sun 09/08/2020

Opera Features

theartsdesk in Bordeaux: Bottoms up for Rameau

David Nice

Jean-Philippe Rameau, the most radical and inventive of French composers before Berlioz, died in Paris 250 years ago this September. 16 years later a gem among theatres opened its doors for the first time with a long evening’s entertainment including Racine’s Athalie, supported by an incidental score from the resident music master Franz Beck.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: Barocking Handel in the Opera House

David Nice

Oslo is a winter wonderland, and adults seem to be outnumbered by children, flocking from all over Norway to Disney on Ice. It’s the deep snow and the silence in pockets of the city rather than the kids which make me wonder if anyone has set Handel’s Alcina in the icy lair of C S Lewis’s White Witch, with hero Ruggiero as Edmund fed Turkish delight from the magic phial. There's even a captive lion. Francesco Negrin’s straightforwardly magical production - look, no metatext!

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Mark Wigglesworth for ENO

David Nice

This is great news. It should have been great news back in 2006-7, when Wigglesworth – Mark, not to be confused with the young, photogenic Ryan, composer and, when I last saw him, barely competent baton-wielder - was among the contenders for the post of Music Director at English National Opera. As it happened, the then relatively unknown Edward Gardner sailed into the job with precocious assurance and versatility.

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Addio, Claudio Abbado

theartsdesk

“It is at the end that a composer can achieve his finest effects,“ declared Richard Strauss. He was thinking of his great operatic and symphonic epilogues, but apply that to the art of conducting, adjust the “at” to “towards”, and it applies supremely well to Claudio Abbado, who has died at the age of 80.

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Britten 100: Death in Moscow

Iestyn Davies

“A cold coming we had of it,” grumble the three kings in T S Eliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi” later set by Britten as his Canticle IV. “Just the worst time of year for a journey,” they complain, carried onwards by the ungulate bass notes of the piano.

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theartsdesk in Wexford: European opera feast

Roderic Dunnett

At the Wexford Opera Festival this autumn you could see a bicentenary performance of Verdi’s La traviata. Likewise Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. But that’s not why Ireland’s operatic showpiece is one of the most famous, admired and respected events on the European opera calendar (to prove it, Opera Europe, the forum for all companies across the continent, held one of its annual conferences in Wexford this autumn).

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Satyagraha Remix: Opera Reaches Out

alexandra Coghlan

The brightly coloured flyer promises all manner of activities. Improvised jam sessions, performance poetry, and philosophy discussions. Oh, and an Indian dance workshop. On an obscenely cold Sunday night I find myself braving not only the cold, but an unprecedented evening of “genre-defying artistic collaboration”, courtesy of English National Opera’s outreach arm – ENO Baylis.

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Patrice Chéreau, 1944-2013: a partial view

David Nice

It has to be partial, because out of the 10 opera productions from the iconoclastic French actor-director, who died yesterday of lung cancer at the age of 68, I’ve seen but two, on screen only – but a big two at that – and only three of his 11 films. Yet they all had a tremendous impact, one way or another.

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Opinion: When artists could speak out

David Nice

Take note of the title, with its “could”, not “must”. “The word ‘must’ is not to be used to Princes,” quoth Good Queen Bess as echoed in Britten’s Gloriana. Yet that was the verb used by New York writer Scott Rose, guest-posting on Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog.

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'O what have I done?'

Mark Padmore

“O what have I done, o what, what have I done? Confusion, so much is confusion.” So sings Captain Vere in the Prologue of Billy Budd and Benjamin Britten plunges us straight into this confusion from the very first bar as we are left in uncertainty which of two keys - B flat major and B minor - will prevail.

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