Macbeth, Buxton Festival, July 2017

Last year the Buxton Festival put on a very successful Leonora, rather than its later version Fidelio, and this year sees the original 1847 version of Verdi’s Macbeth. Its directness and freshness are illuminated by Elijah Moshinsky’s minimal, darkly-lit, and very effective staging with excellent movement conveying the powers of hell embodied in the witches, …

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Die Walküre, Grange Park Opera, GPO, West Horsley Place, July 2017

The recent tendency to set operas in the period leading up to the first world war seems to inspire this production by Stephen Medcalf. The Valkyries are in spiked helmets, Wotan is a general, and we are in a grand house furnished with varying collections of such things as butterflies and daggers. In addition to …

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Mitridate, re di Ponto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

If beautiful singing and eighteenth century stage spectacle appeals, then Graham Vick’s production of this early Mozart opera, in Paul Brown’s bold designs and gloriously elaborate costumes, certainly hits the spot. The title character, Mithridates VI reigned as king of Pontus, a region comprising much of northern Anatolia and coastal areas of the Black Sea, …

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Jenufa, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

Czech verismo with attendant Central European melancholy, this carries quite a punch. There are four principal characters, Jenufa who is pregnant by Števa, her step-mother the Kostelnička (church sexton), and Števa’s half-brother Laca who adores Jenufa, but jealously cuts her face, disfiguring her. She adores Števa but he rejects her, and Laca is horrified by …

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Tosca, Grange Park Opera, Theatre in the Woods, GPO, June 2017

Grange Park Opera’s new theatre is a small miracle. Built in under a year, the acoustics of this mini La Scala with its four tiers of seats in a horseshoe-shaped auditorium, allowed conductor Gianluca Marcianò with the BBC Concert Orchestra to deliver a full-blooded account of Puccini’s masterpiece in the Surrey countryside. Full-bloodied too in …

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Otello, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, June 2017

Putting Shakespeare on stage demands theatricality, which Keith Warner’s new production delivers right at the start with Iago spotlighted on a dark stage, an image repeated at the start of Act III with Otello himself. The massive ship in Act I, and actors creating merry havoc in the fight that Iago provokes between Cassio and …

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Tosca, Nevill Holt Opera, NHO, June 2017

This year’s Tosca at Nevill Holt produced by Oliver Mears, an intelligent director who clearly cares about the music, augurs well for his new appointment as artistic director of the Royal Opera. The setting, the troubled Italy of the 1970s when anti-establishment forces such as the Red Brigades were causing havoc, developed from an original …

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Hamlet, Glyndebourne, GFO, June 2017

Wow! As a friend remarked at the interval, during this hugely theatrical performance, “we were on the edge of our seats”. How did Australian composer Brett Dean and his librettist Matthew Jocelyn do it? Certainly Neil Armfield’s excellent direction, Jon Clark’s wonderful lighting, and the large set designs by Ralph Myers, which the performers themselves …

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Tristan und Isolde, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, June 2017

Since this opened in 2015 celebrating sesqui-centenary of the opera, I have attended two other productions plus a terrific concert performance at Grange Park last summer, and one thing is clear. Less is more. While Bayreuth’s 2015 production abandoned their previous directorial absurdities the English National Opera went in the other direction with pretentious fussiness …

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Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Grange Festival, June 2017

As the applause swelled after this opening night of the new Grange Festival, musical director Michael Chance came on stage to thank everyone, singers and musicians included, quoting from Shakespeare’s Tempest that “Our revels now are ended”. It was a fitting end to an evening of excellent singing and musicianship that gave us Monteverdi’s late …

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