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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Der Ring des Nibelungen, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2018

Keith Warner’s production of the Ring  alludes to connections with modern physics: in Rheingold  the tarnhelm deforms the gridlines of Cartesian space to the curved space-time of Einstein’s General Relativity, and in Götterdämmerung,  Siegfried’s Rhine journey traverses both space and time. In Siegfried  Act 1, Mime adds mathematical symbols to those already written and in …

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War and Peace, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2018

With the recent shenanigans of Russia’s not-so-secret security services, this opera gives form to the history that partly underpins the current regime’s paranoia. Tolstoy’s vast War and Peace, embracing the defeat of Napoleon’s 1812 invasion, expresses the soul of Russia, and Prokofiev’s monumental opera acquired new impetus from the German invasion of 1941. Stalin was keen …

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