Polyeucte, UC Opera, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, March 2018

Every year UCL produces a little known operatic gem and this time it was the turn of Gounod’s Polyeucte, not previously staged in the UK. The story, based on a play of the same name by the 17th century playwright Pierre Corneille, was the basis for Donizetti’s Poliuto, later turned into a French opera as …

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La Traviata, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, March 2018

Mirrors and bright lights in the party scenes contrast with the tranquillity of a country garden in early Act II and the bleak feeling of a cemetery where Violetta digs her own grave in Act III. With designs ranging from fin de siècle Paris to the glitter of modern Las Vegas, Daniel Kramer in his …

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From the House of the Dead, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, March 2018

Is the Royal Opera losing the plot? The recent staging of Carmen included narrative not in the libretto, and was very badly received. Now they have done it again. Janáček’s final opera on Dostoyevsky’s novel about convicts in a Siberian prison camp is a marvellous work. The composer was a genius at reworking theatrical and …

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Midsummer Night’s Dream, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, March 2018

Christopher Alden’s previous production, dragged down by its undertow of sexual abuse, has been abandoned and English National Opera has put the fairy magic back into Britten’s opera by returning to the earlier Robert Carson staging, last seen here in 2004. The result brings joy to the heart as the blundering Puck of Miltos Yerolemou …

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Iolanthe, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2018

“A group of bombastic fairies going into battle with all these silly old buggers from the House of Lords” says director Cal McCrystal “… joyful and fun, with a hint of satirical steel”. McCrystal has a knack, a brilliant knack, of knowing what makes an audience laugh, never more so than in the Act II …

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La Forza del destino, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2018

Fate, personified by a tall, elegant, funereal character, strikes the stage with a staff at the very start of this production, and after the Marquis of Calatrava’s accidental death the blood on the wall is a constant reminder to his daughter Leonora and her lover Don Alvaro of their inability to be reconciled with him …

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Carmen, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2018

Carmen as a musical is what the first part (Acts 1 and 2) felt like, but a musical needs better dance sequences, and the choreography was ineffective. Yet Barrie Kosky, whose production of Shostakovich’s Nose appeared at Covent Garden in late 2016, is ever a theatrical innovator. The orchestra starts without warning as the proscenium …

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Satyagraha, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2018

Non-violence — is there a positive word for it? In creating a proactive term for non-violence in action Gandhi invented satyagraha from two Sanskrit roots, satya meaning truth, and agraha meaning holding on to. It is the underlying theme for the three acts of this opera, representing past, present and future, but standing outside time …

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Tosca, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2018

From the ringing tones of his Recondita armonia in early Act I to the passion and pathos of E lucevan le stelle in a last cry to life and love, this was Joseph Calleja’s night. His Cavaradossi was the shining highlight of opening night in this revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production. Calleja’s interactions with …

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The Return of Ulysses, Royal Opera, Roundhouse, January 2018

This new production, some might say semi-staging, by John Fulljames gives space to the singers but the theatricality that Monteverdi brought to his stage works has gone missing. The dull costumes fail to express the essence of the characters, and make little distinction between gods and mortals, but Paule Constable’s lighting is magical. The action …

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