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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Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, December 2018

Tchaikovsky’s final ballet contains some of his most glorious music, but you wouldn’t know it from this dull and occasionally too forceful rendering of the score conducted by Barry Wordsworth. A pity too because the dancing was superb. As Clara, Anna Rose O’Sullivan was full of lightness and youthful wonder, with beautiful arm movements, and …

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La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2018

Thank goodness for this fourth revival of Jonathan Miller’s staging, replacing the ill-advised new production of 2015 where the ‘Bohemians’ were druggies shooting up on a brightly lit stage. Isabella Bywater’s excellent sets and Jean Kalman’s dark lighting recall a time when life hung by a more slender thread, candles lit up intimate surroundings, and …

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Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2018

Wow! Superb playing from the orchestra under the baton of Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, one time music director of the Komische Oper Berlin. His command of the musical forces exhibits wonderfully restrained power, just like his conducting of Salome in January this year. It allows the orchestra to swell with emotion, as in the glorious father/ …

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Lucia di Lammermoor, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2018

This 2008 production by David Alden expresses the idea that the Ashton family’s dour Calvinist attitudes have arrested the emotional development of their leader Enrico. He plays with his toys at one point, and even embraces his sister Lucia in a lecherous manner. There is much to be said for this psychological approach, but the …

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