Satyagraha, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, February 2018

Non-violence — is there a positive word for it? In creating a proactive term for non-violence in action Gandhi invented satyagraha from two Sanskrit roots, satya meaning truth, and agraha meaning holding on to. It is the underlying theme for the three acts of this opera, representing past, present and future, but standing outside time …

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Tosca, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2018

From the ringing tones of his Recondita armonia in early Act I to the passion and pathos of E lucevan le stelle in a last cry to life and love, this was Joseph Calleja’s night. His Cavaradossi was the shining highlight of opening night in this revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production. Calleja’s interactions with …

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The Return of Ulysses, Royal Opera, Roundhouse, January 2018

This new production, some might say semi-staging, by John Fulljames gives space to the singers but the theatricality that Monteverdi brought to his stage works has gone missing. The dull costumes fail to express the essence of the characters, and make little distinction between gods and mortals, but Paule Constable’s lighting is magical. The action …

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Salome, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2018

This third revival of David McVicar’s production sees subtle changes in Salome’s dance. She engages in a more sensuous interaction with Herod, without the rag doll she used previously, but it suited the conducting of Henrik Nánási, more lyrical than lecherous at this point, while the restrained power he produced from the orchestra drove Strauss’s …

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Rigoletto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

If you can get past the wanton incoherence of the first scene in David McVicar’s darkly seedy production, this was a performance — dedicated to the late, much-missed Dmitri Hvorostovsky — of huge power and pathos. A philanderer and serial sex offender enjoying unlimited power molests numerous young women, inspiring shame and anger among their …

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Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

In this beautiful and perennially popular Peter Wright production, Drosselmeyer appears in his workshop at the start, gazing at a portrait of his nephew Hans-Peter, now maliciously trapped inside the Nutcracker Doll. To escape he must slay the Mouse King, which becomes a turning point when Clara clobbers the monster with her shoe, and in …

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Cavalleria Rusticana/ Pagliacci, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

When Leoncavallo wrote Pagliacci he had in mind the brilliant success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana — written to win a prize competition — and in this production of the double bill, director Damiano Michieletto cleverly combines the two operas. The travelling players of Pagliacci appear in the village where Cavalleria Rusticana takes place, and in …

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Semiramide, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2017

For a Rossini work not staged by the Royal Opera in over 150 years this revival may seem a brave move, but Antonio Pappano in the orchestra pit and the superb cast of singers made it a musical treat. Even better than the excellent BBC Proms concert performance of 2016, which featured two of the …

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Marnie, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2017

From a powerful start with timpani and clashing chords, illustrating the energy and activity of a busy office, this opera opens out into thriller. As Marnie steals and steals again, giving money to her crabby mother to assuage some mysterious guilt, you wonder what next for this strangely self-absorbed young woman, and as a friend …

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Rodelinda, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2017

The libretto for Handel’s Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi (queen of the longbeards, or Lombards) was written by the remarkable Nicola Francesca Haym, musician, theatre manager, performer, and even numismatist who wrote the first work on the ancient coins in the British Museum. Its huge clarity, particularly in Amanda Holden’s excellent translation, brings to life a …

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