Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

In this beautiful and perennially popular Peter Wright production, Drosselmeyer appears in his workshop at the start, gazing at a portrait of his nephew Hans-Peter, now maliciously trapped inside the Nutcracker Doll. To escape he must slay the Mouse King, which becomes a turning point when Clara clobbers the monster with her shoe, and in …

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Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2017

When Leoncavallo wrote Pagliacci he had in mind the brilliant success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana — written to win a prize competition — and in this production of the double bill, director Damiano Michieletto cleverly combines the two operas. The travelling players of Pagliacci appear in the village where Cavalleria Rusticana takes place, and in …

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Semiramide, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2017

For a Rossini work not staged by the Royal Opera in over 150 years this revival may seem a brave move, but Antonio Pappano in the orchestra pit and the superb cast of singers made it a musical treat. Even better than the excellent BBC Proms concert performance of 2016, which featured two of the …

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Marnie, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2017

From a powerful start with timpani and clashing chords, illustrating the energy and activity of a busy office, this opera opens out into thriller. As Marnie steals and steals again, giving money to her crabby mother to assuage some mysterious guilt, you wonder what next for this strangely self-absorbed young woman, and as a friend …

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Rodelinda, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2017

The libretto for Handel’s Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi (queen of the longbeards, or Lombards) was written by the remarkable Nicola Francesca Haym, musician, theatre manager, performer, and even numismatist who wrote the first work on the ancient coins in the British Museum. Its huge clarity, particularly in Amanda Holden’s excellent translation, brings to life a …

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From the House of the Dead, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2017

Hugely powerful and strangely life affirming. Janáček’s opera on Dostoyevsky’s novel about convicts in a Siberian prison camp might seem unpromising material, but the composer was a master at turning stories into dramatic masterpieces and this — his final opera — is extraordinary. Composed on hand written staves that did not always extend to a …

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Barber of Seville, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Oct 2017

This truly wonderful production by Jonathan Miller, now in its thirteenth revival, is a star in the ENO firmament, and a friend seeing it for the first time was bowled over by the costumes, sets and lighting. Under revival director Peter Relton, whose Tosca launched the new Grange Park opera this past summer, it looks …

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Aida, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Sept 2017

This brand new Aida from Phelim McDermott, whose stunning Akhnaten for the ENO in 2016 won the Olivier Award earlier this year, showed once again some spectacular theatre aided by the Improbable company. It all started with great subtlety as the curtain peeped open, at first showing just a small triangle of light at the …

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Khovanshchina, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2017

This great opera portrays late seventeenth century events in Russia before Peter the Great came to power. Musorgsky, who wrote his own libretto, invents some love interest, notably in the character of Marfa, though the true historical background and exigencies of getting operas to stage are well described in the excellent programme essays, which also …

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La Bohème, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2017

Forget the fine new production for a moment – this was a fantastic performance. The musical dynamics of Antonio Pappano’s conducting allowed Puccini’s score to express itself in every note. His consummate musical direction supported a gripping performance by Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo, with a sweetly sung yet hugely powerful Mimi by Nicole Car, both …

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