sat 03/12/2022

Opera Reviews

It’s a Wonderful Life, English National Opera review - Capra’s sharp-edged sentiment smothered in endless schmaltz

David Nice

Looking for a sparkly operatic musical, well sung and played, slick and saturated in a range of mainstream styles that stop short in the year the movie masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life was released, 1946? Then Jake Heggie’s 2016 confection may be for you. One thing’s for sure, though: it may be trying to do something different from the Capra classic, and it’s welcome to have the Bailey family as African Americans, but this isn't a patch on the rather more layered film.

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The Rake's Progress, Royal Academy of Music review - Hogarth's Rake enters the digital age

alexandra Coghlan

Paris, Vienna, Rome – all have their operatic homages. But London (and I mean real London, not the slightly-grey Italy of Donizetti’s Tudor Queens) only rarely makes it into the opera house. Curiously, on the rare occasions it does, it’s the seedy side of things that’s very much at the fore in The Beggar’s Opera and, of course, the Hogarth-inspired The Rake’s Progress.

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Alcina, Royal Opera review - sharp stage magic, mist over the pit

David Nice

Handel’s audiences must have taken a very long time to settle – at least an act, to judge from the mostly inconsequential music of Alcina’s first hour. Lovely: we’re on an enchanted isle where puritanical people have been transformed into animal-headed courtiers, and a love-imbroglio merits only a “so what?” Richard Jones and his singers keep it lively and focused, but the bounce needed from Christian Curnyn and the Royal Opera House Orchestra doesn’t come.

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The Yeomen of the Guard, English National Opera review - half-good shot at an unusual G&S misalliance

David Nice

Sullivan’s Overture to The Yeomen of the Guard isn’t quite the equal of Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger – what is? – but its brass-rich brilliance and wholesome ceremonials wouldn’t have been possible without that great example.

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Ainadamar, Scottish Opera/Opera Ventures review - worlds collide in fiery fusion

Miranda Heggie

Ainadamar - meaning "fountain of tears" in Arabic – is the name given to a natural spring high in the hills above the Andalucian city of Granada, the site where the poet and playwright Federico Garica Lorca was executed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

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Britten Weekend, Snape review - diverse songs to mostly great poetry overshadow a problem opera

David Nice

In usual circumstances, a fully staged opera and every voice-and-piano song-cycle by a single genius in one weekend would be an embarrassment of riches. The only problem about Britten hitting the heights, above all in setting toweringly great poetry by Auden, Blake, Donne and Hölderlin, at the top of a long list, meant one sitting and squirming at most of Ronald Duncan’s wretched lines for an opera which even in its very subject is problematic, The Rape of Lucretia.

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Tamerlano, English Touring Opera review - the darker side of Handel

Boyd Tonkin

During the final act of Tamerlano, James Conway’s new production for English Touring Opera has the titular tyrant lead a captive king around the stage on a chain. Given the oppressive, deadlocked mood of Handel’s opera and this interpretation, you may recall Pozzo and Lucky in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: that frozen dialectic of master and slave in which power traps its holder as much as its victim....

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Orfeo ed Euridice, Opera North review - more than a concert

Robert Beale

Though billed as a “concert performance”, this was really much more than that. With the resources of their own theatre, Opera North’s team present a staging that employs a big, built-up and raked floor, with a simple platform in the centre and a starry-night black back-cloth, and their principals and chorus move and act in simple but effective style.

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theartsdesk at Wexford Festival Opera - the bad, the good and the glorious

David Nice

Festival punters who eagerly return to this pleasant haven in south-east Ireland are happy to take a risk on the three rare operas served up each year. As a Wexford virgin, I knew I wanted to come here this autumn for Dvořák’s last opera Armida, revealed on recordings as a glorious score at every turn, even when the dramaturgy falters, and for Irish soprano Jennifer Davis, already a world-class Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, as the eponymous lovelorn sorcerer.

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Orpheus, Opera North review - cross-cultural opera in action

Robert Beale

Within its own aspirations, Orpheus is a complete triumph. “Monteverdi reimagined”, as Opera North subtitled it from the start, is an attempt to unite (and contrast, and compare, and cross-fertilise) early baroque opera with South Asian classical music.

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