Rossini’s Barber in Nuremberg

Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia is so familiar that one tends to underrate its qualities both as a musical composition and as theatrical comedy. Its brilliant rhythmic patterns and melodic charms are combined with acute characterisation and amusing interplay. Modern commentators…

Una Cosa Rara by Martín y Soler in Regensburg

The Spaniard Vicente Martín y Soler was a contemporary of Mozart and indeed the musical style of the two composers is remarkably similar. Both had a gift for melody and a sense of fun while not excluding darker colours and…

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in Passau

Anna Bolena, one of Donizetti’s operas on the Tudors, performed in Passau but with an English director/designer, Ultz, as well as an English conductor, Basil Coleman. You might have thought that this augured well for an authentic presentation of English…

Prokofiev’s War and Peace at the WNO

Prokofiev’s War and Peace is not the masterpiece which it could have been. Relative to the Tolstoy original, the first half focuses too much on Natasha, while the second, because of the need to placate Stalin’s regime, contains too much…

A Verismo Double Bill at Wexford

After disappointments this year at Wexford, the festival ended for me on a brighter note with a well-fashioned, solid double bill of verismo opera. No; not Cav and Pag but Leoni’s L’oracolo and Giordano’s Mala Vita. The Leoni is a torrid…

Mercadante’s Il Bravo at the Wexford Festival

Let it be said at once that Mercadante’s opera Il bravo is fundamentally unrevivable; and the Wexford Festival should be congratulated – or otherwise – for its attempt (bravo!). The plot is unbelievably contorted and complex. After a fourth reading…

Bolcom’s Dinner at Eight in Wexford

Dinner at Eight, the play by Georges Kaufmann and Edna Ferber, famously filmed by George Cukor, provides a good source for the opera, premiered in Minnesota last year and given its first European performance at Wexford. It provides a biting…

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…