thu 20/06/2019

Opera Reviews

The Gambler, Royal Opera House

David Nice

Fasten your seatbelts; it's a bumpy ride to the casino. In Prokofiev's wilful but uncompromising take on Dostoyevsky's tale of obsession, all the private paths of love, lust and greed lead to the gambling tables - eventually. The composer saves up one of the most adrenalin-charged scenes in 20th-century opera for the last act, giving director and conductor some headaches in generating interest and comprehensibility along the way. With a dedication we can only imagine, Richard Jones and...

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Ruddigore, Opera North

graham Rickson A magical Ruddigore: Richard Burkhard as Sir Despard Murgatroyd (left) and Grant Doyle as Robin Oakapple

The plot of this rarely performed Gilbert and Sullivan spoof melodrama is gloriously amusing. The male heirs of the Murgatroyd family suffer under a witch’s curse which forces them to commit a crime each day, or suffer an agonising death. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd has fled the ancestral home and now lives under a pseudonym, meaning that his younger brother Despard has had to assume both the baronetcy and the duty to commit the daily crime. Unlike his older brother's dastardly penchant for stealing...

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Lucia di Lammermoor, ENO

David Nice

Is Donizetti's fustian operatic mash-up of Sir Walter Scott worth staging seriously? On CD, stupenda Sutherland and divina Callas continue to give us goosebumps with their darting, florid stabs at poor mad Lucia. If the difficult-to-achieve match of bel canto and dramatic intensity rests only with the lead tenor, as it did last night, what's left?

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Così fan tutte, Royal Opera/ Joyce DiDonato, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Two very different lessons on love this week. From the Aphrodite-like Joyce DiDonato at the Wigmore Hall, there emerged a correct, wise, honest way to achieve an enamoured state; from the familiarly fickle cast of Così fan tutte - an almost unwatchably faulty bunch of emotional primitives in Jonathan Miller's production for the Royal Opera - very much the wrong way.

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War and Peace, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

David Nice A direct victory: music students present a revelatory first version of Prokofiev's masterpiece

Two hundred costumes, over 60 solo roles and the world premiere of a great operatic composer's first thoughts: it's a task which would daunt the best-resourced opera company in the world. The fact that Prokofiev's initial, 11-scene meditation on Tolstoy's War and Peace was launched last night by students with slow-burn but ultimately total confidence, an orchestral collaboration with established professionals and a fusion of production with design at the very highest level could...

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The Rake's Progress, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Not everyone was playing for the same team in last night's revival production of The Rake's Progress. On the one side were the conductor, choir and soloists, all focused in their service and submission to unravelling this quietly brilliant piece of neoclassicism by Stravinsky - mostly pretty effectively.

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Phaedra, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

In 2005, having completed the first act of his opera Phaedra and killed off his lead Hippolyte, Hans Werner Henze contracted a mystery illness. No one understood it or saw a way out of it. He stopped eating, then speaking. His eyes began to fail him. He fell into a coma. The musical world began to fly out to his Italian village outside Rome to pay their last respects and prepare for his funeral. Then, two inert months into the grief and the start of the obsequies, Henze "just...

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Popstar to Operastar, ITV1

Adam Sweeting

Naturally it would be impossible to reach an objective verdict on what is the worst programme ever shown on television, but it is at least safe to say that Popstar To Operastar is determined not to get left behind in the race to the bottom. This could also be said of some of its contestants, whose unfamiliarity with the concept of "singing" seemed surprising in people who perform music for a living, albeit of the non-operatic kind.

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La Bohème, Opera North

graham Rickson An improbably attractive cast: Bülent Bezdüz as Rodolfo and Anne Sophie Duprels as Mimì

This is a revival of the 1993 production originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame). Directed on this occasion by Peter Relton, it still works brilliantly. Lloyd has updated the setting to 1950s Paris with her young bohemians wearing polo necks, jeans and berets. A gleaming motorbike is one of the objects adorning their living space, its condition degenerating along with the health of Mìmi until it is replaced by a pedal cycle in the final act.

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Elektra, Gergiev, LSO, Barbican Hall

ismene Brown Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909): 'It can and should be moving, as well as unsettling'

Richard Strauss’s 1909 opera Elektra is a diabolical piece of work - less an opera than an event determined to cut its mark. A vast orchestra of 112 players unleashes a two-hour tsunami of sound across the stage, on which female voices are buffeted like pieces of driftwood, shrieking of mothers who murder husbands, daughters who want to murder mothers, rivers of blood, flayed horses, dogs, bodies. Subtle it isn’t. Loud it is. In the hands of Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra...

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