thu 20/06/2019

Opera Reviews

Capriccio, Grange Park Opera

stephen Walsh

By far the most uncomfortable – perhaps the only uncomfortable - thing about Richard Strauss’s last opera is the date of its first performance. In October 1942 the battle of El Alamein was raging and the British were bombing German cities while the Munich opera audience were entertained by a rambling disquisition on the respective merits of poetry and music as art forms, set in an eighteenth-century French château. What modern director could resist this provocation? Stephen Medcalf...

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Mary Stuart, Opera North

graham Rickson The encounter that never happened: Sarah Connolly as Mary Stuart and Antonia Cifrone as Elizabeth

Among the many pleasures of Donizetti's Mary Stuart is the fun of watching a chunk of primary-school history filtered through a florid bel canto imagination. There are moments when you want to cry out, “That’s not what happened!” But it’s so fast-moving, so well-paced, that you soon stop complaining and just surrender.

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What Makes a Great Tenor? BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

Thus I approached What Makes a Great Tenor? in a spirit of moderate scepticism. Had appearing on Popstar to Operastar destroyed at a stroke the credibility of its presenter, the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón?

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Rick Stein's Food of the Italian Opera, BBC Four

william Ward Pasta Verdi? Rick Stein presents 'Food of the Italian Opera'

Golfing for Cats: Alan Coren once invented the perfect book title on the basis that if you combined those who follow the activities of Tiger Woods with those who adore smaller domestic felines, you have a massive demographic primed to buy your last tome. Likewise for TV commissioning editors, there must be something tempting about the high-concept hybrid. As part of a season designed to interest the Great British audience in the arcane delights of the operatic tradition (...

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The Pearl Fishers, English National Opera

David Nice

To both paraphrase and contradict one of the many French critics who savaged young Bizet, his first stage work of genius mentions no fishers in its gawky libretto but offers strings of pearls in the music. That's to say, much more than the famous duet, the least moving number on offer last night. I’ve come to love this fitfully ravishing score’s gentle, intimate side but had given up on seeing a less than tawdry staging to solve the opera’s gimcrack orientalia.

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Le nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera

alexandra Coghlan

The opening night of Le nozze di Figaro was not so much an opera of two halves as an opera of two teams. In the pit we had Sir Colin Davis and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House offering a crisply incisive rendering of Mozart’s score; onstage we had the Royal Opera Chorus and a selection of soloists, most of whom seemed set on a rather different – and, in the case of the chorus, downright lacklustre – rendition of the score. Now on its second revival, David McVicar’s all-the-...

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Stephen Fry on Wagner, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

Is there anywhere Stephen Fry will not go? I mean in documentaries. We’ve had Fry on depression and Fry on America, Fry on HIV and Fry on endangered species. Movingly, we’ve had Fry on who he thinks he is, an odyssey in which he discovered that much of his family fetched up in the gas ovens. Fry on Wagner? Admit it, you weren’t surprised. You didn't think, not another bloody comedian investigating, in pursuit of ratings, a subject of which he knows next to nothing.

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Opera Italia, BBC Four

David Nice

The backlash begins here with the first of Flavia Rittner's three documentaries: not an operatic wannabe or a gushing celebrity outsider to present, only a conductor who knows and loves his job inside out and a parade of gorgeous, energetic singers all at the very top of their hard-working game in state-of-the-art productions.

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Guillaume Tell, Chelsea Opera Group, QEH

David Nice Swiss artist Fuseli's depiction of the oath on the Rütli, grand finale to Rossini's Act Two

Was Rossini, credited with the unsinkable comment that Wagner had "beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour", hoist by his own petard in his last and grandest opera? For while Wagner, at least in performances as well-paced as the one I heard of Siegfried in the hands of last night's valiant field marshal Dominic Wheeler, really ought to have no dull moments, Rossini's Guillaume Tell offers many stunning quarters of an hour but just a couple which are so-so. In Chelsea...

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The Lion's Face, Opera Group

stephen Walsh 'A frighteningly convincing portrait': Dave Hill as Alzheimers sufferer Mr D, with Rachel Hynes

An opera about Alzheimer’s disease might seem an idea calculated to send the most community-minded audience rapidly to the nearest exit. Yet there's a longish history of theatre – musical and otherwise – about loss of memory and the failure of language, from Wagner to Bartók to Beckett to (even) Michael Nyman; and if Elena Langer's new piece for The Opera Group, The Lion's Face, ultimately fails to measure up dramatically to that tradition, it may be because, in approaching the...

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