The Exterminating Angel, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

Thomas Adès’ previous opera The Tempest, set on Prospero’s mysterious island, finds a counterpoint here in the ostensibly mundane setting of an elegant dinner party — but all is not as it seems. Both operas feature a very high soprano role, Ariel in the Tempest and the invited opera singer Leticia in Angel, again with …

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Die Frau ohne Schatten, Staatsoper Berlin, Festtage, Schiller Theater, April 2017

This marvellous Claus Guth production, first staged at La Scala in 2012, and at Covent Garden three years ago, has now found its way to Berlin under the baton of Zubin Mehta, who produced a terrific performance of Richard Strauss’s score, with its combination of gentle chamber episodes with mighty moments of emotional transformation. Despite …

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Parsifal, Staatsoper Berlin, Festtage, Schiller Theater, April 2017

This year’s Festival opened with a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic under Barenboim: Mozart’s Haffner and Jupiter symphonies were given powerful lyricism, and Schönberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 wonderful chromatic pulsation. To follow this, Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle fully brought out the emotional depths of Wagner’s Parsifal in Dmitri Tcherniakov’s intriguing production from the …

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Jewels, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

On the back of the cast list is an ad for jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels, who though failing to bankroll Balanchine’s original production, are delighted to have their name associated with the eventual result: Emeralds to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande; Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra; and Diamonds to …

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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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