My thirst for live opera has, after over five months of deprivation, at last been assuaged. As part of the Northern Opera Group’s enterprising Leeds Opera Festival, Thomas Arne’s little piece Thomas and Sally was performed, bravely complying with the…

Performances of Meyerbeer’s L’Étoile du Nord are rare. Experiencing a video of a performance given by the West Coast Opera Kokkola, not a well-known group, even in Finland, I can understand why. Although it was relayed with English subtitles and…

Being deprived of live performances has created opportunities for searching among videos available online for famous works on the borders of the repertory which have always eluded one. In the last few months, I have caught up with, for example,…

Completing the composition in somewhat of a rush, Verdi could not have thought much of Il Corsaro, because he did not take the trouble to attend its first performances in Trieste. My first encounter with the work indicates that, if…

History was not kind to Franz Schreker. He was, during the Weimar Republic, a leading German composer and in the operatic repertory outshone only by Richard Strauss but, because he was Jewish, his works were banned by the Nazis and…

One compensating feature for the absence of live operatic performances is the ability to choose from a wide range of works streamed from major opera houses. I have been searching in vain for a live performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend…

Operas have, of course, often been derived from plays but turning a film into an opera is relatively rare. And if one looks to cinema for operatic inspiration, would one choose the redoubtable Ingmar Bergman as auteur? The anguish and…

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is an oddity. The composer did not live to see a complete performance and it has never secured a place in the opera repertory. Written in the 1920s, it is characteristic of that period in its expressionist…

Preferring the real thing, I have hitherto avoided live streaming from opera houses and indeed have also eschewed radio and television broadcasts and even DVDs and CDs. However, the current privations have forced me to rethink this policy and so…

Rossini’s Otello provides a major challenge for smaller opera houses, not the least because it requires five tenors capable of singing the composer’s often florid and high-lying tessitura. And, in dramatic terms, it falls well short of Verdi’s treatment of…

Erich Korngold’s one-act opera Violanta was written when the composer was only seventeen and, on a first encounter with it, it would seem in one respect that his youth shows. The storyline has the heroine, who has been busy plotting…

Alfano’s Risurrezione is certainly not a neglected masterpiece. The critic who described its music as “unalloyed sludge, turgid and torpid” may have exaggerated but the score is unmemorable and, worse, formulaic, employing in a predictable fashion the devices familiar from…

DIRECTORS Martin Glaser: Don Carlo, Brno                       (http://bit.ly/2EdpNAi) Lotte de Beer: Didone Abbandonata, Basel    (http://bit.ly/2N93NNx)   DESIGNERS Christian Schmidt: Rodelinda, Frankfurt         (http://bit.ly/2W0y3xW) Rifail Ajdarpasic: Pénélope, Frankfurt              (http://bit.ly/2DD1E4R)   CONDUCTORS Maxime Pascal: Pelléas et Mélisande, Barlin SO        (http://bit.ly/2VPRft6 Emmanuelle Haïm: Hippolyte et…

Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, with the dominance it gives to female singers, might seem to be a good choice for student productions since at the conservatoires today talented young male singers are less readily available. Yet the work also poses…

I had not heard a bar of Gabriel Fauré’s only opera Pénélope and, in keen anticipation of a rare performance in Frankfurt, I speculated on what I might expect to hear, given my experience of his more familiar compositions. Romantic,…

You are in the theatre for Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and are ready for the brilliance of Brecht’s sharp and sour political libretto and Kurt Weill’s hit music hall melodies, but do take heed of the richness of…

Meyerbeer’s Dinorah is a rarity even among his largely neglected works but the reluctance of opera houses to mount a revival is not difficult to explain. It is an odd mixture of Dark Ages mystery, fairy tale, and romantic madness…

I enjoyed Tim Benjamin’s small-scale opera Madame X when I saw it five years ago. The mixture of musical styles worked reasonably well for the libretto, a thriller about corruption in the art world. His most recent work, The Fire…

Attila is a typical piece from Verdi’s early-middle period with rousing melodic drive and a potentially interesting theme arising from the conflict between late Imperial Christian Rome and the invading pagan Barbarians. With their insistent forward-thrusting movement, the arias need…

If you have heard some of Nino Rota’s music it has probably been at the cinema; he wrote over 150 film scores, notably for Fellini and Visconti. But he also composed orchestral and chamber music and no less than ten…