Holst Triple Bill at the Leeds Opera Festival

Gustav Holst may be well known for The Planets and even the choral piece Hymn of Jesus, but his operas have not been widely performed.  Obsessed by Wagner in his early career, he eventually came to acquire a personal voice…

Malcolm Arnold’s Dancing Master at the Buxton Opera Festival

As a composer, Malcolm Arnold did not have an easy time. Although his vast output of works found favour with audiences for their tonal tuneful content, he was treated mainly with disdain by the musical establishment. He had particular misfortune…

Acis and Galatea at the Buxton Opera Festival

My first opera in a theatre since March 2020 and – you might have thought – a splendid choice for the occasion: Handel’s zestful, melodic and touching piece, Acis and Galatea, in Buxton’s lovely Opera House. The performance was sold…

The Mariinsky in Shchedrin’s Dead Souls

Late 20th century Russian opera has not been much noticed in the West. While striking pieces by Schnittke and Weinberg have made an impact, these can in no sense be regarded as emanating from the Soviet Russian mainstream. The Grove…

Haydn’s Orlando Paladino at the Berlin Staatsoper

Joseph Haydn is, without doubt, one of my favourite composers; I relish his freshness, inventiveness and humour but also, when in a serious mood, his sensibility and compassion. Although, for concert managers, he has tended to be overshadowed by Mozart…

My Operatic Highlights 2020

LIVE PERFORMANCES All-round performance: Orfeo, Nederlands Reisopera Conductor: Pinchas Steinberg,  Violanta, Turin Stage director: Monique Wagemakers, Orfeo, Nederlands Reisopera Singer: Anne Sophie Duprels, Risurrezione, Florence Opera house: Teatru Manoel, Valletta   STREAMED PERFORMANCES All-round performance: La Gazza Ladra, Milan, La…

Arne’s Thomas and Sally at the Leeds Opera Festival

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…

Meyerbeer’s Etoile du Nord from Kokkola

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…

Postillon de Lonjumeau at Opéra Comique

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,…

Verdi’s Corsaro at Parma in 2008

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…

Schreker’s Schmied von Gent relayed from Antwerp

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…

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Invisible City of Kitezh, given at the Dutch National Opera

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…

World premiere of Fagerlund’s Autumn Sonata, streamed from Helsinki

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 Streamed from Munich

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…

Relay of Weinberger’s Frühlingsstürme

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 in Malta

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…

Italian premiere of Korngold’s Violanta

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 in Florence

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…

My Operatic Highlights 2019

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 at Manchester’s RNCM

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…