Billy Budd, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, April 2019

A hugely moving performance of Deborah Warner’s new production under the baton of Ivor Bolton, with Toby Spence superb as Captain Vere, with Brindley Sherratt a vivid Claggart, and Jacques Imbrailo conveying the fatal charm and blinding honesty of Billy himself. See my review in The Article.

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Faust, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, April 2019

Sensational performance by Michael Fabiano as Faust, with devilishly seductive Erwin Schrott as Mephistophélès, and Mandy Fredrich making a fine ROH debut as Marguerite. She replaced Irina Lungu (fever and sore throat), who in turn replaced Diana Damrau (slipped disc), arriving just in time by taxi from the airport. Superb conducting by Dan Ettinger. See …

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La forza del destino, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2019

Wonderful casts for this Christof Loy production of Verdi’s Forza, plus terrific conducting by Pappano make this essential viewing, though tickets are in short supply and one pair was reportedly sold for £7,000. See my review in The Article

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Libuše, UCOpera, University College, UCL, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2019

The wise Libuše, mythical founder of the Czech people, is the subject of this ‘festival’ opera that Smetana originally composed for the planned coronation of Austrian emperor Franz-Joseph as King of Bohemia in the early 1870s. That never happened, so he saved it for the opening of the National Theatre in Prague in 1881. Apart …

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Magic Flute, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, March 2019

This is Singspiel — as it should be — eliciting spontaneous applause at some of the more theatrical moments in Simon McBurney’s excellent production. Now in its third run it blurs the lines between stage and auditorium, refreshing Mozart’s Magic Flute  and keeping the audience fully engaged from beginning to end. Both Acts start informally …

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The Merry Widow, English National Opera, London Coliseum, March 2019

The opening night of this new production lacked the snap, crackle and pop of Lehár’s music. Yet when the conductor left the orchestra pit to join in the curtain calls, the orchestra continued under a more energetic conductor, and the music suddenly showed the pizzazz it had lacked earlier. On the other hand, Max Webster’s production …

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Akhnaten, English National Opera, London Coliseum, February 2019

Egypt, eighteenth dynasty: this starts with the laying to rest of Amenhotep III, and ends with his grandson Tutankhamun receiving the regalia of office before stepping into his inheritance. In the meantime, Tutankhamun’s father Amenhotep IV temporarily overturned the Egyptian religion with his monotheistic cult of the Aten (the sun disc), which he personally sanctified …

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Un ballo in maschera, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, February 2019

With the Prince of Wales in attendance at David Pountney’s new production of Ballo, would it be the original late eighteenth century setting with the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, or America with no regicide and Riccardo as Governor of Boston? In the event it was neither, more nineteenth century Gothick with a …

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Katya Kabanova, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2019

Janaček’s emotionally intense opera has been given an illuminating new production by Richard Jones, with American soprano Amanda Majeski using her vocal power and wonderful purity of tone to give a beautifully sensitive and sympathetic performance in the title role. Superb conducting by Edward Gardner — see my five-star review in The Article.

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Queen of Spades, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2019

Pushkin’s original story deals with a man obsessed by gambling; in Tchaikovsky’s hands it acquires a love interest as he falls for Liza, while using her as a means for gaining access to the Countess, who once acquired a secret of how to win at faro (a card game). Sadly, Stefan Herheim’s production gums things …

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