wed 21/02/2018

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Dead Man Walking, Barbican review - timely and devastating meditation on human violence and forgiveness

Alexandra Coghlan

You have to wonder why it has taken this long. Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking premiered in San Francisco back in 2000 and has since been performed over 300 times across the world, staged everywhere from Cape Town to Copenhagen.

Flight, Scottish Opera review - poignant and powerful, this production soars

Miranda Heggie

Inspired by the astonishing true story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian refugee who lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years, Jonathan Dove’s Flight is a humorous, touching, uplifting yet profoundly poignant study into human relationships, interactions and emotions. This is opera buffa for the modern age – relevant, relatable, lighthearted and often downright silly, but still revealing some very pertinent truths.


Iolanthe, English National Opera review - bright...

David Nice

Very well, so ENO's latest Gilbert and Sullivan spectacular was originally to have been The Gondoliers directed by Richard Jones and conducted by...

Un ballo in maschera, Opera North review - decent...

Graham Rickson

You’d expect a degree of mischief and bafflement in an opera about mistaken identity, closing with a scene set at a masked ball. But Tim Albery’s new...

Tosca, Welsh National Opera review - ticking the...

Stephen Walsh

Opera-lovers: if you’ve finally had enough of the wheelchairs and syringes, the fifties skirts and heels, the mobile phones and the white box sets,...

Carmen, Royal Opera review - clever concept, patchy singing, sexy dancing

David Nice

No central chemistry, but Barrie Kosky serves up set pieces full of panache

La forza del destino, Welsh National Opera review - rambling drama, fine music

Stephen Walsh

Verdi's Russo-Spanish hotchpotch given the full treatment with mixed success

Orlando, La Nuova Musica, SJSS review - Handel painted in primary colours

Alexandra Coghlan

Comedy turned caricature in this rather heavy-handed performance

Having a Verdi ball: conductor Richard Farnes on Opera North's upcoming production

Richard Farnes

Hugely respected former Music Director on returning for 'Un ballo in maschera'

Das Rheingold, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - orchestral revelations, but cursing Alberich trumps wooden Wotan

David Nice

Clear but often aloof exposition of Wagner's 'preliminary evening' to the Ring

BBCSO, Pons, Barbican review - love hurts in vivid Spanish double bill

David Nice

Flamenco singer in Falla and dramatic mezzo as Granados's heroine cue vibrant passion

The Return of Ulysses, Royal Opera, Roundhouse review - musical drama trumps dodgy stagecraft

David Nice

Monteverdi magic from peerless performers, triumphing over a messy production

Salome, Royal Opera review – lurid staging still packs a punch

Gavin Dixon

Compelling production returns, but with a patchy cast

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review – maturity from teenage players

Robert Beale

Birthday celebration includes vivid performance of first complete opera

theartsdesk Q&A: Composer, chansonnier and conductor HK Gruber at 75

David Nice

On how Weill and Hanns Eisler gave him direction in the 1970s - and on meeting Lenya

Best of 2017: Opera

David Nice

Company spirit and artistic teamwork top of the list

Classical CDs Weekly Special: Callas Live

David Nice

La Divina electrifying in performances spanning 15 years

Cendrillon, RNCM, Manchester review - magic and spectacle

Robert Beale

Triumph for director Olivia Fuchs in Massenet’s version of Cinderella

Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci, Royal Opera review - one tenor, two samey brutes

David Nice

Bryan Hymel's strong-man double-act outshone by Elīna Garanča's Santuzza

I, Object review - this operatic double-bill delivers just a single hit

Alexandra Coghlan

A bright new talent and a tired old bore make for uneasy bedfellows

theartsdesk in Stockholm - HK Gruber and sacred monsters

David Nice

Viennese composer, conductor, chansonnier and double-bass player is a force of nature

Falstaff, RLPO, Petrenko, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall review - Bryn Terfel leads a merry dance

David Nice

Two consummate one-to-ones crown generous, hit-and-miss Verdi

The Bear, Mid Wales Opera review - small stage, big ambitions

Richard Bratby

Walton's comic opera goes down like a shot of salted caramel Stoli in a sparky touring production

Remembering Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017)

David Nice

The great Siberian baritone, who has died at the age of 55, leaves behind a golden legacy

The Rake's Progress, Wilton's Music Hall review - mercurial Stravinsky made cumbersome

David Nice

Fine cast, but playing and production need both sharpening and lightening up

Semiramide, Royal Opera review - Rossini's Queen is back

William Ward

Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano resuscitate the uxoricidal Assyrian ruler

Marnie, English National Opera review – hyped new opera doesn’t hit the heights

Bernard Hughes

Nico Muhly’s world premiere offered musical pleasures but too many flaws to be great

'Singers must act better than ever before'

Selina Cadell

OperaGlassWorks collaborate with singers from the start. Director Selina Cadell explains

Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera review - creepy, violent and intense

Gavin Dixon

Powerful staging returns in well-cast revival

Footnote: a brief history of opera in Britain

Britain has world-class opera companies in the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Opera North, not to mention the celebrated country-house festival at Glyndebourne and others elsewhere. The first English opera was an experiment in 1656, as Civil War raged between Cromwell and Charles II, and it was under the restored king that theatre and opera exploded in London. Henry Purcell composed the masterpiece Dido and Aeneas (for a girls' school) and over the next century Handel, Gluck, J C Bach and Haydn came to London to compose Italian-style classical operas.

Hogarth_Beggars_Opera_1731_cTateHowever, the imported style was challenged by the startling success of John Gay's low-life street opera The Beggar's Opera (1728), a score collating 69 folk ballads, which set off a wave of indigenous popular musical theatre (pictured, William Hogarth's The Beggar's Opera, 1731, © Tate). Gay built the first Covent Garden opera house (1732), where three of Handel's operas were premiered, and musical theatre and vaudeville flourished as an alternative to opera. Through the 19th century, London became a hub for visiting composers and grand opera stars, but from the meshing of "high" and "popular" creativity at Sadler's Wells (built in 1765) evolved in time a distinct English tradition of wit and social satire in the "Savoy" operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

In the 20th century Benjamin Britten's dramatic operas such as Peter Grimes and Billy Budd reflected a different sort of ordinariness, his genius driving the formation of the English Opera Group at Aldeburgh. English opera, and opera in English, became central to the establishment, after the Second World War, of a national arts infrastructure, with subsidised resident companies at English National Opera and the Royal Opera. By the 1950s, due to pressure from international opera stars refusing to learn roles in English, Covent Garden joined the circuit of major international houses, staging opera in their original languages, with visiting stars such as Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi and the young Luciano Pavarotti matched by home-grown ones like Joan Sutherland and Geraint Evans.

Today British opera thrives with a reputation for fresh thinking in classics, from new productions of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner landmarks to new opera commissions and popular arena stagings of Carmen. The Arts Desk brings you the fastest overnight reviews and the quickest ticket booking links for last night's openings, as well as the most thoughtful close-up interviews with major creative figures and performers. Our critics include Igor Toronyi-Lalic, David Nice, Edward Seckerson, Alexandra Coghlan, Graham Rickson and Ismene Brown.

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