sat 20/04/2019

Opera Reviews

Duke Bluebeard's Castle/Rite of Spring, ENO

ismene Brown

There are horrors in the world so vile that few of us want to think about them. None more so than such cases as Josef Fritzl - or Jaycee Lee Dugard, or Arcedio Alvarez, or Raymond Gouardo, or Wolfgang Priklopil, or Marc Dutroux... but you get the picture. Cases where men abduct girls and turn them into sex slaves and father multiple children by them, often incestuously, hiding them in garages, basements, behind walls, sometimes for decades undiscovered, sometimes murdering them.

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The Turn of the Screw, ENO

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw is first and foremost a psychological horror. And psychological horrors are all about rocking the mental boat. Capsizing the mental boat. Sinking the mental boat. David McVicar’s production of The Turn of the Screw for the English National Opera does not rock the mental boat. He doesn't rock any boat. I'm not sure McVicar is in a boat. He plays the work so supremely safe, so PG-safe, so two-condom safe, that I feel McVicar is...

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L'Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Will UK Gold now be permanently available at the Royal Opera House? Or was Italian TV being beamed into the auditorium last night by mistake? The 1970s scene before us actually just meant the return of Richard Jones’s inspired sitcom treatment of Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi to Covent Garden. Even before the curtain had lifted we were raising a 1970s titter, being prepped for a...

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The Adventures of Mr Brouček, Opera North

graham Rickson

To a bewitching, shimmering prelude, a back-projected astronaut plants a Czech flag on the lunar surface. So begins one of those evenings where you skip out of the theatre grinning and promising yourself that you will buy tickets for all your opera-disdaining friends.

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Turandot, English National Opera, London Coliseum

ismene Brown

It’s a let-down when a new production of an opera that spends two acts feeling dazzlingly invigorating and clever collapses in a careless mess in the third. My guess is that a key scene for the concept of English National Opera’s Turandot is when Ping, Pang and Pong - three very grand court officials - turn out to be Chinese cooks sneaking smokes up the fire escape at the Emperor Palace restaurant. It's a sharp idea, generating a sensationally visual production, but that fire escape...

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Carmen, Royal Opera

Adam Sweeting

Buoyed by winning the Classic FM Innovation award at Friday's Classic FM Gramophone Awards for its cut-price ticket offer for Sun readers, the Royal Opera House was at it again last night with the return of Francesca Zambello's production of Carmen.

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Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

There’s nothing like a bit of communal booing to sharpen your critical faculties. And Christof Loy’s new production of Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House last night received wave after wave after wave of it. An ocean of boos almost as deep and profound as the Wagner that had just washed over us moments before.

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Werther, Opera North

graham Rickson

Werther is based on the young Goethe’s semi-autobiographical epistolary novel which tells of a young artist’s thwarted love for a simple country girl who is already engaged. First performed in Vienna in 1892, it is audibly a product of that time. You can hear the predominant influence of Wagner in piquant unresolved dissonances, suggestive of a fleeter-footed, gallic Tristan with added harps. The sheer depth and splendour of the music is what makes a potentially risible...

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Le Grand Macabre, ENO

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Door-sized detachable nipples, an angel of death with a dick to die for (literally), a cave of an arse housing a disco-dancing unit of storm troopers and an all-singing all-dancing couple of randy cadavers. Ever wondered what the Europeans might have done if they’d ever got hold of the Carry On brand? The ENO’s new production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre offers up one possibility.

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Don Carlo, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

It finally came just over three hours in. Ferruccio Furlanetto’s gouty Philip II leans his elbow on his chair and begins to grind his head into his right-hand like he's a human pestle and mortar. He first castigates himself for ever having thought that his wife, Elizabeth of Valois - who he suspects of sleeping with his son, Don Carlos - might have fancied his unyielding, aged presence, and then tries to sing his way out of his tortured predicament.

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