wed 26/09/2018

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Das Rheingold, Royal Opera review - high drama and dark comedy

Gavin Dixon

Keith Warner’s production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen was first seen at Covent Garden between 2004 and 2006, and is now back for a third and final series of full runs, chiefly to catch the Brünnhilde of Nina Stemme in three of the operas, continuing into November.

Isouard's Cendrillon, Bampton Classical Opera review - stepsisters shine in fairy-tale bagatelle

David Nice

Cinderella as opera in French: of late, the palm has always gone to Massenet's adorable (as in a-dor-Ah-bler) confection, and it should again soon when Glyndebourne offers a worthy home to the master's magic touch.


Parsifal, Saffron Opera Group review - drama and...

Gavin Dixon

It is a pleasure to report on the continuing success of the Saffron Opera Wagner project. The organisation was formed in 2013, and since then has...

War and Peace, Welsh National Opera review - an...

Stephen Walsh

What lunatic would ever have the idea of turning War and Peace into an opera? Well, maybe if you, a composer, had found yourself in Moscow in June...

Tosca, Opera North review - exciting update,...

Graham Rickson

Puccini’s Tosca isn’t a subtle work, and this, Opera North’s fourth production since the company’s founding in 1978, is occasionally too loud and...

The Rake's Progress, British Youth Opera review - perfect poise in slippery Stravinsky

David Nice

Well-trained young singers have space to articulate skewed morality tale

Prom 71, DiDonato, Tamestit, ORR, Gardiner review - concert Berlioz as bracing theatre

David Nice

A dramatic feast for the eyes as well as the ears, this should have been on TV

Paul Bunyan, ENO, Wilton's Music Hall review - talent cabined and confined

David Nice

A fine company in Britten and Auden's little great American operetta sold short

theartsdesk at the Suoni dal Golfo Festival - romantics shine in the Bay of Poets

David Nice

A Liszt novelty proves worth revealing, while a fine pianist takes a castle by storm

'I wanted a juke box that plays nothing but flip-sides' - Jeremy Sams on The Enchanted Island

Jeremy Sams

Creator of a 'new' Baroque opera anticipates British Youth Opera's takeover of a Met hit

theartsdesk at Itinéraire Baroque 2018 - canaries in front of a Périgord altar

David Nice

Distinguished Dordogne dweller Ton Koopman and friends meet in a Romanesque priory

Greed as the keynote: Robert Carsen on the timelessness of 'The Beggar's Opera'

Robert Carsen

The director brings his contemporary take on John Gay's satire to the Edinburgh Festival

Vanessa, Glyndebourne review - blowsy histrionics and a great finale

David Nice

Does the end justify Barber's screamy little mystery, even when as well done as this?

Proms 25 / 26 review - Russian masters, noodling guitar, late-night perfection

David Nice

Modern drama in early music and Tchaikovsky's genius eclipse anodyne new concerto

SWAP'ra Gala, Opera Holland Park review - all-women stars and scenes

David Nice

Much supernaturally beautiful singing for a practical cause

Pagliacci, Scottish Opera review - roll up, roll up for opera like never before!

Miranda Heggie

A stand-out promenade production of Leoncavallo's masterpiece with all the fun of the fair

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival - Italians, Ukrainians and an American promote peace

David Nice

Muti, Malkovich and friends glow in the city of transcendental mosaics

Saul, Glyndebourne review - from extravaganza to phantasmagoria

David Nice

Official: Barrie Kosky's Handel is a contemporary classic

L'Ange de Nisida / JPYAP Summer Programme, Royal Opera - buoyant touch in Donizetti bagatelle

David Nice

Ideal launch for a reconstructed rarity, and voices of promise in more familiar repertoire

Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera Holland Park - stylish staging, world-class singing

David Nice

Strauss and Hofmannsthal's 'mystery of transformation' applied to two women in love

Prom 5, Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne review - for the ears, not the eyes

Stephen Walsh

Semi-staged Debussy is visually confused, musically mostly excellent

Isabeau, Opera Holland Park review - Mascagni's lumpy Godiva-ride rarity

David Nice

Fine singing and playing can't quite sell a hoary slice of awkward medievalism

Ariadne auf Naxos, Longborough Festival review - appetising energy and wit

Stephen Walsh

Strauss's chamber masterpiece brilliantly staged, finely played and sung

Alzira / The Daughter of the Regiment, Buxton Festival review – thundering good tunes

Robert Beale

Early Verdi opera proves there’s life in the young dog yet, Plus a Californian Donizetti

Idomeneo, Buxton Festival review - revolution in the head

Richard Bratby

Mozart's Greek tragedy walks a psychological tightrope - and occasionally slips

Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne review - frigid metatheatre

David Nice

Patches of light from Robin Ticciati's conducting on Stefan Herheim's messy canvas

The Turn of the Screw, ENO, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - one dimension, not four

David Nice

Atmospheric setting, solid singing but no flesh creep

Partenope, Iford Arts review - a midsummer night's dream of a Handel comedy

Alexandra Coghlan

A featherweight baroque treat from a talented young cast

La Traviata, Longborough Festival review - muddled director, vocal mixed bag

Stephen Walsh

Verdi's psychological masterpiece survives another half-baked concept

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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