Fauré’s Pénélope in Frankfurt

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,…

Brecht/Weill Mahagonny in Radebeul

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 in Görlitz

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…

Tim Benjamin’s Fire of Olympus

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…

Verdi’s Attila in Cagliari

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…

Nino Rota’s Cappello di Paglia in Sassari

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…

Stanford’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Leeds Opera Festival

Charles Villiers Stanford was a redoubtable figure in the Victorian and Edwardian musical establishment. He wrote ten operas. Little is heard of them today, so all credit to the Northern Opera Group for offering a fully staged performance of Much…

The Mikado at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Harrogate

There are large numbers who return each year to the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Buxton and Harrogate; what do they want from performances? Cosy, reassuring tradition? Or something fresher, more stimulating, even perhaps innovative? The Artistic Director of the…

Caldara’s Lucio Papirio at the Buxton Festival

The operatic works of Antonio Caldara, dating from the early 18th century, rarely get an outing and so the performance of Lucio Papirio Dittatore at the Buxton Festival was most welcome. Set in ancient Rome, it explores the values associated…

Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the York Early Music Festival

It was bold of the York Early Music Festival to mount a full-scale single performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Not unexpectedly, given the expert and experienced forces engaged for the work, the music was executed with brilliance and passionate commitment.  The…

Jommelli’s Didone abbandonata in Basel

The name of the baroque composer Niccolò Jommelli might not be familiar to you. It wasn’t to me but he wrote over sixty operas and if some of them are as good as Didone abbandonata, which I have just seen…

Tristan und Isolde in Berne

It is always disruptive of a performance when one of the leading singers is sick and a last-minute replacement has to step in. One would have thought that this would be less problematic when the opera is Tristan und Isolde,…

Handel’s Lotario in Berne

Lotario was the first Handel opera I saw – in the early 1970s – and could have been my last. I was disconcerted by the da capo format, the sound (and appearance!) of a porky counter tenor, the banality and…

Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich

French baroque opera has the reputation of being somewhat boring compared to its German and Italian equivalents. No one who attended the performance of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich could possibly agree. The solo arias may be less brilliant…

Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsi Fair at the Komische Oper

Mussorgsky’s Sorochintsi Fair is a strange work. Based on a story by Gogol, it deals with life and love in a Ukrainian village and with superstitions which are all-pervasive there. The plot is, to say the least, thin.  The Devil…

Ruth Berghaus and her Pelléas at the Berlin Staatsoper

One does sometimes encounter the revival of a production nearly thirty years after it was first presented, particularly if it is of a very popular opera in an international house and used primarily as a vehicle for jet-setting star singers….

J.C. Bach’s Amadis in Bielefeld

Johann Christian was the only Bach son to have had a cosmopolitan career and to write for the opera house. His last opera Amadis de Gaule, first performed in Paris in 1779, shows how he had successfully assimilated contemporary developments…

Handel’s Rodelinda in Frankfurt

The succession of long da copo solo arias in Handel’s operas pose a dilemma for stage directors. Should they stop the action and allow the audience to concentrate on the music? Or, fearing boredom and at the risk of distracting…

Penella’s Zarzuela La Malquerida in Valencia

La Malquerida by Manuel Penella, performed at the remarkable Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, is the second zarzuela I have seen and heard. As I pointed out in relation to Federico Morena Torroba’s better known Luisa Fernanda…

Smetana’s Dalibor in Frankfurt

The critics have not been kind to the Frankfurt revival of Smetana’s Dalibor, in particular directing their ire at Florentine Klepper’s staging. I disagree totally with their judgements: it was an exhilarating evening of musical theatre. Let me begin with…