Lucio Silla in Brussels

When you have enjoyed an excellent performance of a work and circumstances enable you to see it again soon after in a different production, there is a risk that your second encounter will be disappointing. This summer I had been…

Schoeck’s Penthesilea in Bonn

Othmar Schoeck is not a familiar name. The Swiss composer is perhaps best known today for his lieder but he also wrote several operas. His career spanning the two world wars never projected him into the international limelight, perhaps because…

Arabella in Dortmund

On the face of it Arabella is conventional operatic stuff. Drawing on the success of Der Rosenkavalier, Strauss combines a luscious, lyrical score with another exploration of love, in this case one which triumphs over parental manipulation and frivolity, both…

Tribes by Nina Raine at the Dublin Theatre Festival

Nina Raine’s play Tribes is superb. Centring on the problems of relationships within a family, particularly between a profoundly deaf individual, his siblings and his parents, it is, on one level, a piece about the nature and problems of communication….

Joyce’s Ulysses at the Dublin Theatre Festival

I have always been sceptical of adaptations of novels for the stage and, in my experience, the greater the novel the less likely its success in this format. Having said that, one of the most impressive of my early theatre…

Jenůfa in Stockholm

Jenůfa is, musically and dramatically, such a powerful work that it almost never fails to make a huge impact. Yet during the first act of the performance at Stockholm’s Royal Opera, I sensed that the audience was not fully engaged….

Manon Lescaut in Stockholm

Musically, the quality of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut should not be underestimated. George Bernard Shaw, on hearing its first British performance, considered that it heralded a new development in Italian opera, moving it to something more symphonic and underpinning the dramatic…

Eugene O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms at the Sheffield Crucible

Eugene O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms is a towering, craggy masterpiece of 20th century theatre.  The play draws on themes from Greek drama, power (patriarchal and sexual), retribution and dynastic ties, but nevertheless remains quintessentially American.  This is because the…

Arne’s Alfred at the Leeds Left Bank Opera Festival

Thomas Arne’s Alfred is described by the Northern Opera Group, which is currently performing it at the Leeds Left Bank Opera Festival, as “one of the greatest and most thrilling British operas of all-time”. Well, even allowing for the hype…

Joshua Redman and Still Dreaming at the Manchester Jazz Festival

Although I am fond of jazz, I do not normally write blogs about it, primarily because I have insufficient knowledge and vocabulary to confidently exercise critical faculties. But I had the urge to communicate my responses to this special occasion:…

Un Ballo in Maschera at the West Green House Opera

The tone for the West Green House Opera is set by the admonition on its website that “the consistent dress code for all evening performances is Black Tie.” Back to the notion of opera for the elite? Or instead a…

Salieri’s Scuola de’ gelosi at Bampton

After years of neglect, some of Antonio Salieri’s forty or so operas are beginning to find their way onto the modern stage. Fascination with the composer’s historical character, sparked off by Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, may be largely responsible for this,…

Lucio Silla at the Buxton Festival

Seeing Mozart’s Lucio Silla at Buxton within a week of La Finta Giardiniera at the Ryedale Festival (see my blog of 16th July) confirmed what an extraordinary musical-dramatist the composer was as a teenager. It is not merely the brilliance…

Mozart’s Finta Giardiniera at the Ryedale Festival

Hardly necessary to say, but Mozart’s Finta Giardiniera is a remarkable work.  Written at the age of eighteen, it looks forward to Nozze di Figaro not just in the facility of tuneful writing and its boisterous ensembles but, more importantly,…

Carmen at the Grange Opera

Plus ça change …? The Grange Park Opera Festival has moved premises. At The Grange, near Alresford in Hampshire, a new entity has arrived, called confusingly the Grange Opera Festival. Some alterations to the auditorium and its surrounds have taken…

Salome in Amsterdam

Until yesterday evening I had not experienced a wholly satisfying performance of Salome. The problem is, I think, that directors and designers have tended to take too literal an approach to the setting of the opera: Herod portrayed as a…

The Father by Florian Zeller at Oldham’s Coliseum

You have come to see a play which follows the progress of a dementia sufferer as his condition deteriorates. It is likely to be a moving, poignant experience, particularly if you know, or have known, someone with this condition and…

The Pulverised by Alexandra Badea at York’s Theatre Royal

The presentation of continental European drama on the British stage has become too rare for comfort in recent times, so the appearance at York’s Theatre Royal of The Pulverised by the Romanian-French writer Alexandra Badea is to be warmly welcomed….

A Weinberg Korngold Double Bill in Heidelberg

The idea of the Heidelberg Theatre to bring together in a double bill two short operas by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Mazel Tov) and Erich Korngold (Der Ring des Polykrates) seemed to be a good one. Both were written by Jewish composers…

Schnittke’s Life with an Idiot in Giessen

First performed in 1992, Schnittke’s opera Life with an Idiot initially achieved some notoriety and success across Europe but recently seems to have fallen out of favour. That is a pity because unquestionably it is a masterpiece. It is remarkable…