UK première of Moniuszko’s Raftsman

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…

Eötvös’ Three Sisters in Frankfurt

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

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…

Madama Butterfly in Kiev

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…

Idomeneo at the Buxton Festival

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…

First UK professional performance of Verdi’s Alzira

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…

Brescianello’s Tisbe at the Buxton Festival

“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,…

Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto in Cologne

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…

Der goldene Drache by Peter Eötvös in Koblenz

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…

Die Lustigen Nibelungen by Oscar Straus in Karlsruhe

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…

Kurt Weill’s Der Silbersee in Pforzheim

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…

Brothers by Daníel Bjarnason in Reykjavik

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…

Luisa Miller in Zurich

Luisa Miller is an intense tragedy focusing on family intrigue and feudal oppression. It has only one hit number- the tenor aria “Quando le sere al placido“- but contains a series of vocal encounters that bring out the best of…

Maria Stuarda in Zurich

Maria Stuarda tells the story of the relationship between two great regal characters and Donizetti’s opera revolves around the confrontation of two great sopranos, with the Earl of Leicester little more than a foil for each of them. Elizabeth is…

La Cenerentola in Basel

La Cenerentola is unquestionably my favourite Rossini opera. The music is exhilarating, the ensembles brilliantly devised between the different voices and the witty libretto not eclipsing a certain sentimental poignancy. I have never seen an unconventional staging of the piece…

Rossini’s Donna del lago in Lausanne

Rossini’s Donna del lago contains some fine bel canto music but, notwithstanding its basis in Walter Scott’s poem, has a creaking plot and a prosaic, inconsequential libretto. Understandably, stage directors have been tempted to read it into its story of…

The Ten Operas I would Most Like to See

Bellini, Beatrice di Tenda Boito, Nerone Boughton, The Immortal Hour Busoni, Die Brautwahl Faure, Pénélope Massenet, La Navarraise Rimsky-Korsakov, The Legend of the Invisble City of Kitezh Spontini, La Vestale Strauss, Die Aegyptische Helena Wolf, Der Corregidor

Richard Löwenherz by Handel and Telemann at Magdeburg

When Handel’s Riccardo Primo was performed in Hamburg in 1729 it was given in a version prepared by Telemann then active there and it was his version which was the leading event in this year’s Telemann festival at Magdeburg. Richard…

Zeller’s Der Obersteiger in Annaberg

A trip to Annaberg-Buchholz for Carl Zeller’s Der Obersteiger. The former silver mining town is in a relatively remote part of East Germany near to the Czech border. Though small, it boasts a permanent opera company whose programme features much…

Auber’s Domino Noir in Liège

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber was a highly successful composer of opéra-comique in the first half of the 19th century but today, outside francophone countries, his works are rarely performed. The current staging of Le domino noir at the Opéra Royal de Liège…