wed 20/01/2021

Opera Reviews

SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, Isango Ensemble, Linbury Theatre - evocative and essential lyric theatre

David Nice

While Bach's and Handel's Passions have been driving thousands to contemplate suffering, mortality and grace, this elegy for black lives lost over a century ago also chimes movingly with pre-Easter offerings.

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Faust, Royal Opera review - fusty Gounod still dances

David Nice

Goethe's cosmic Faust becomes Gounod's operatic fust in what, somewhat surprisingly, remains a repertoire staple. You go for the tunes, hoping for the world-class voices to do them justice and prepared for a pallid quarter-of-an-hour or two.

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Franco Fagioli, Il Pomo d’Oro, Birmingham Town Hall review - flair and flamboyance

Miranda Heggie

For the final, and only UK, date of his Vinci Arias tour, virtuoso countertenor Franco Fagioli gave an animated and arresting recital of baroque arias at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday afternoon with the Italian period instrument group Il pomo d’oro.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress, RNCM, Manchester review – a theatrical triumph

Robert Beale

The Royal Northern College of Music’s spring opera is a theatrical triumph and musically very, very good. It’s 27 years since they last presented what Vaughan Williams called his "morality" – that was a triumph too, and they made a CD of it which I still have. They may not be issuing a sound recording this time, but as an experience in the theatre, it is even more compelling.

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Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel, English National Opera review - powerful ensemble, wrong subject

David Nice

If you can’t put a name to any of Jack the Ripper’s victims – and spin it however you please, victims they remain – then you shouldn’t buy the publicity about this new opera "bringing dignity back" to the murdered women in question. Isn’t it time to stop feeding the troll/killer, much as Jacinda Ardern did so swiftly and movingly under different circumstances last week, and let the five eviscerated corpses return to dust in peace?

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Berenice, Royal Opera/London Handel Festival review - luminous shenanigans in the Linbury

David Nice

It might be the nature of Handel's operatic beasts, but performances tend to fall into two camps: brilliant in the fusion of drama and virtuosity, singing and playing, or boring to various degrees.

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Elizabeth I/Macbeth, English Touring Opera review - elegance and eeriness

Richard Bratby

A crash, a scurry, a long, lilting serenade – the overture to Rossini’s Elizabeth I sounds oddly familiar. Not to worry. English Touring Opera has anticipated our confusion.

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La forza del destino, Royal Opera review - generous voices, dramatic voids

David Nice

When "Maestro" Riccardo Muti left the Royal Opera's previous production of Verdi's fate-laden epic, disgusted by minor changes to fit the scenery on the Covent Garden stage, no-one was sorry when Antonio Pappano, the true master of the house then only two years into his glorious reign, took over.

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Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Birmingham Opera Company review - searing music-theatre for all

David Nice

A rum cove sidles up pimping with a tatty business card offering the services of Sonyetka. Not for me, I say, pointing out that in any case she’ll be dead three hours later. "That's more than I know," he says and wanders off to hook other possible clients. Further on, rodent-headed creatures flit by. One seems to be in an altercation with a Rentokil officer. Odd, too, that there should be policemen parading the disco-lit, dilipidated Tower Ballroom on the edge of Edgbaston Reservoir.

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Idomeneo, English Touring Opera review – honest excellence

Boyd Tonkin

Selfish, cunning, cynical, the older generation has screwed up the world with aggression abroad and dishonesty at home. Can their children make it good again? This family drama of transgression and reparation threads through Idomeneo, the opera that Mozart – who had his own troublesome issues with both biological fathers and father-figure patrons – premiered in Munich in 1781.

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