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…

Cordoliani’s staging of Die Entführung at Rheims

Sometimes one is at a production which takes an innovative approach to a familiar work and during the earlier part of the evening the predominant response is one of irritation, whether this results from the weight of tradition affecting one’s…

My Concert Highlights of 2018

Two electrifying performances by Rattle and the LSO: Mahler’s Ninth at the Barbican and Janacek’s Sinfonietta at the Edinburgh Festival. Honegger‘s masterpiece Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the inspired direction of Stéphane Denève. A superb…

My Theatre Highlights 2018

Winter Solstice by Roland Schimmelpfenning performed by the Actors Touring Company A powerful but subtle exposition of the seductiveness of fascist-speak, given a Brechtian interpretation by the performers half-narrating, half-acting the text.   A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by Shakespeare’s…

My Operatic Highlights 2018

DIRECTORS Olivier Py: Dialogues des Carmélites, Caen Stephen Medcalf: Idomeneo, Buxton   DESIGNERS Markus Lüpertz/Ruth Gross: Una cosa rara, Regensburg Pierre-André Weitz: Dialogues des Carmélites, Caen   CONDUCTORS Daniele Gatti: Rigoletto, Rome Ulf Schirmer: Ring des Nibelungen, Leipzig   SINGERS…

Kaťa Kabanová at San Carlo, Naples

The Teatro San Carlo in Naples might not seem to be the most obvious venue for a performance of Janáček’s Kaťa Kabanová, but the opera company’s music director Juraj Valčuha is Slovakian, the production by Willy Decker was imported from…

Rigoletto at the Rome Opera

Rigoletto is such a familiar piece that directors wanting to leave their imprint on it are tempted to turn it into something grotesque, vulgar or – worse still – trivial. Not so Daniele Abbado at the Rome Opera. Although he…

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole in Nuremberg

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole tells the story of a woman from a dysfunctional Texan family who, to achieve success as a stripper, has her breasts enlarged. Initially experiencing success and marriage to an elderly oil billionaire, her life subsequently,…

Rossini’s Barber in Nuremberg

Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia is so familiar that one tends to underrate its qualities both as a musical composition and as theatrical comedy. Its brilliant rhythmic patterns and melodic charms are combined with acute characterisation and amusing interplay. Modern commentators…

Una Cosa Rara by Martín y Soler in Regensburg

The Spaniard Vicente Martín y Soler was a contemporary of Mozart and indeed the musical style of the two composers is remarkably similar. Both had a gift for melody and a sense of fun while not excluding darker colours and…

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in Passau

Anna Bolena, one of Donizetti’s operas on the Tudors, performed in Passau but with an English director/designer, Ultz, as well as an English conductor, Basil Coleman. You might have thought that this augured well for an authentic presentation of English…

Prokofiev’s War and Peace at the WNO

Prokofiev’s War and Peace is not the masterpiece which it could have been. Relative to the Tolstoy original, the first half focuses too much on Natasha, while the second, because of the need to placate Stalin’s regime, contains too much…

A Verismo Double Bill at Wexford

After disappointments this year at Wexford, the festival ended for me on a brighter note with a well-fashioned, solid double bill of verismo opera. No; not Cav and Pag but Leoni’s L’oracolo and Giordano’s Mala Vita. The Leoni is a torrid…