mon 22/07/2019

Opera reviews, news and interviews

Die Zauberflöte, Glyndebourne Festival review – high jinks in the Grand Mozart Hotel

Boyd Tonkin

Die Zauberflöte rarely attracts the plain cooks of the operatic world. Mozart’s farewell opera chucks so many highly-spiced ingredients into its outlandish pot – pantomime and parable, burlesque and ritual – that many productions opt for one show-off recipe that promises to unify all its flavours into a single, spectacular dish.

Pavarotti review - enjoyable but superficial survey of a superstar

Adam Sweeting

One of the most memorable moments in Ron Howard’s documentary about Luciano Pavarotti is one of its earliest scenes. It’s a chunk of amateur video shot when Pavarotti visited the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, a splendid Belle Epoque structure in the midst of the Amazonian jungle.


Pick of the BBC Proms 2019


It's been much the same trajectory over the past few years for many of us: look through the Proms prospectus, feel a bit disappointed that there isn'...

Don Giovanni, Longborough Festival Opera review...

Stephen Walsh

One of the features of the converted barn that forms the theatre at Longborough is a trio of statues that tops the front pediment of the building:...

Eugene Onegin/Georgiana, Buxton Festival review...

Richard Bratby

It’s the saddest music in the world: the quiet heartbeat and falling melody with which Tchaikovsky opens his opera Eugene Onegin. Imagine a whole...

La Fille du Régiment, Royal Opera review - enjoyable but questionable revival

Gavin Dixon

Tenor Javier Camarena excels in an otherwise only serviceable account

'A product not only of his era but also of his travels': Ian Page on Mozart's cosmopolitan education

Ian Page

The Mozartists' main man on how an early life moving around Europe shaped a genius

The Turn of the Screw, Garsington Opera review - superb music drama on an open stage

Stephen Walsh

Britten's problematic ghost opera allowed to triumph by way of the music

Noye's Fludde, ENO/Theatre Royal Stratford East review - two-dimensional music theatre

David Nice

Kudos to all the performers, but the audience doesn't get Britten's whole story

Rusalka, Glyndebourne Festival review - away with the distressed fairies

Stephen Walsh

Dvořák's late masterpiece richly revealed without the airy-fairy

Trouble in Tahiti/A Dinner Engagement, Royal College of Music review - slick, witty and warm

Alexandra Coghlan

Two 1950s one-acters come together in a stylish double-act

The Cunning Little Vixen, Rattle, LSO, Barbican review – dark magic in the woods

Boyd Tonkin

Janáček's evergreen fable enchants and disturbs

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 Final, BBC Four review - stage confidence, supportive set-up

David Nice

Invidious to choose between different voices, but Andrei Kymach is a worthy winner

Brundibár, Welsh National Opera review - bittersweet children's opera from the ghetto

Stephen Walsh

Theresienstadt operetta brilliantly sung, wittily staged

Belshazzar, The Grange Festival review – songs of freedom

Boyd Tonkin

A star choir shines in Handel's tale of luxury brought low

Anna Bolena, Longborough Festival Opera review - Henry VIII's court becomes a sexualised death cult

Richard Bratby

The Gloucestershire Bayreuth delivers a bel canto thriller

Boris Godunov, Royal Opera review - cool and surgical, with periodic chills

David Nice

The conscience of Bryn Terfel's tsar-king's the focused thing in this immaculate revival

Hansel and Gretel, ENO, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - into the broomstick woods

David Nice

Enchanting chamber-musical score, fine balance between fairytale and horror story

Franco Zeffirelli: 'I had this feeling that I was special'

Jasper Rees

Recalling a two-day audience at the home of the great maestro, who has died aged 96

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nevill Holt Opera review - sprinkled with musical fairy-dust

Alexandra Coghlan

An innocent, joyful take on Britten's ambiguous fantasy

Porgy and Bess, Grange Park Opera review - good versus evil in Catfish Row

Jessica Duchen

A fine new production of Gershwin's opera, if in the most incongruous of opera houses

Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park review - evocative and sensationally sung

Alexandra Coghlan

A handsome new production of Verdi's Janus-faced tragedy

Cendrillon, Glyndebourne Festival review - busy but engaging

Gavin Dixon

Gentle update of Massenet's charmer can misfire, but the Cinderella story keeps its magic

Falstaff, The Grange Festival review - belly laughs and bags of fun

Alexandra Coghlan

Brimful of delights, this new production is one of the Grange Festival's finest to date

Le Nozze di Figaro, The Grange Festival review – the dark side of power

Boyd Tonkin

A well-sung Figaro wrenches redemption from destructive desire

The Diary of One who Disappeared, ROH review – song cycle-as-opera is a mish-mash

Bernard Hughes

Padding out Janáček’s work with extraneous material merely diffuses the music’s power

Das Rheingold, Longborough Festival Opera review - more Wagnerian excellence in a Gloucestershire barn

Stephen Walsh

Minor teething troubles but no reduced impact for Negus's new Cotswold Ring

Manon Lescaut, Opera Holland Park review - attempt to empower commodified woman falls flat

David Nice

Star quality from Elizabeth Llewellyn doesn't quite lift this dramatically inert evening

The Bartered Bride, Garsington Opera review – musical glories, dramatic questions

Sebastian Scotney

Setting high operatic standards for Smetana in the idyllic Chilterns

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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