fri 29/05/2020

Opera Reviews

Turandot, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff

stephen Walsh

No point in going to WNO’s Turandot expecting to see images of old Beijing, for all the charming lady in a Chinese floral hat on the programme cover. The curtain goes up on the inside of an enormous galvanised dustbin festooned with photos of what might be lads from the football team but are actually Turandot’s victims to date.

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Ariodante, Barbican Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Handel spread dazzle and desolation evenly enough through the lead roles of Ariodante. A suitably stellar line-up for last night's concert performance at the Barbican was, therefore, awaiting us. Yet, as so often with Handel, the packed ship and its glistening booty inevitably tilted to one passenger and one casket of gems: to Joyce DiDonato and "Scherza infida".
 

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Macbeth, Royal Opera

David Nice

The staging smacks of Covent Garden's familiar Verdi-by-numbers - surprising since it's the often inventive Phyllida Lloyd's concept, revived by Harry Fehr, but it might as well be the inert pageantry of Elijah Moshinsky - while the necessary singing-acting, no doubt as a result, is mostly one-dimensional and overcooked. Verdi's first confident shot at music-theatre, revised for Paris in 1864 but already vivid in outline four years before Rigoletto broke the mould, deserves better....

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Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

stephen Walsh

Two 1950s Mozarts in one weekend might seem like pressing the contemporaneity of great art unnecessarily far. But Jonathan Kent’s Glyndebourne Don Giovanni, revived on Sunday, is a much less crude update than the WNO Così.

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

David Nice Nuremberg's beloved Hans Sachs (Gerald Finley) addresses the midsummer crowds

So the world didn't end yesterday as predicted, and Wagner's divine comedy about the meaning of art has weathered the ironic apocalypse following Hitler’s misappropriation. Bayreuth reels, but we Brits are lucky to have two stagings in under a year which take the humanism at face value. Scaling it down for Glyndebourne's intimate summer paradise, given director David McVicar’s knack of finding a plausible historical setting, should have offered a viable alternative to...

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Così fan tutte, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff

stephen Walsh

“I’ve seen an asp, a hydra, a basilisk”, Fiordiligi sings as she tries to ward off Ferrando in the second act of Mozart’s cynical dissection of true love.

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The Bartered Bride, BBCSO, Bělohlávek, Barbican Hall

David Nice

What a relief, for half of last night's semi-staged concert performance, to have left behind Britten's claustrophobic wood at English National Opera and to seek refuge in Smetana's Bohemian village inn of good cheer.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream, English National Opera

David Nice

Just think, said a veteran enthusiast of Britten's operas when I showed him the earliest publicity designs for Christopher Alden's production, you could set them all in a school, even Gloriana - what about headmistress Bess and head prefect Essex? But could you squidge everything into the one shape, I wondered?

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The Damnation of Faust, English National Opera

David Nice

Anything goes in the wacky world of Berlioz’s Faust story. It’s a heaven and hell of a lot better than Gounod’s, but it isn’t an opera, it isn’t an oratorio and it certainly isn’t the gospel according to Goethe. So Terry Gilliam, ENO’s latest wild-card debut director, was right not to play by all of the composer’s already rather warped rules. At first you sigh: not the Nazis and the Holocaust again.

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Werther, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

We all knew about the throat problems and the vocal-cord-threatening surgery. But Rolando Villazón's post-operation return to the Royal Opera House last night appeared to reveal heart issues too. At least that was the only way I could explain the endless arm-swinging and chest-clutching. Twenty, perhaps 30, times he clutched and swung. Surely this wasn't Villazón's attempt to characterise Werther's heartache, was it?

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