tue 02/06/2020

Opera Reviews

Trouble in Tahiti/A Dinner Engagement, Royal College of Music review - slick, witty and warm

alexandra Coghlan

It’s a clever decision to pair Lennox Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement with Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. The first is all about happily-ever-after, while the second is all about what happens next. The optimistic grime and smog of 1950s London gives way to the shrink-wrapped brightness and professional happiness of the suburban American dream, smiles freeze into toothpaste-commercial grins and love curdles into quiet domestic despair.

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The Cunning Little Vixen, Rattle, LSO, Barbican review – dark magic in the woods

Boyd Tonkin

As midsummer night’s dreams go, it would be hard to surpass the darkly enchanting collaboration between Sir Simon Rattle and Peter Sellars that will bring The Cunning Little Vixen to the Barbican again this evening and on Saturday. Janáček’s spellbinding vision of humans and animals caught up in the inexorable cycles of nature and time has its rough and scary side, of course.

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BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 Final, BBC Four review - stage confidence, supportive set-up

David Nice

If ever there was an instance of the great being the enemy of the good, it happened after all the live singing on Saturday night. This year we all remember, with sadness for his early death and amazement at his burning, burnished talent, the Siberian baritone Dmitry Hvorostovsky (1962-2017), winner in 1989.

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Brundibár, Welsh National Opera review - bittersweet children's opera from the ghetto

stephen Walsh

Politics, in case you may not have noticed, has been in the air of late: questions of escape, release, borders, refugees, things like that. So WNO’s June season of operas about freedom has been suspiciously well timed.

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Belshazzar, The Grange Festival review – songs of freedom

Boyd Tonkin

Cut almost anywhere into the lesser-known seams of Handel’s oratorios and you may strike plentiful nuggets of the purest gold. It may not be quite the case that Handel's Belshazzar, its score studded with nearly-forgotten musical treasures, has entirely disappeared from view.

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Anna Bolena, Longborough Festival Opera review - Henry VIII's court becomes a sexualised death cult

Richard Bratby

Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. Anne Boleyn is number two on the list, so anyone who can remember even that much Tudor history can guess that Donizetti’s Anna Bolena is not going to end well.

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Boris Godunov, Royal Opera review - cool and surgical, with periodic chills

David Nice

Suppose you're seeing Musorgsky's selective historical opera for the first time in Richard Jones's production, without any prior knowledge of the action. That child's spinning-top on the dropcloth: why? Then the curtain rises and we see Bryn Terfel's troubled Boris Godunov seated in near-darkness, while a figure with an outsized head plays with a real top in the upper room before being swiftly despatched by three assassins.

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Hansel and Gretel, ENO, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - into the broomstick woods

David Nice

Shoving a child-eating drag-queen witch into an oven can't be good for any kid's psyche. Director Timothy Sheader doesn't let us forget it in a production which nevertheless treads a fine line between the darkness of the Grimm story and the fairytale incandescence which is a given of this masterly opera.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nevill Holt Opera review - sprinkled with musical fairy-dust

alexandra Coghlan

“For I have found Demetrius like a jewel. Mine own, and not mine own.” Mine own and not mine own. This idea of transfiguration, of things familiar but somehow altered – is the spark that animates both Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Britten’s adaptation. Uncanny, Freud would have called it. There may be magic and naughty sprites, laughter and happy endings, but this is no fairy story.

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Porgy and Bess, Grange Park Opera review - good versus evil in Catfish Row

Jessica Duchen

If you go to a British country house opera to see a work about an addict and a cripple in a poverty-stricken Deep South tenement, you know the contrast between stage and garden marquee will be extreme. Seeing Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Grange Park Opera was never going to be a comfortable experience.

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