Rimsky-Korsakov’s Invisible City of Kitezh, given at the Dutch National Opera

One compensating feature for the absence of live operatic performances is the ability to choose from a wide range of works streamed from major opera houses. I have been searching in vain for a live performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend…

World premiere of Fagerlund’s Autumn Sonata, streamed from Helsinki

Operas have, of course, often been derived from plays but turning a film into an opera is relatively rare. And if one looks to cinema for operatic inspiration, would one choose the redoubtable Ingmar Bergman as auteur? The anguish and…

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel Streamed from Munich

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is an oddity. The composer did not live to see a complete performance and it has never secured a place in the opera repertory. Written in the 1920s, it is characteristic of that period in its expressionist…

Relay of Weinberger’s Frühlingsstürme

Preferring the real thing, I have hitherto avoided live streaming from opera houses and indeed have also eschewed radio and television broadcasts and even DVDs and CDs. However, the current privations have forced me to rethink this policy and so…

Rossini’s Otello in Malta

Rossini’s Otello provides a major challenge for smaller opera houses, not the least because it requires five tenors capable of singing the composer’s often florid and high-lying tessitura. And, in dramatic terms, it falls well short of Verdi’s treatment of…

Italian premiere of Korngold’s Violanta

Erich Korngold’s one-act opera Violanta was written when the composer was only seventeen and, on a first encounter with it, it would seem in one respect that his youth shows. The storyline has the heroine, who has been busy plotting…

Alfano’s Risurrezione in Florence

Alfano’s Risurrezione is certainly not a neglected masterpiece. The critic who described its music as “unalloyed sludge, turgid and torpid” may have exaggerated but the score is unmemorable and, worse, formulaic, employing in a predictable fashion the devices familiar from…

My Operatic Highlights 2019

DIRECTORS Martin Glaser: Don Carlo, Brno                       (http://bit.ly/2EdpNAi) Lotte de Beer: Didone Abbandonata, Basel    (http://bit.ly/2N93NNx)   DESIGNERS Christian Schmidt: Rodelinda, Frankfurt         (http://bit.ly/2W0y3xW) Rifail Ajdarpasic: Pénélope, Frankfurt              (http://bit.ly/2DD1E4R)   CONDUCTORS Maxime Pascal: Pelléas et Mélisande, Barlin SO        (http://bit.ly/2VPRft6 Emmanuelle Haïm: Hippolyte et…

Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at Manchester’s RNCM

Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, with the dominance it gives to female singers, might seem to be a good choice for student productions since at the conservatoires today talented young male singers are less readily available. Yet the work also poses…

Fauré’s Pénélope in Frankfurt

I had not heard a bar of Gabriel Fauré’s only opera Pénélope and, in keen anticipation of a rare performance in Frankfurt, I speculated on what I might expect to hear, given my experience of his more familiar compositions. Romantic,…

Brecht/Weill Mahagonny in Radebeul

You are in the theatre for Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and are ready for the brilliance of Brecht’s sharp and sour political libretto and Kurt Weill’s hit music hall melodies, but do take heed of the richness of…

Meyerbeer’s Dinorah in Görlitz

Meyerbeer’s Dinorah is a rarity even among his largely neglected works but the reluctance of opera houses to mount a revival is not difficult to explain. It is an odd mixture of Dark Ages mystery, fairy tale, and romantic madness…

Tim Benjamin’s Fire of Olympus

I enjoyed Tim Benjamin’s small-scale opera Madame X when I saw it five years ago. The mixture of musical styles worked reasonably well for the libretto, a thriller about corruption in the art world. His most recent work, The Fire…

Verdi’s Attila in Cagliari

Attila is a typical piece from Verdi’s early-middle period with rousing melodic drive and a potentially interesting theme arising from the conflict between late Imperial Christian Rome and the invading pagan Barbarians. With their insistent forward-thrusting movement, the arias need…

Nino Rota’s Cappello di Paglia in Sassari

If you have heard some of Nino Rota’s music it has probably been at the cinema; he wrote over 150 film scores, notably for Fellini and Visconti. But he also composed orchestral and chamber music and no less than ten…

Stanford’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Leeds Opera Festival

Charles Villiers Stanford was a redoubtable figure in the Victorian and Edwardian musical establishment. He wrote ten operas. Little is heard of them today, so all credit to the Northern Opera Group for offering a fully staged performance of Much…

The Mikado at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Harrogate

There are large numbers who return each year to the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Buxton and Harrogate; what do they want from performances? Cosy, reassuring tradition? Or something fresher, more stimulating, even perhaps innovative? The Artistic Director of the…

Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook at the the Ryedale Festival

Hugo Wolf was, after Schubert, the supreme composer of Lieder and, given the recent revival of interest in the genre led by the Leeds and Oxford Festivals, it is disappointing that his songs are not performed more often. Perhaps it…

Caldara’s Lucio Papirio at the Buxton Festival

The operatic works of Antonio Caldara, dating from the early 18th century, rarely get an outing and so the performance of Lucio Papirio Dittatore at the Buxton Festival was most welcome. Set in ancient Rome, it explores the values associated…

Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the York Early Music Festival

It was bold of the York Early Music Festival to mount a full-scale single performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Not unexpectedly, given the expert and experienced forces engaged for the work, the music was executed with brilliance and passionate commitment.  The…