sat 21/09/2019

Opera Reviews

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Guildhall School review - earthy, energetic Britten

David Nice

It speaks vivid volumes for the superb health of our music colleges that the Guildhall School tackles every aspect of Britten's long and layered Shakespeare adaptation with total confidence.

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The Merry Widow, English National Opera review - glitter but no sparkle

alexandra Coghlan

It’s all there. High kicks and tight corsets; silk and sequins and shenanigans in a broom closet; hot pinks and still hotter can-can girls; waltzing, scheming, sparring, and a bit with a banquet table. There’s even a dancing beaver. So why don’t I feel more elated?

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Così fan tutte, Royal Opera review - fine singing and elegant deceits

Peter Quantrill

Give hope to all, says Despina: play-act. Così fan tutte has always been a piece about four young and silly people being appalling to one another without much need for encouragement from a cynical old manipulator and a confused maid who, in the main, is the one character capable of arousing real sympathy.

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The Monstrous Child, Royal Opera, Linbury Theatre review - fresh operatic mythology for teenagers

alexandra Coghlan

Hel, heroine of Gavin Higgins and Francesca Simon’s new opera, is the illegitimate daughter of the Norse god Loki. In many ways The Monstrous Child itself feels like a bastard offspring, born – moody, mouthy and full of fragile rage – to Wagner’s Ring Cycle and Skins or possibly 13 Reasons Why.

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The Rite of Spring/Gianni Schicchi, Opera North review - unlikely but musically satisfying pairing

graham Rickson

Stravinsky acknowledged that his orchestra for The Rite of Spring was a large one because Diaghilev had promised him extra musicians (“I am not sure that my orchestra would have been as huge otherwise.”) It isn’t huge in Opera North’s production (★★★★★), and for practical reasons they're using the edition arranged by Jonathan McPhee in 1988 for a standard pit band.

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The Magic Flute, Welsh National Opera review - charming to hear, charmless to look at

stephen Walsh

I last saw this Magic Flute, directed by Dominic Cooke, when it was new, some 14 years ago, and I remember it mainly, I’m afraid, for its lack of visual charm.

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Akhnaten, English National Opera review - still a mesmerising spectacle

alexandra Coghlan

You start off fighting it. Those arpeggios, the insistent reduction, simplification, repetition, the amplification of the smallest gesture into an epic. Then something happens. Somewhere among the slow-phase patterns pulsing on ear and eye, you surrender to Glass-time and the hypnosis is complete.

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Un ballo in maschera, Welsh National Opera review - opera as brilliant self-parody

stephen Walsh

Why is Un Ballo in maschera not as popular as the trio of Verdi masterpieces – Rigoletto, Traviata, Trovatore – that, with a couple of digressions, preceded it in the early 1850s? Its music is scarcely less brilliant than theirs, and if its plot is on a par of absurdity with Trovatore’s, it is at least, on the whole, more fun.

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La Damnation de Faust, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - 'concert opera' indeed

Robert Beale

Berlioz called it a "concert opera". His telling of the Faust story is in scenes and highly theatrical, but a bit of a challenge to put on in the theatre, with its marching armies, floating sylphs, dancing will-o’-the-wisps and galloping horses. It seems he expected it to be a kind of giant cantata, and that’s the way the Hallé and Sir Mark Elder perform it.

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Anthropocene, Hackney Empire review - vivid soundscapes but not quite enough thrills

alexandra Coghlan

The flayed corpse of a dead seal hangs red and grotesque at the back of the stage. It’s a placeholder; we know that by the end of Anthropocene – Scottish composer Stuart McRae’s latest collaboration with librettist Louise Welsh – something more familiar, and far more horrifying, will take its place.

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