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,…

For a work of its quality, Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto gets surprisingly few performances.  A pioneering example of buffo opera, it looks forward to Rossini with its pitter-patter arias for the lower voice, its swooping melodies and, above all, its…

The opera Der goldene Drache at the Theater Koblenz was my first encounter with the music of Peter Eötvös and it made a strong impression. Its compelling character lies in its ability to underpin the drama and the text through…

Oscar Straus is best known in the Anglophone world for his operetta The Chocolate Soldier, based on G.B. Shaw’s Arms and the Man; less familiar is his earlier piece, Die lustigen Nibelungen. Strictly speaking this is a parody of the…

Der Silbersee, written by Georg Kaiser with music by Kurt Weill, is a fascinating work with a fascinating history. A sharp leftist, expressionist piece but with a poetic, optimistic ending, it was premiered simultaneously in Berlin, Erfurt and Magdeburg in…

Daníel Bjarnason’s Brothers was given its premiere at Aarhus in 2017. The production by Kasper Holten, designed by Steffen Aarfing, has with some changes been given a single performance in the composer’s homeland, Iceland. It is a bleak piece relating…

Matthew Bourne is definitely a phenomenon. He and his company New Adventures have achieved a huge popularity among ballet and dance audiences. Take the Alhambra Bradford, a venue regularly used by touring groups. For most of their performances it has,…