Opera North’s Semi-Staged Götterdämmerung

Why, I ask myself, did the Opera North semi-staged performance of Götterdämmerung in the Leeds Town Hall make such an impact? To begin with, we in the audience were much closer to the singers than in a conventional theatre. More…

Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale at the Northern Aldborough Festival

The annual round of summer music festivals is upon us. What are our expectations of them? Some would seem to flourish on combining concerts with talks, walks and pleasurable social activities. Some attempt to bring quality music to geographical areas…

The Haydn Festival at Bridgnorth

For lovers of Haydn like myself the annual festival at Bridgnorth in Shropshire would seem to be a must. Performances in an attractive town of a range of his works, revealing what a brilliant composer he was, innovative, inventive and…

Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories Staged in Leeds

It is not difficult to explain why Alan Bennett has achieved such popularity with his autobiographical writings. The very ordinariness of his humble background and the tensions that created within him as he explored the larger world of culture and…

Under Milk Wood staged by Theatre Clwyd

We all love Under Milk Wood. Why? Most obviously because of the language, the imagery, its colour and resonance; and the eccentric characters and their Welshness. But there is also here a love of life and its confrontation with death….

London’s Conway Hall as Concert Venue

It was, for me, hugely nostalgic to return after fifty years to the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square. The Hall, a redoubtable fortress – I was going to say spiritual home – in London of rationalism, humanism and atheism…

Sean O’Casey’s Silver Tassie at the National Theatre

The Silver Tassie has achieved fame as a play in which Sean O’Casey moved away from naturalistic settings of life in Dublin tenements during the Irish revolution to multi-styled dramatic treatment of the First World War and its impact on…

A starry Faust at Covent Garden

We were going to be in London for the Easter weekend and I had seen  the extraordinary cast (Netrebko, Calleja, Terfel, Keenlyside) which the Royal Opera House had announced for the revival of David McVicar’s Faust. So, though I do…

Britten’s Paul Bunyan staged by the ETO

Coming to Britten’s Paul Bunyan for the first time, I was unsure what to expect. A musical? An operetta? A juvenile opera score? What I saw and heard with English Touring Opera’s current production was certainly an agreeable surprise. The…

Cavalli’s Elena in Lille

Lucky Lille, to have the possibility of importing, for three performances, last year’s Aix Festival’s production of Cavalli’s Elena. In apparently its first revival since its creation in 1659, this piece demonstrated again Cavalli’s prowess as a lively reinterpreter of…

WNO’s production of Henze’s Boulevard Solitude

I had been waiting for over thirty years to find a performance of Henze’s Boulevard Solitude and when eventually it turned up, as part of Welsh National Opera’s current season of Fallen Women, I was not disappointed. Far from it….

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…