant when Siegmund encounters her. Oh, and Wotan and Alberich are twin brothers! My review …

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Little Women, Opera Holland Park, July 2022

Louisa May Alcott’s iconic novel Little Women is now an opera. American composer Mark Adamo has created the music and libretto for this story of four sisters in New England during the American civil-war era. It’s a remarkable achievement that enjoyed immediate success at its premiere in 1998 at Houston Grand Opera. My review in …

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Margot la Rouge, Le Villi, Opera Holland Park, July 2022

An evening of Italian verismo at Opera Holland Park provided a very effective production of two little known works. The first half featured Margot la Rouge an opera by Delius, not normally thought of as composing for this genre, and the second half of the evening included Puccini’s first stage work Le Villi. See my review in …

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Gypsy, La Donna del Lago, and Viva la Diva, Buxton Festival, July 2022

The Buxton Festival got off to a cracking start with the musical Gypsy to lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The following nights saw operas by Rossini and Donizetti. Rossini’s La Donna del Lago was beautifully sung, but in a very odd staging. The Donizetti was an operatic farce turned into third-rate Monty Python. See my reviews …

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Rusalka, Garsington, July 2022

Water is the source of life, yet for the Prince in Dvořák’s remarkable opera Rusalka it leads to death. The natural world he has encountered only when out hunting does not fulfil his needs, and this lost soul is drawn to the lake with its mysterious yet vibrant life. See my review in The Article.

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Macbeth, Grange Festival, June 2022

What a wonderful production, simple, bewitching and highly effective. The use of dancers helped the atmosphere (unlike their use in many productions), dark and menacing. Brilliantly conducted by young Italian conductor Francesco Cilluffo who gave this relatively early Verdi the energy it deserves. My review in The Article.

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Die Tote Stadt, Longborough, June 2022

In 1920, two years after the First World War, Europe was dealing with loss, and an ex-child prodigy, now 23, wrote an opera dealing with devastating loss. Unlike the novel Bruges-la-Morte on which it was based Die Tote Stadt has an ending that allows the protagonist the chance of recovery. This widower Paul lives in Bruges among the relics …

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