sat 13/07/2024

Opera Features

First Person: Katharina Kastening on directing slimline Bizet in a year rich in 'Carmen' productions

Katharina Kastening

Peter Brook's reimagining of Bizet's Carmen condenses the scale of the original into a more intimate theatrical experience. The score has been starkly cut, the orchestra reduced, and only four singing roles remain: Carmen, Don José, Escamillo and Micaëla. There are also three speaking roles: Zuniga, Lillas Pastia and Garcia (Carmen's husband).

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Remembering conductor Andrew Davis (1944-2024)

theartsdesk

As a human being of immense warmth, humour and erudition, Andrew Davis made it all too easy to forget what towering, incandescent performances he inspired. Now is a good time to recall those properly to mind, to listen to his huge discography, and to assess his proper place among the top conductors – again, as one of such versatility and range that, to adapt what Danny Meyer writes below, he might have been labelled a jack of all trades when he was a master of all.

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theartsdesk in Strasbourg: crossing the frontiers

Boyd Tonkin

A single pair of swans glided serenely under the bridges of the river Ill as I walked to the premiere of the Opéra National du Rhin’s new production of Lohengrin in Strasbourg on Sunday.

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theartsdesk in Ravenna - Riccardo Muti passes on a lifetime's operatic wisdom

David Nice

Does “the practice of opera singing in Italy” need help from UNESCO, which has newly inscribed it on the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”? Italian opera is surely immensely popular worldwide. But when it comes to practising the art properly, its greatest senior exponent, Riccardo Muti, powerfully argues that Verdi and Bellini, his most recent special projects in the city where he lives, Ravenna, need as much respect and care as Beethoven or Schubert.

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Michael Powell: a happy time with Bartók’s Bluebeard

David Nice

In his final years Michael Powell mooted the possibility of a Bartók trilogy. He wanted to add to the growing popularity of his work on Bluebeard’s Castle, the deepest of one-act operas, an idea he had previously rejected of filming the lurid "pantomime" The Miraculous Mandarin and, as third instalment, not the earlier ballet The Wooden Prince but a film about the composer’s time in America and his return, after death, to Hungary.

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theartsdesk at Wexford Festival Opera - four operas and a recital in one crazy day

David Nice

Imagine a Glyndebourne season where all those promising young singers in the chorus get to be principals in a series of fringe operas. At Wexford, they already have their work cut out, though this year not so much in the three main rarities – hence the sheer joy of witnessing so many fine performances in Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, Donizetti’s La fille du régiment and Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri.

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theartsdesk in Ukraine - Stankovych's 'Psalms of War' at the Lviv National Opera

Ed Vulliamy

Yevhen Stankovych is Ukraine’s most important living composer and – after decades of writing music that seems to grow from this country’s rich black earth, tribulations, literature and folklore – he now contributes, with his latest piece, the most cogent musical event of the current calamity.

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First Person: Director Sir David Pountney on creating a new 'Masque of Might' from the music of Purcell

Sir David Pountney

Purcell came very early to me. When I was a chorister at St. John’s Cambridge “Jehova quam multi sunt” was a perennial favourite and we were thrilled by the evenings when George Guest brought in some string players to accompany Purcell’s verse anthems. These were special occasions. Then, since no management had the wit to invite me to direct Purcell, I finally engaged myself to direct The Fairy Queen at ENO.

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First Person: mezzo Stephanie Wake-Edwards on open dialogue and shared goals in the new show 'FEAST'

Stephanie Wake-

“Do you actually speak like that?” was the first thing a senior colleague said to me during my initial week at a prestigious UK opera house. I’ve always had a tricky time understanding who I really am.

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First Person: composer Russell Hepplewhite on setting John Burningham's 'Borka' to music

Russell Hepplewhite

Taking a book and lifting it from the page so that it works on the stage is daunting. When the target audience happens to be children aged between about four and eight, the challenge is magnified. As I write this, a brand new company, Ignite Music, is about to embark on a nationwide tour of an opera I wrote back in 2014 that was composed specifically for this audience - the ones with the very youngest of ears.  

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