Otello, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

In this David Alden production the opera’s title might almost be Iago, the name it was given in its early creation since there was already an Otello by Rossini. Simon Keenlyside’s Iago is very much the dark star, seen at the beginning of each act, half hidden by the curtain. At the end he sits in the …

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La Gioconda, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

Why don’t we see this opera more often? It’s remarkably well constructed by a composer, Ponchielli who taught Puccini and others, and its librettist Arrigo Boito created the librettos for the late masterpieces of Verdi. This production was terrific (apart from a terribly choreographed Dance of the Hours) and the casting wonderful — see my …

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La Bohème, Glyndebourne, June 2022

In this stripped-back production the usual three sets: the Bohemians’ garret (Acts 1 and 4), Café Momus (Act 2), and the border post (Act 3), have been combined into one. Sentimentality has been entirely stripped away, and Death is personified by a tall, gaunt man in a long coat. His riveting stage presence is obtrusive and detracts …

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The Excursions of Mr Brouček, Grange Park Opera, June 2022

Janáček pokes fun at philistines and anticipates Woke in this remarkable staging. Mr Brouček, a Czech Everyman, likes his beer, but his inebriation leads him on two imaginary excursions, one to the Moon among what we now call the Wokerati, and one to the early fifteenth century when Protestantism began in Prague. See my review …

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Like Water for Chocolate, Royal Ballet, June 2022

Originally a novel by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel, the title is a metaphor for emotions that are constantly in danger of boiling over, like the water for making hot chocolate. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and his design collaborator Joby Talbot surprised the author by turning her work into a ballet — see my review in The …

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The Wreckers, Glyndebourne, May 2022

Ethel Smyth’s third opera opened the Glyndebourne season, performed in its original French without cuts. Odd since it is by an English composer, and its first performance was in a cut down German translation that the composer refused to tolerate. She removed all the orchestral scores in Leipzig, and when Beecham gave the first British …

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Lohengrin, Royal Opera, April 2022

In May 1849 after completing Lohengrin, Wagner was on the barricades with the rebels, at least according to his own account, but when Prussian troops arrived he moved to Switzerland. Like the master, his hero Lohengrin, having saved Elsa from certain death, declines to lead the troops into battle, and moves home to the Knights …

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Concert for Ukraine, Royal Opera House, April 2022

Congratulations to the Royal Opera House for this wonderfully emotional concert for Ukraine. As music director Antonio Pappano said in his introduction this is not a denigration of Russian culture, but an expression of sympathy with Ukrainian people, suffering under a Russian invasion, and the musical selections were carefully chosen to fit this — see …

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The Handmaid’s Tale, English National Opera, April 2022

This dystopian view of a 21st century ‘Republic of Gilead’ in America dominated by religious zealots is set to music by Danish composer Poul Ruders that seems to get lost in its own details. It is more a slightly muddled fable on the emptiness of totalitarianism than an opera, and lacks a clear narrative thread. …

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Peter Grimes, Royal Opera, March 2022

In her new production of Peter Grimes Deborah Warner brought the setting up to date with detritus on the beach and yobbos threatening Ellen Orford. As Grimes himself Allan Clayton was outstanding, rough and ready but with mental issues in Warner’s sympathetic portrayal. Excellent contributions from Bryn Terfel as Captain Balstrode, and John Tomlinson as Swallow …

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