wed 13/11/2019

Opera Reviews

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

Sebastian Scotney

It is a coincidence - and probably no more than that - that Garsington Opera has opened its 30th birthday season with the “founding work of modern Czech opera” in the year that also marks the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague.

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Bauci e Filemone/Orfeo, Classical Opera, QEH review - a star Orpheus is born

David Nice

All happy 18th century couples are alike, it seems, and that makes for a certain placidity in Gluck's pastoral Bauci e Filomene for the (unhappy) wedding of Ferdinand, Duke of Parma and Maria Amalia, Archduchess of Austria. All unhappy couples are unhappy in different ways, especially if the marital misunderstanding takes place when you're bringing your wife back from the land of the dead...

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Agrippina, Barbican review - over-the-top comic brilliance

alexandra Coghlan

Flirtations and fragile alliances, lies, betrayals, schemes and the ever-present promise of sex – Love Island may be back on our screens next week, but it has nothing on Handel's Agrippina. Imperial Rome is the backdrop for one of the composer’s most deliciously cynical comedies, where love is an afterthought and power is the only game in town.

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Donnerstag aus Licht, Pascal, RFH review – indulgent genius at work

Peter Quantrill

What happens on the stage of Stockhausen’s first opera would fill a book – quite a bad novel – but the plot is simple enough. Michael grows up with a domineering, game-hunting father and mentally unstable mother; discovers sex; passes his exams; travels the globe and finds his calling in life as a visionary and saviour.

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La Damnation de Faust, Glyndebourne review – bleak and compelling makeover

Peter Quantrill

Mid-career, moving ever further away from composing for concert platform and church towards the stage, Berlioz found himself unsure where his take on Faust belonged. In the end he hedged his bets and titled it a "dramatic legend". Staging it as an opera, as he really wanted, requires the work of a theatrical plastic surgeon.

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Phaedra, Linbury Theatre review - from confusing passion to blazing afterlife

David Nice

Leaving a revival performance of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, a friend asked Hans Werner Henze, also in the audience, that dreaded question: "what did you think?" "Very competent and extremely well performed," came the answer.

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Semele, Monteverdi Choir, EBS, Gardiner, Alexandra Palace review - Handel's cornucopia lavishly served

David Nice

Louise Alder, lyric soprano of the moment and vivacity incarnate, had yet to be born when John Eliot Gardiner made his first recording of Handel's Semele with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in 1981.

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Aida, Opera North review - militarism soundly subverted

Robert Beale

Opera North created something approaching a new art form when they performed Wagner’s Ring in "concert stagings", putting their large orchestra in full view, with singers symbolically dressed and given limited front-of-stage space, and a continuous projected screen backdrop.

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'The orchestra becomes the landscape': Annabel Arden on Opera North's concert staging of Aida

Annabel Arden

This will be the latest in Opera North’s acclaimed concert stagings of large-scale works, which have previously included Wagner’s Ring cycle, Puccini’s Turandot and Strauss’s Salome.

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Billy Budd, Royal Opera review - Britten's drama of good and evil too much at sea

David Nice

On one level, it's about Biblically informed good and evil at sea, in both the literal and the metaphorical sense. On another, the love that dared not speak its name when Britten and E M Forster adapted Hermann Melville's novella is either repressed or (putatively) liberated. The conflicts can make for lacerating music theatre, as they did in Orpha Phelan's production for Opera North.

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