Tag Archives: John Tomlinson

Hamlet, Glyndebourne, GFO, June 2017

Wow! As a friend remarked at the interval, during this hugely theatrical performance, “we were on the edge of our seats”. How did Australian composer Brett Dean and his librettist Matthew Jocelyn do it? Certainly Neil Armfield’s excellent direction, Jon Clark’s wonderful lighting, and the large set designs by Ralph Myers, which the performers themselves …

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The Exterminating Angel, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

Thomas Adès’ previous opera The Tempest, set on Prospero’s mysterious island, finds a counterpoint here in the ostensibly mundane setting of an elegant dinner party — but all is not as it seems. Both operas feature very high soprano roles, Ariel in the Tempest and three of the ladies in Angel, again with the idea of …

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Pirates of Penzance, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2017

What a pleasure to welcome back Mike Leigh’s Pirates, which played to packed houses on its first run two years ago. Leigh, the director of that 1999 film Topsy-Turvy about Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaboration, retains the hard edge of Gilbert’s genius while not stinting on the colour. Indeed the bold colours and central circle of …

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The Nose, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2016

They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but in this case the final moment is the sneeze, which for a man who lost his nose is the true test of recovery. It all starts with the sound of the wonderful John Tomlinson as the barber sharpening his razor on a leather strap. …

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Oedipe, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2016

After a gestation period of over twenty years, Enescu’s only opera saw its first performance in 1936. Since then it has been a rarity, and despite this interesting production, originally created in 2011 for La Monnaie in Brussels, one sees why. Enescu’s inspiration was Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, considered one of the finest dramas …

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Boris Godunov, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, March 2016

The background to this opera is the reign of Ivan the Terrible, who curbed the power of the boyars and surrounded himself with reliable, talented men such as Boris Godunov, who became regent to the weak-minded Fyodor on Ivan’s death. During the regency, a later son named Dmitri died in slightly mysterious circumstances, and after …

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Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2014

Does Tristan know Isolde intends to kill him with the drink in Act I? No doubt at all in Christof Loy’s production where both of them lie down to die. But though Isolde sings of hatred, the orchestra carries the truth — love — and Mr. Loy, concerned that the emotional content of the stage action …

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Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, May 2014

This extraordinary opera by Arnold Schoenberg remained unfinished at his death in 1951, though he wrote the music for the first two acts already in the period 1930–32. The incompleteness is emphasised by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito’s WNO production (imported from Stuttgart), by beginning and ending both acts without clear boundaries. At the start …

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Wozzeck, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, November 2013

October 2013 is the bicentenary of Georg Büchner, whose play Woyzeck is the basis for Berg’s opera. The play is sparely written, and after a few cuts and slight rearrangement of scenes, Berg produced an opera of striking power and musical invention. It is not an easy task for the singers, with its four different …

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Parsifal, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, August 2013

The Albert Hall was the first venue for a concert performance of Parsifal, at least in England, just two years after the Bayreuth premiere of 1882. At that time copyright protection restricted staged performances to Bayreuth, but who needs a full staging? This 2013 performance with powerful musical direction by Mark Elder, and subtle stage …

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The Minotaur, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, January 2013

The opening night of this revival ended with a tribute to John Tomlinson for 35 years of wonderful service to the ROH — highly appropriate since composer Harrison Birtwistle has said Tomlinson was the key to writing this opera, which had been brewing in his mind for many years. The first scene shows Christine Rice as Ariadne on …

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Götterdämmerung, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

Under Antonio Pappano’s direction the orchestra gave us a lyrical and multi-layered interpretation of Wagner’s score, ranging from soft moments to huge power. After the prologue with the Norns, followed by Brünnhilde and Siegfried, things really opened out in Act I with John Tomlinson as Hagen in the hall of the Gibichungs. He was riveting …

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Die Walküre, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

A pivotal point in Wagner’s Ring is Act II scene 1 in Walküre where Fricka faces her husband Wotan. A strong presence is vital here and Sarah Connolly gave a superb portrayal, avoiding the danger of playing her as overbearing but firmly and gently persuading her husband that he is in serious error. It was beautifully done, and she …

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Der Rosenkavalier, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, January 2012

For those who love this Strauss/Hofmannsthal collaboration, the programme booklet contains an interesting essay by Mike Reynolds, describing the vital contributions by Hofmannsthal’s collaborator, Count Harry Kessler. This well-connected and talented man, who was brought up in France, England and Germany, chose the plot and had a huge influence on its structure and realisation. The …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, December 2011

This was Antonio Pappano’s first Meistersinger for the Royal Opera, and from the start of the overture to the final chords of Act III, more than five hours later, his peerless conducting drove Wagner’s comedy forward with huge effect. The chorus too was excellent, from the first four-part harmony in the church to their final embrace of Sachs …

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Parsifal, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2011

Easter comes late this year but Parsifal is early, and stepping into the warmth of the London Coliseum from a washed-out winter’s day was a treat. As the first bars came out of the orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting showed the clarity and quality Wagner’s music demands, and sent tingles down my spine.

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Die Walküre, La Scala, Milan, December 2010

… here we had a young and glorious Brünnhilde in Nina Stemme.

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The Gambler, Royal Opera, February 2010

In the last two productions I’ve seen … the stage has been darkly lit, in keeping with the coldness and scheming inherent in the story, but this production by … is quite different.

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Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera, October 2009

The orchestra performed with distinction under Antonio Pappano, and the Opera House had put together a superb cast, led by Nina Stemme as Isolde. She was terrific throughout, and in the Liebestod she rose effortlessly above the orchestra

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Don Carlo, Royal Opera, September 2009

Imagine a Christian Taliban in Spain, putting men, women and children in Flanders — all heretics — to the sword.

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