Madama Butterfly in Kiev

Attending recently two performances of Madama Butterfly in countries of the former Soviet Union has made me reflect on how this opera has been, and can be, presented. The production in Vilnius, seen in January 2017 was not homegrown but…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in York

The idea of creating a “pop-up” Elizabethan theatre for a summer season of Shakespeare in York was an excellent one, but would the quality of performances justify the effort and expense? After a disappointing Richard III, I was doubtful: this…

Benjamin Appl’s Lieder Recital at the Ryedale Festival

Benjamin Appl is blessed with a beautiful baritone voice, burnished when singing out, but softly serene for quieter phrases at the top, as well as resonant in the lower register. He was apparently Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s last pupil and in the…

Idomeneo at the Buxton Festival

Some performances of Idomeneo induce me to the heretical conclusion that it is Mozart’s greatest opera – the Buxton Festival’s current offering was one of them. Musically, the piece is extraordinarily rich, particularly the orchestral writing which, with the high…

First UK professional performance of Verdi’s Alzira

What is so wrong with Verdi’s Alzira that the current run at the Buxton Festival should constitute the first professional performances of the work in Britain? The plot dealing with the conflict between the native tribes and the Spanish conquistadores…

Brescianello’s Tisbe at the Buxton Festival

“A candidate for the finest Baroque opera ever” proudly proclaims the programme note for Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello’s Tisbe, performed at this year’s Buxton Festival. Well, it may certainly be worth the odd revival, but it is no masterpiece. The plot,…

Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto in Cologne

For a work of its quality, Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto gets surprisingly few performances.  A pioneering example of buffo opera, it looks forward to Rossini with its pitter-patter arias for the lower voice, its swooping melodies and, above all, its…

Der goldene Drache by Peter Eötvös in Koblenz

The opera Der goldene Drache at the Theater Koblenz was my first encounter with the music of Peter Eötvös and it made a strong impression. Its compelling character lies in its ability to underpin the drama and the text through…

Die Lustigen Nibelungen by Oscar Straus in Karlsruhe

Oscar Straus is best known in the Anglophone world for his operetta The Chocolate Soldier, based on G.B. Shaw’s Arms and the Man; less familiar is his earlier piece, Die lustigen Nibelungen. Strictly speaking this is a parody of the…

Kurt Weill’s Der Silbersee in Pforzheim

Der Silbersee, written by Georg Kaiser with music by Kurt Weill, is a fascinating work with a fascinating history. A sharp leftist, expressionist piece but with a poetic, optimistic ending, it was premiered simultaneously in Berlin, Erfurt and Magdeburg in…

Brothers by Daníel Bjarnason in Reykjavik

Daníel Bjarnason’s Brothers was given its premiere at Aarhus in 2017. The production by Kasper Holten, designed by Steffen Aarfing, has with some changes been given a single performance in the composer’s homeland, Iceland. It is a bleak piece relating…

The Phenomenon of Matthew Bourne, Choreographer

Matthew Bourne is definitely a phenomenon. He and his company New Adventures have achieved a huge popularity among ballet and dance audiences. Take the Alhambra Bradford, a venue regularly used by touring groups. For most of their performances it has,…

Luisa Miller in Zurich

Luisa Miller is an intense tragedy focusing on family intrigue and feudal oppression. It has only one hit number- the tenor aria “Quando le sere al placido“- but contains a series of vocal encounters that bring out the best of…

Maria Stuarda in Zurich

Maria Stuarda tells the story of the relationship between two great regal characters and Donizetti’s opera revolves around the confrontation of two great sopranos, with the Earl of Leicester little more than a foil for each of them. Elizabeth is…

La Cenerentola in Basel

La Cenerentola is unquestionably my favourite Rossini opera. The music is exhilarating, the ensembles brilliantly devised between the different voices and the witty libretto not eclipsing a certain sentimental poignancy. I have never seen an unconventional staging of the piece…

Rossini’s Donna del lago in Lausanne

Rossini’s Donna del lago contains some fine bel canto music but, notwithstanding its basis in Walter Scott’s poem, has a creaking plot and a prosaic, inconsequential libretto. Understandably, stage directors have been tempted to read it into its story of…

Rattle and the LSO in Mahler’s Ninth

There can hardly be a more appropriate work to display Simon Rattle’s talents than Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, with its combination of foreboding, wry parody of Ländler, cynically extrovert and sentimental take on orchestral romanticism and the final passive and very…

The Ten Operas I would Most Like to See

Bellini, Beatrice di Tenda Boito, Nerone Boughton, The Immortal Hour Busoni, Die Brautwahl Faure, Pénélope Massenet, La Navarraise Rimsky-Korsakov, The Legend of the Invisble City of Kitezh Spontini, La Vestale Strauss, Die Aegyptische Helena Wolf, Der Corregidor

The Actors Touring Company Production of Winter Solstice

Roland Schimmelpfenning’s play Winter Solstice, in the Actors Touring Company production seen at Scarborough, is an outstanding new play. Let me start with the content. A bickering couple, he a sociologist, she a filmmaker, are visited by her mother and…

The Kneehigh production of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Theatre at its creative best is a marvellous thing. Emma Rice’s production of Daniel Jamieson’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk now on a Kneehigh tour is just that. The biodrama of Marc Chagall and his wife Bella is by itself…