Shiva for Anna at the Berlin Festival for Contemporary Music

Shiva for Anna, given in Berlin as part of the March Festival for Contemporary Music, is a striking piece of musical theatre. The composer Mela Meierhans wanted to pay tribute to her long-standing collaborator, the English poet Anne Blonstein who…

Two Lohengrins at Coburg: Wagner & Sciarrino

The Landestheater Coburg had the bright idea of bringing together in a single weekend Wagner’s Lohengrin and Sciarrino’s modernistic monodrama on the same theme, an exploration of Elsa’s psychological state as she is denied consummation on the wedding night. The…

Brecht/Weill Mahagonny in Hof

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is undoubtedly a masterpiece of music theatre. Kurt Weill’s musical idiom and Berthold Brecht’s text capture so well the spirit of the Weimar Republic with its mixture of cynicism, pessimism and…

Verdi’s Macbeth in Leeds

Yes, we know that Verdi’s version of Macbeth is, simple, even simplistic, compared with the original. Yet with its directness, vigour and musical inventiveness, it carries a definite punch. The cast which Opera North had assembled for this revival had…

Lakmé at the Opéra Comique

Lakmé is one of those operas which are famous – everyone has heard of, if not actually heard, the “bell” aria” – but are rarely performed. So its appearance at the Paris Opéra Comique justified a visit. Now if you…

Rossini’s Pietra del Paragone at Paris Châtelet

I have always resisted the use of video and other projections in theatrical productions. Typically they are a distraction from the action on stage, or coordinate insufficiently with its physicality, or add too little to it. But the current presentation…

L’elisir d’amore at the RNCM

The RNCM have another future star on their hands. At their winter production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, the Chinese tenor Kang Wang won the hearts of all. Not only does he have a golden voice and idiomatic Italianate phrasing; he also…

Donizetti’s Anna Bolegna staged by WNO

After all the television series and films on the Tudors, and with Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books fresh in our memory, how should Donizetti’s operas on the same theme be staged? With plenty of pageant and historically appropriate costumes and…

Opera North’s Staging of Death in Venice

Yes, I did see the original production of Britten’s Death in Venice in 1975 and I can assure you that Opera North’s current staging (shared with Bregenz, Lille and Prague) is much superior. It gets closer to the heart of…

Gluck’s Ezio in Frankfurt

I have always argued that the best way to present baroque opera is by simplifying stage design and restricting stage business. Rarely have I encountered such a good example of this as in the first half of Vincent Boussard’s current…

The ETO’s Poppea

It has to be admitted that Monteverdi’s Poppea is a masterpiece. The extraordinary music perfectly matches its principal themes of love and power. So rich is the musical characterisation that, in my experience, it can come across in a variety…

Aida in Seville

I have always eagerly anticipated a first visit to a foreign opera house, and understandably this was the case at Seville with its several operatic associations and standing, as it does, between Carmen’s tobacco factory and the bull ring. However,…

Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream by Opera North

Opera North’s current presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, part of their Festival of Britten, is so good. The piece is, of course, a marvellous and faithful musical evocation of Shakespeare’s original but is not easy to perform. Much trouble…

Opera in Wroclaw

Looking at the statistics section of the Operabase website, you find that there is more opera in Germany than in any other country, though if you count performances per head of population, then Austria and Estonia have a better score….

Tristan & Isolde at Antwerp

It has to be said that the Flemish Opera are very fortunate to have Dmitri Jurowski as Music Director. He is a member of a notable family of conductors (see pp.152-153 of my book Travels with My Opera Glasses http://bit.ly/15VFnbe)….

Korean Opera Singers

Why are there so many good Korean opera singers around today? Opera companies, particularly those in Germany and Austria, rely heavily, for soloists as well as chorus, on them. Look at the Operabase website under “artists” and you will find…

Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera at Buxton

A magnificent performance and production of Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera. The director, a name hitherto unknown to me, Harry Fehr, caught exactly the right balance between comedy, which was at times even broad, and a poignant commentary on the difficulty…

Stephen Oliver/Stravinsky double bill at Buxton Festival

–The performances of Stephen Oliver’s Exposition of a Picture and Stravinsky’s Renard should have been an interesting part of the Buxton Festival’s newly established Young Artists programme, but it was not. Those mounting 20th century operatic works the libretto of…

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne

Opera productions which update the setting to a period different from that of the original are very common these days. But some of the updatings are much more successful than others and it is worth looking for reasons why this…

Two Verdi Operas in Frankfurt

An excursion to Frankfurt, one of my favourite European cities for opera, enabled me to see two of their Verdi productions during a short season of celebrating the bicentenary of his birth.  Un Ballo in Maschera was the first of…