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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Vanessa, Glyndebourne, August 2018

Appreciation of a previously unknown opera can be helped enormously by the staging, and Keith Warner’s production evokes the mystery and repressed sensuality of this intriguing work by Samuel Barber. The story is that Vanessa, living with her mother the Baroness, and her niece Erika (possibly her daughter?), awaits the return of her one-time lover …

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Lohengrin, Bayreuth Festival, July 2018

This is a copy of my review in the Sunday Telegraph on 29th July 2018. The Wagner Festival in Bayreuth dates from 1876 when the composer’s extraordinary new opera house, with its recessed orchestra pit invisible to the audience, hosted the first complete performance of his four-part Ring cycle. After Wagner died in 1883, his …

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

In this revival of last year’s successful new Meistersinger director Barrie Kosky there seems to an excess of stage farce that rather weakens the overall effect. Too much mockery is expended on Beckmesser, rendering him not just a klutz but a pathetic creature shuffling over to Eva on his knees in Act 3 as his prize …

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Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuther Festspiele, July 2018

Parsifal in Bayreuth is one of opera’s great experiences. It is also the location of its first performance in 1882 where the marvellous acoustic of the Festspielhaus welcomes the huge dynamic range that this ‘sacred festival drama’ embodies. A thirty-year moratorium forbade stage performances elsewhere until the end of 1913, though the Royal Albert Hall hosted …

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Isabeau, Opera Holland Park, July 2018

Italian composer Pietro Mascagni never repeated the huge success of Cavalleria Rusticana, his first opera written at age 26, but he had a jolly good try — see my Telegraph review on 15 July 2018.

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2018

This remarkable opera by Richard Strauss has become flavour of the month with productions at both Longborough and Opera Holland Park. Its brilliant libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal juxtaposes a young composer’s new opera on the plight of Ariadne with a commedia dell’arte  entertainment, both to be performed for guests at the house of one …

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, July 2018

One of Richard Strauss’s greatest works, with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, this juxtaposes a young composer’s new opera on the plight of Ariadne with a commedia dell’arte  entertainment, both to be performed for guests at the house of one of the super-rich. In the opera story Ariadne has absconded with Theseus, after helping …

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Pushkin, Grange Park Opera, GPO, July 2018

Wow! This was the best thing so far this summer, and the audience acknowledged so with a standing ovation. Well deserved indeed, for it does what opera is supposed to do — engage the audience in an emotional experience rather than an intellectual exercise, which however cleverly contrived does not make one want to rush …

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Idomeneo, Buxton Festival, July 2018

To understand the link from Handel’s opera seria to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a key work that tackles Greek drama with knowing psychological insight. This sensible production by Stephen Medcalf gives clarity to the story, allowing the music to speak for itself and enhancing the theatrical aspects with a chorus performing …

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