sat 30/05/2020

Opera Reviews

The Merry Widow, Opera North

graham Rickson

It’s such a pity that the more striking elements in Franz Lehár’s orchestration are heard so fleetingly, such as the tiny glints of cimbalon which give the best parts of the score an authentic bohemian - or Pontevedran - flavour. But too often the relentless parade of waltzes and polkas begins to grate, and you’re about to nod off when suddenly something ear-catching happens – a sequence of gorgeous string portamenti, a languorous violin solo, or stopped horn chords that sound as if they’ve...

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The Duenna, English Touring Opera, Linbury Studio Theatre

alexandra Coghlan Adrian Thompson, Richard Suart and Damian Thantrey celebrate 'a bumper of liquor'

Christmas has come early to the Royal Opera House this year. Without a single shout of “He’s behind you!” or even an implausibly-uddered dancing cow, pantomime season is well and truly underway in the form of The Duenna – a corset-straining, britches-splitting, liquor-quaffing delight of a comedy. All of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s familiar wit and whimsy are here, and if they frequently need to pause and sprawl themselves out upon a comfortable melody, then so much the better. What...

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The Turn of the Screw, Opera North

graham Rickson

To paraphrase a cliché, it’s rare to leave a theatre humming the lighting. But here, Matthew Haskins’ lighting designs help make this production so powerful and evocative, whether projecting grotesque, distorted shadows on the back wall of Madeleine Boyd’s claustrophobic set, or illuminating characters’ subtle facial expressions.

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Ariadne auf Naxos, Welsh National Opera

stephen Walsh

Ariadne auf Naxos, according to its librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, is all about fidelity: fidelity in love, fidelity in art, fidelity in spirit. Ariadne on her island, abandoned by Theseus, can give herself to Bacchus only by persuading herself that he’s a god. The actress Zerbinetta gives herself to every man in sight, including the Composer (played, incidentally, by a girl), who for a moment weakens in his lofty contempt for these comic actors who intrude on his high ideals...

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Radamisto, English National Opera

alexandra Coghlan

If interior décor could shout, then last night’s music might have proved altogether incidental. The curtain rises to reveal a set gift-wrapped – ramparts, city walls and all – in the brightest of hot-pink damasks: a Nicky Haslam acid trip. Ladies and gentlemen, we are now entering operatic Orient 2.0, a sexy, postmodern take on the original you know and love, complete with an oversized menagerie of animals, evil tyrants and exotic princesses.

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Les Pêcheurs de Perles in concert, Royal Opera House

David Nice Nicole Cabell: Gorgeous presence, classy phrasing as Hindu priestess Léïla

Ditch the divers, the video-projected sea and the Relevance with a capital R of ENO's production last season - which managed all three very well indeed - and what remains of Bizet's Pearl Fishers in concert (and in French)? Three ravishing arias, three passionate duets, orchestration and harmony of a subtlety way beyond the plot's cod...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Ailish Tynan on Radamisto

Edward Seckerson

Ailish Tynan plays a short, fat, bald man in David Alden's staging of Handel's Radamisto at ENO. It is, she says, an occupational hazard when venturing into the cross-gender world of 18th-century opera. That Tynan is one of our brightest young stars - a shining lyric soprano equally at home in the rarefied world of song as she is in opera - only adds to the somewhat surreal prospect of hearing that voice emanating from a grotesquely fat-suited body.
 

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Sellars and Viola's Tristan und Isolde, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

People always overlook how much of a hippie Richard Wagner was intellectually. His philosophical stance differs little from that of Neil from The Young Ones. It's a side of Wagner you can't get away from in Tristan und Isolde, with its endless railing against temporal realities and its search for universal oneness - yeah man, oneness.

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Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

One after the other they came. Stunning aria after stunning aria. Affecting in their harmonies, infectious in their rhythms, arresting in their textures, vivid in their melodies. The Royal Opera had taken a mighty gamble with Agostino Steffani's 300-year-old Niobe, Regina di Tebe, a forgotten opera by a forgotten composer. But they were completely right to do so. For Niobe is a masterpiece. And last night's performance was a triumph.

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The Makropulos Case, English National Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic 'Amanda Roocroft was incredible as Emilia Marty, both vocally and physically, capturing the fragility of this well-travelled soul as well as the mania'

Opera spends so much of its time killing off female protagonists that it's refreshing to come back to The Makropulos Case. In it Janáček, in one of his many moments of generosity, imagines what might happen if you allowed a woman not just to live but to live forever. The answer? They become a bloody nightmare.

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