fri 07/08/2020

Opera Reviews

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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Un ballo in maschera, Opera Holland Park review - evocative and sensationally sung

alexandra Coghlan

A masked ball is a time of play and role-play, celebrating the duality, the conflicting selves within us all, allowing us to set aside our everyday public mask put on an alter ego for the evening. It seems appropriate then that Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera has a deep fissure running down the middle of its drama.

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Cendrillon, Glyndebourne Festival review - busy but engaging

Gavin Dixon

Cendrillon is Jules Massenet’s operatic version of Cinderella, based on the Charles Perrault story of 1698. It is a fairly faithful to the story we know, although it includes a dark third act, the scene after the ball, where Cendrillon attempts suicide. But, of course, the spirits intervene, and all ends happily.

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Falstaff, The Grange Festival review - belly laughs and bags of fun

alexandra Coghlan

What is the perfect country house opera? A Midsummer Night’s Dream? L’elisir? Cenerentola? Figaro? All are strong contenders, but in the absence of anyone brave enough to stage Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest the winner – surely – must be Falstaff.

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Le Nozze di Figaro, The Grange Festival review – the dark side of power

Boyd Tonkin

Productions of The Marriage of Figaro tend to press their thumbs on the comic or tragic side of the scales that hover so evenly throughout Mozart’s inexhaustible work. Director Martin Lloyd-Evans mostly favoured a darker interpretation at The Grange Festival, despite long stretches of niftily managed funny business...

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