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 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 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…

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…

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 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…

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…

Let it be said at once that Mercadante’s opera Il bravo is fundamentally unrevivable; and the Wexford Festival should be congratulated – or otherwise – for its attempt (bravo!). The plot is unbelievably contorted and complex. After a fourth reading…

Dinner at Eight, the play by Georges Kaufmann and Edna Ferber, famously filmed by George Cukor, provides a good source for the opera, premiered in Minnesota last year and given its first European performance at Wexford. It provides a biting…

David Greig’s Europe was first performed in 1994, after the Soviet Union had collapsed and borders had opened up. But it was also a period of great hardship: there were the Balkan Wars; people had been displaced; and economies had…

When one’s operatic excursion is off the beaten track in two different senses – a rare work in an unknown venue – there are definitely risks involved. But the UK première of Moniuszko’s Flis (The Raftsman) was too tempting to…

Tri Sestry (Three Sisters), based on Chekhov’s play, is Peter Eötvös’ first and, hitherto, most successful opera. My appetite for experiencing the current performance at the Frankfurt Oper was whetted by a recent visit to Pforzheim for his Goldene Drache…

Die Meistersinger in Wiesbaden? Understandably, most Wagner-lovers prefer performances at the bigger, more prestigious, opera houses, but there are sometimes benefits from attending those in – shall we call them – the second division. Of course, one is unlikely to…

Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, with a text by Paul Claudel, is a remarkable work. Joan on the stake, as she awaits deliverance into heaven, reviews her life. In contrasting the mystical and sublime with worldly and bestial humanity,…

Attending recently two performances of Madama Butterfly in countries of the former Soviet Union has made me reflect on how this opera has been, and can be, presented. The production in Vilnius, seen in January 2017 was not homegrown but…

The idea of creating a “pop-up” Elizabethan theatre for a summer season of Shakespeare in York was an excellent one, but would the quality of performances justify the effort and expense? After a disappointing Richard III, I was doubtful: this…

Benjamin Appl is blessed with a beautiful baritone voice, burnished when singing out, but softly serene for quieter phrases at the top, as well as resonant in the lower register. He was apparently Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s last pupil and in the…

Some performances of Idomeneo induce me to the heretical conclusion that it is Mozart’s greatest opera – the Buxton Festival’s current offering was one of them. Musically, the piece is extraordinarily rich, particularly the orchestral writing which, with the high…

What is so wrong with Verdi’s Alzira that the current run at the Buxton Festival should constitute the first professional performances of the work in Britain? The plot dealing with the conflict between the native tribes and the Spanish conquistadores…

“A candidate for the finest Baroque opera ever” proudly proclaims the programme note for Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello’s Tisbe, performed at this year’s Buxton Festival. Well, it may certainly be worth the odd revival, but it is no masterpiece. The plot,…