mon 26/08/2019

Opera Reviews

The Tsarina's Slippers, Royal Opera House

David Nice Larissa Diadkova (Solokha) and Maxim Mikhailov (the Devil) in The Tsarina's Slippers

A vain, capricious girl sends her lunk of a suitor on a quest for the best ruby slippers in the world, while said lunk's mother, the village witch, cosies up to the Devil. It's a whimsical Christmas Eve tale, exuberantly narrated by Nikolay Gogol in his Ukrainian-based Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka; but you wouldn't think there would be much room for pathos and sentiment. Trust Tchaikovsky to favour the heartfelt and the melancholy in his very characteristic early opera Vakula...

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Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Adam Sweeting

The famously tempestuous Romanian soprano is, we learn, living a separate life from her husband Roberto Alagna. If Opera's Most Romantic Couple is no more, will Brand Angela be terminally damaged? Surely a showcase performance in the South Bank's International Voices season would be just the thing to rally the faithful and reaffirm Ms Gheorghiu's spectacular star quality, but I must admit that by the time we reached the interval, I was beset with gnawing doubt.

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Maria di Rohan, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Krassimira Stoyanova's Maria di Rohan was the show-stopper

So many 19th-century opera plots park themselves on fertile historical ground, amid all the colour, character and juice you could ever want, and then spend three hours picking at some anaemic daisies at the edges. It was a worry last night as I watched Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan in concert at the Royal Festival Hall.  By sidestepping the heavyweight power players of Louis XIII’s reign, the eminently operatic figures of Cardinal Richelieu (endlessly...

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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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