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…

Opera in Wroclaw

Looking at the statistics section of the Operabase website, you find that there is more opera in Germany than in any other country, though if you count performances per head of population, then Austria and Estonia have a better score….

Tristan & Isolde at Antwerp

It has to be said that the Flemish Opera are very fortunate to have Dmitri Jurowski as Music Director. He is a member of a notable family of conductors (see pp.152-153 of my book Travels with My Opera Glasses http://bit.ly/15VFnbe)….

Northern Broadsides in Erdman’s Suicide

Russian drama of the 1920s and 1930s is not easy for a British theatre company. The mixture of comedy, surrealism, social and political satire does not fit in easily with our theatrical traditions. One can understand why Deborah McAndrew decided,…

Ostrovsky’s Too Clever by Half at the Royal Exchange

The production of Ostrovsky’s play Too Clever By Half at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre was nearly brilliant. The production contained some extraordinarily funny moments and highly imaginative stagecraft, notably at the end of Act Two when the anti-hero Gloumov attempts…

Korean Opera Singers

Why are there so many good Korean opera singers around today? Opera companies, particularly those in Germany and Austria, rely heavily, for soloists as well as chorus, on them. Look at the Operabase website under “artists” and you will find…

Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera at Buxton

A magnificent performance and production of Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera. The director, a name hitherto unknown to me, Harry Fehr, caught exactly the right balance between comedy, which was at times even broad, and a poignant commentary on the difficulty…

Stephen Oliver/Stravinsky double bill at Buxton Festival

–The performances of Stephen Oliver’s Exposition of a Picture and Stravinsky’s Renard should have been an interesting part of the Buxton Festival’s newly established Young Artists programme, but it was not. Those mounting 20th century operatic works the libretto of…

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne

Opera productions which update the setting to a period different from that of the original are very common these days. But some of the updatings are much more successful than others and it is worth looking for reasons why this…

Two Verdi Operas in Frankfurt

An excursion to Frankfurt, one of my favourite European cities for opera, enabled me to see two of their Verdi productions during a short season of celebrating the bicentenary of his birth.  Un Ballo in Maschera was the first of…

LaBute’s Mercy Seat in York

The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute is a brilliant piece and in its current production at the York Theatre Royal, superbly interpreted. To use 9/11 as the context for a penetrating  dramatic investiagtion of human identity and morality was inspired….

The Tobacco Factory in Two Gentlemen of Verona

Two Gentlemen of Verona has not a great reputation as a Shakespearian comedy. Someone once remarked that by the time you get to the second half, you realise that there are no longer any gentlemen in Verona. And, in truth,…

Paul Hudson in Don Pasquale

Some singers, including famous ones, go on far too long. Ignoring common sense intuition of “use by” dates, they are relegated to minor parts for which a croaky “characterisation” serves as a substitute for vocal quality. But this is not…

Götterdämmerung at the New York Met

The New York Met is an exciting place to visit at all times. You know that you will hear there the greatest voices in the world, though whether what you see on the stage will be music drama at the…

The Sacconi Quartet

There is something extraordinary about the Sacconi Quartet. I have heard them in York, Aysgarth, Ilkley, Ripon, Leeds; and now Huddersfield, in the concert of 8th April, broadcast on Radio 3. The story has always been the same. For the…

Telemann’s Geduldene Sokrates in Halle

I confess that I have become fond of Halle. It is a town with a distinguished cultural and intellectual history and possesses a dignity which one does not always associate with cities of the former DDR. For lovers of Handel…