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…

Jommelli’s Didone abbandonata in Basel

The name of the baroque composer Niccolò Jommelli might not be familiar to you. It wasn’t to me but he wrote over sixty operas and if some of them are as good as Didone abbandonata, which I have just seen…

Tristan und Isolde in Berne

It is always disruptive of a performance when one of the leading singers is sick and a last-minute replacement has to step in. One would have thought that this would be less problematic when the opera is Tristan und Isolde,…

Handel’s Lotario in Berne

Lotario was the first Handel opera I saw – in the early 1970s – and could have been my last. I was disconcerted by the da capo format, the sound (and appearance!) of a porky counter tenor, the banality and…

Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich

French baroque opera has the reputation of being somewhat boring compared to its German and Italian equivalents. No one who attended the performance of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich could possibly agree. The solo arias may be less brilliant…

Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsi Fair at the Komische Oper

Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsi Fair is a strange work. Based on a story by Gogol, it deals with life and love in a Ukrainian village and with superstitions which are all-pervasive there. The plot is, to say the least, thin.  The Devil…

Ruth Berghaus and her Pelléas at the Berlin Staatsoper

One does sometimes encounter the revival of a production nearly thirty years after it was first presented, particularly if it is of a very popular opera in an international house and used primarily as a vehicle for jet-setting star singers….

J.C. Bach’s Amadis in Bielefeld

Johann Christian was the only Bach son to have had a cosmopolitan career and to write for the opera house. His last opera Amadis de Gaule, first performed in Paris in 1779, shows how he had successfully assimilated contemporary developments…

Handel’s Rodelinda in Frankfurt

The succession of long da copo solo arias in Handel’s operas pose a dilemma for stage directors. Should they stop the action and allow the audience to concentrate on the music? Or, fearing boredom and at the risk of distracting…

State of Theatre in England: The Classics

The steady decline in the amount and quality of classic plays performed in theatres in England seems not to have attracted much attention and, in any event, little protest. In the second half of the 20th century, one could find…

Penella’s Zarzuela La Malquerida in Valencia

La Malquerida by Manuel Penella, performed at the remarkable Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, is the second zarzuela I have seen and heard. As I pointed out in relation to Federico Morena Torroba’s better known Luisa Fernanda…

Smetana’s Dalibor in Frankfurt

The critics have not been kind to the Frankfurt revival of Smetana’s Dalibor, in particular directing their ire at Florentine Klepper’s staging. I disagree totally with their judgements: it was an exhilarating evening of musical theatre. Let me begin with…

Ginastera’s Beatrix Cenci in Strasbourg

Alberto Ginastera’s opera Beatrix Cenci is a grim, not to say, horrid, piece about male dominance, savagery and debauchery and the desecration of the female body. Containing incidents of rape, incest, and murder, it is not everybody’s idea of an…

Henze’s Prinz von Homburg in Stuttgart

Hans Werner Henze’s Prinz von Homburg is a deeply affecting opera drawn, but distanced, from Kleist’s drama of the same name. He and his librettist Ingeborg Bachmann were concerned to use the early 19th century material on militarism, disobedience and…

Arthur Miller’s American Clock at the Old Vic

The current revival at the Old Vic of Arthur Miller’s The American Clock prompts some thoughts on current trends in theatre productions and the problems that they create for audiences. In a number of recent revivals of the classics, there…

Double Bill of Aleko and Pagliacci in Opava

The charming little Silesian town of Opava has a population of only 60,000 yet still maintains a permanent opera ensemble, which tells you much about the state of culture in this part of the world. Rachmaninov’s Aleko, new to me,…

Smetana’s Secret in Ostrava

The Secret is a typically bucolic piece by Smetana, telling the tale of a young man Kalina who had won the love of Róza but lost her when her father disapproved of the match because he was not wealthy. Rather…

Don Carlo in Brno

Don Carlo contains some of Verdi’s finest and most inventive music to underpin the drama of the encounters between the principal characters but it also poses problems in performance because its various themes – thwarted love, individual liberty, State versus…