Bellini’s Straniera in Essen

Bellini’s La Straniera (The Stranger) is indeed strange. Some important aspects of the plot and the motivations of the characters are difficult to understand and confusing. For his production at the Essen Opera, Christof Loy communicated in an interview published…

Cav and Pag at the Deutsche Oper Berlin

To add spice to a revival of David Pountney’s 2005 production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, the Deutsche Oper Berlin invited two famous Wagnerians, Waltraud Meier and Stephen Gould, to have a few nights off the more serious stuff…

Shiva for Anna at the Berlin Festival for Contemporary Music

Shiva for Anna, given in Berlin as part of the March Festival for Contemporary Music, is a striking piece of musical theatre. The composer Mela Meierhans wanted to pay tribute to her long-standing collaborator, the English poet Anne Blonstein who…

Two Lohengrins at Coburg: Wagner & Sciarrino

The Landestheater Coburg had the bright idea of bringing together in a single weekend Wagner’s Lohengrin and Sciarrino’s modernistic monodrama on the same theme, an exploration of Elsa’s psychological state as she is denied consummation on the wedding night. The…

Brecht/Weill Mahagonny in Hof

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is undoubtedly a masterpiece of music theatre. Kurt Weill’s musical idiom and Berthold Brecht’s text capture so well the spirit of the Weimar Republic with its mixture of cynicism, pessimism and…

Verdi’s Macbeth in Leeds

Yes, we know that Verdi’s version of Macbeth is, simple, even simplistic, compared with the original. Yet with its directness, vigour and musical inventiveness, it carries a definite punch. The cast which Opera North had assembled for this revival had…

A Recital in York of Early Romantic Lieder

Lieder recitals appear to have become all the rage. Up in the North, we have Leeds Lieder, and other music organizations are getting in on the act. The RNCM has a Day of Song coming up, and yesterday it was…

Stravinsky and a New Piano Concerto with the Concertgebouw

You are in Amsterdam at a concert given by one of the world’s great orchestras. Its principal conductor, Mariss Jansons, has cancelled and has been replaced by a young Italian, Gustavo Gimeno, previously better known as the orchestra’s percussionist. The…

Lakmé at the Opéra Comique

Lakmé is one of those operas which are famous – everyone has heard of, if not actually heard, the “bell” aria” – but are rarely performed. So its appearance at the Paris Opéra Comique justified a visit. Now if you…

Rossini’s Pietra del Paragone at Paris Châtelet

I have always resisted the use of video and other projections in theatrical productions. Typically they are a distraction from the action on stage, or coordinate insufficiently with its physicality, or add too little to it. But the current presentation…

L’elisir d’amore at the RNCM

The RNCM have another future star on their hands. At their winter production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, the Chinese tenor Kang Wang won the hearts of all. Not only does he have a golden voice and idiomatic Italianate phrasing; he also…

The Messiah in Harrogate

I refuse to hear the Messiah every year, because over-familiarity can spoil its impact. Also, during the Hallelujah Chorus I stubbornly remain seated because I find the tradition of standing to be silly. Nevertheless at the Harrogate Royal Hall performance,…

Jayson Gillham’s Recital at Ripon

Ripon Cathedral Concert Society has for a number of years provided some of the most exciting chamber music concerts in North Yorkshire. A year or so ago its future was, with declining audiences and diminishing resources, uncertain. However, a largely…

Donizetti’s Anna Bolegna staged by WNO

After all the television series and films on the Tudors, and with Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books fresh in our memory, how should Donizetti’s operas on the same theme be staged? With plenty of pageant and historically appropriate costumes and…

Opera North’s Staging of Death in Venice

Yes, I did see the original production of Britten’s Death in Venice in 1975 and I can assure you that Opera North’s current staging (shared with Bregenz, Lille and Prague) is much superior. It gets closer to the heart of…

Gluck’s Ezio in Frankfurt

I have always argued that the best way to present baroque opera is by simplifying stage design and restricting stage business. Rarely have I encountered such a good example of this as in the first half of Vincent Boussard’s current…

The ETO’s Poppea

It has to be admitted that Monteverdi’s Poppea is a masterpiece. The extraordinary music perfectly matches its principal themes of love and power. So rich is the musical characterisation that, in my experience, it can come across in a variety…

Aida in Seville

I have always eagerly anticipated a first visit to a foreign opera house, and understandably this was the case at Seville with its several operatic associations and standing, as it does, between Carmen’s tobacco factory and the bull ring. However,…

Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream by Opera North

Opera North’s current presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, part of their Festival of Britten, is so good. The piece is, of course, a marvellous and faithful musical evocation of Shakespeare’s original but is not easy to perform. Much trouble…

Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece, musically tuneful and imaginative, with brilliant lyrics. It was given a first rate performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, with David Birrell and Gillian Bevan excelling in the two leading roles. As theatre, the…