Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne, GFO, July 2017

What a pleasure to see Mariam Clément’s 2013 Festival production revived. On its revolving stage, split into three rooms, we see the charming Dr. Malatesta of Moldovan baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky flitting like a spirit at the start of the performance. Malatesta is the soul of this opera, a Figaro-like character whose deceptions are the essence …

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Lucio Silla, Buxton Festival, BIF, July 2017

In true eighteenth century operatic fashion this presents a conflict between power and love, embodied in Lucio Silla (Lucius Cornelius Sulla) a Roman Consul and dictator during the early first century BC. The plot centres on the faithful love between Giunia and Cecilio, despite Silla’s attempts to win Giunia for himself. Lucio Cinna (Lucius Cornelius …

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Albert Herring, Buxton Festival, July 2017

Its narrow-minded Suffolk village setting makes Benjamin Britten’s only comic opera something of a counterpoint to his Peter Grimes from two years earlier. The plot is based on a Guy de Maupassant short story where the absence of a suitable girl as Rose Queen prompts the village matriarch to crown a Rose King, who then …

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Macbeth, Buxton Festival, July 2017

Last year the Buxton Festival put on a very successful Leonora, rather than its later version Fidelio, and this year sees the original 1847 version of Verdi’s Macbeth. Its directness and freshness are illuminated by Elijah Moshinsky’s minimal, darkly-lit, and very effective staging with excellent movement conveying the powers of hell embodied in the witches, …

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Die Walküre, Grange Park Opera, GPO, West Horsley Place, July 2017

The recent tendency to set operas in the period leading up to the first world war seems to inspire this production by Stephen Medcalf. The Valkyries are in spiked helmets, Wotan is a general, and we are in a grand house furnished with varying collections of such things as butterflies and daggers. In addition to …

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Mitridate, re di Ponto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

If beautiful singing and eighteenth century stage spectacle appeals, then Graham Vick’s production of this early Mozart opera, in Paul Brown’s bold designs and gloriously elaborate costumes, certainly hits the spot. The title character, Mithridates VI reigned as king of Pontus, a region comprising much of northern Anatolia and coastal areas of the Black Sea, …

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Jenufa, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

Czech verismo with attendant Central European melancholy, this carries quite a punch. There are four principal characters, Jenufa who is pregnant by Števa, her step-mother the Kostelnička (church sexton), and Števa’s half-brother Laca who adores Jenufa, but jealously cuts her face, disfiguring her. She adores Števa but he rejects her, and Laca is horrified by …

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Tosca, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

Grange Park Opera’s new theatre is a small miracle. Built in under a year, the acoustics of this mini La Scala with its four tiers of seats in a horseshoe-shaped auditorium, allowed conductor Gianluca Marcianò with the BBC Concert Orchestra to deliver a full-blooded account of Puccini’s masterpiece in the Surrey countryside. Full-bloodied too in …

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Otello, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

Putting Shakespeare on stage demands theatricality, which Keith Warner’s new production delivers right at the start with Iago spotlighted on a dark stage, an image repeated at the start of Act III with Otello himself. The massive ship in Act I, and actors creating merry havoc in the fight that Iago provokes between Cassio and …

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Tosca, Nevill Holt Opera, NHO, June 2017

This year’s Tosca at Nevill Holt produced by Oliver Mears, an intelligent director who clearly cares about the music, augurs well for his new appointment as artistic director of the Royal Opera. The setting, the troubled Italy of the 1970s when anti-establishment forces such as the Red Brigades were causing havoc, developed from an original …

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