Jenůfa in Stockholm

Jenůfa is, musically and dramatically, such a powerful work that it almost never fails to make a huge impact. Yet during the first act of the performance at Stockholm’s Royal Opera, I sensed that the audience was not fully engaged….

Manon Lescaut in Stockholm

Musically, the quality of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut should not be underestimated. George Bernard Shaw, on hearing its first British performance, considered that it heralded a new development in Italian opera, moving it to something more symphonic and underpinning the dramatic…

Arne’s Alfred at the Leeds Left Bank Opera Festival

Thomas Arne’s Alfred is described by the Northern Opera Group, which is currently performing it at the Leeds Left Bank Opera Festival, as “one of the greatest and most thrilling British operas of all-time”. Well, even allowing for the hype…

Un Ballo in Maschera at the West Green House Opera

The tone for the West Green House Opera is set by the admonition on its website that “the consistent dress code for all evening performances is Black Tie.” Back to the notion of opera for the elite? Or instead a…

Salieri’s Scuola de’ gelosi at Bampton

After years of neglect, some of Antonio Salieri’s forty or so operas are beginning to find their way onto the modern stage. Fascination with the composer’s historical character, sparked off by Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, may be largely responsible for this,…

Lucio Silla at the Buxton Festival

Seeing Mozart’s Lucio Silla at Buxton within a week of La Finta Giardiniera at the Ryedale Festival (see my blog of 16th July) confirmed what an extraordinary musical-dramatist the composer was as a teenager. It is not merely the brilliance…

Mozart’s Finta Giardiniera at the Ryedale Festival

Hardly necessary to say, but Mozart’s Finta Giardiniera is a remarkable work.  Written at the age of eighteen, it looks forward to Nozze di Figaro not just in the facility of tuneful writing and its boisterous ensembles but, more importantly,…

Carmen at the Grange Opera

Plus ça change …? The Grange Park Opera Festival has moved premises. At The Grange, near Alresford in Hampshire, a new entity has arrived, called confusingly the Grange Opera Festival. Some alterations to the auditorium and its surrounds have taken…

Salome in Amsterdam

Until yesterday evening I had not experienced a wholly satisfying performance of Salome. The problem is, I think, that directors and designers have tended to take too literal an approach to the setting of the opera: Herod portrayed as a…

A Weinberg Korngold Double Bill in Heidelberg

The idea of the Heidelberg Theatre to bring together in a double bill two short operas by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (Mazel Tov) and Erich Korngold (Der Ring des Polykrates) seemed to be a good one. Both were written by Jewish composers…

Schnittke’s Life with an Idiot in Giessen

First performed in 1992, Schnittke’s opera Life with an Idiot initially achieved some notoriety and success across Europe but recently seems to have fallen out of favour. That is a pity because unquestionably it is a masterpiece. It is remarkable…

José Cura’s Peter Grimes in Bonn

  Suppose that you were the artistic director of a medium-sized German opera company. A very famous Argentinian tenor, in the autumn of his career, has wanted for some years to sing the title role in Peter Grimes, and says…

Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète in Essen

It sometimes happens that you leave an opera house with a sense of irritation gnawing away at you. This occurred last night at Essen after a performance of Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète. No, it was not the staging, though in many…

Der Freischütz in Münster

Considering the importance of Der Freischütz in the history of opera, and of romantic art generally, it has received surpisingly few performances outside Germany in recent times. This is probably because, notwithstanding a remarkable score, juxtaposing fluent melodies with striking…

World Première of Francesconi’s Trompe-la-Mort in Paris

A major event of the 2016-17 season in Paris has been the world première of Luca Francesconi’s Trompe-la-Mort. While any attempt to recreate in operatic terms a single volume of Balzac’s monumental Comédie Humaine might have been far too ambitious,…

La Rondine in Graz

La Rondine is the least often performed of Puccini’s mature operas. This may be because of its lightness – almost in parts of an operetta character; or because, with its Traviata-like Third Act, it is not perceived to have a…

Vivaldi’s Arsilda in Bratislava

The première in Bratislava of the first staging in modern times of Vivaldi’s seventh work for theatre, Arsilda, Regina di Ponto, was momentous. The score by itself justifies the piece’s resuscitation. Although it has the conventional features of baroque opera,…

La Cenerentola in Leeds

La Cenerentola is without doubt my favourite Rossini opera. It may not have the brilliant arias of the Barber but its perky ensembles are unrivalled. The score requires plenty of zing, but also poise, humour and, at points, tenderness. Wyn…

Prince Igor in Amsterdam

Borodin’s Prince Igor is a ramshackle affair, a series of episodes – personal and political – loosely strung together with some fine music. It needs a strong directorial hand and in Dmitry Tcherniakov, restaging for the Dutch National Opera in…

Opera della Luna’s Offenbach Double Bill

Jacques Offenbach wrote nearly 100 operettas, many of which have not been staged in recent years. So it was enterprising of Opera della Luna to present a double bill of Croquefer and The Isle of Tulipatan. This was my third…