It’s a Wonderful Life, English National Opera, November 2022

Have you ever wished you’d never been born? Perhaps not, but if you spent your life helping others and found yourself liable to be arrested as a criminal for the careless errors, and even mendacity, of others, you might be tempted. Such is the situation for George in Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life. …

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The Rape of Lucretia, Royal Opera, Linbury Studio, November 2022

Tradition holds that the Rape of Lucretia is the event separating the kings of Rome from the later Roman Republic. According to Livy, Lucretia personified “beauty and purity,” and exemplified the highest Roman standards, and while her husband was away at battle, she would stay home and pray for his safe return. In the meantime the …

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The Yeomen of the Guard

This Yeomen of the Guard was huge fun. Gone are the days when the English National Opera wanted to be at the vanguard of companies creating new and sometimes absurd twists on much loved operas. That has disappeared, at least for now, and sensible stagings are the order of the day. See my review in The …

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Gods of the Game

Football — at the opera? Indeed, and the charming location of Grange Park Opera in Surrey was the venue for staging an energetic football opera that attracted a family audience, including children. Gods of the Game features the world’s first football fan chorus — real football fans from Newcastle to West Ham were given a crash …

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Mayerling, Royal Ballet, October 2022

On 30 January 1889 Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria died in a suicide pact with Baroness Mary Vetsera at the Mayerling hunting lodge, some 15 miles outside Vienna. He was thirty years old. In the late 1970s Kenneth Macmillan created a ballet with a score by John Lanchbery dealing with the historical incidents leading up to …

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Tosca, English National Opera, Sept 2022

As a musical performance of Tosca this was simply wonderful. The opera is straightforward to stage, requiring only three sets: the interior of a large church, a substantial apartment (Scarpia’s) in the vast Farnese Palace, and the upper parts of the Castel Sant’Angelo, all in Rome. This new production for the English National Opera — …

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Aida, Royal Opera, September 2022

In 1869 Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt built an opera house in Cairo — the first in Africa. It opened with a successful performance of Rigoletto, but the Khedive — the title meant Viceroy within the Ottoman Empire— was keen to impress the world even more by presenting a new Verdi opera. My review …

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The Makropulos Affair, Welsh National Opera, September 2022

A centuries-old lady retains her youth and beauty thanks to an elixir. In Karel Čapek’s story, the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II — notorious for his patronage of the occult — asked his alchemists to create a potion that would confer an additional 300 years of life. He was told to try it out on his sixteen …

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Salome, Royal Opera, September 2022

Based on Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play Salomé, this opera uses the nexus of eroticism and death to dramatise proto-Christian ideas in the Holy Land. Its main protagonists are the anti-heroine Salome and John the Baptist whose head she demands on a platter. Conducting by Alexander Soddy fully brought out the drama, sexuality and passion of …

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Der Ring des Nibelungen, Bayreuth, August 2022

To say that this new Ring at Bayreuth never quite settles down is to put things politely. The young director Valentin Schwarz has lots of ideas, but they never really gel. There is no coherent vision bringing them all together. To put it bluntly his efforts are a failure — see my review in The Article.

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