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Excellent Singing and Staging in Death in Venice at the Royal ...Sam Smith
Death in Venice of 1973 is Benjamin Britten’s final opera. Based on Thomas Mann’s eponymous novella of 1912, it tells of a writer Gustav von Aschenbach who becomes obsessed to the point of madness with a youth who he repeatedly sees while in Venice. Given that the pair never speak to each other, it might not feel like obvious dramatic material but it has spawned a classic film (starring Dirk Bogarde) as well as Britten’s own masterpiece. It is possible to see the...
Film Becomes Opera in Orphée at the London ColiseumSam Smith
Philip Glass, who is recognised as one of the leading proponents of minimalism in the world today, has written over twenty-five operas, a total achieved by hardly any composer since the days of Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi. His 1991 work Orphée is the final addition to English National Opera’s current season of operas exploring the Orpheus myth, and is based on Jean Cocteau’s eponymous film of 1950. It is, in the words of the production’s director Netia Jones,...
Liceu: Rescuing Doña FrancisquitaXavier Pujol
It is not easy to explain what Doña Francisquita is, what it represents, or bring some clarity to the huge weight of the various connotations hanging on this title to the extreme of almost crashing it and making it impossible. To begin with, Doña Francisquita – premiered in Madrid in 1923 – is not an opera but a zarzuela, meaning a musical piece which, as in the German signspiel, combines spoken and sung parts. Moreover, Doña Francisquita, is Catalan...
Top Cast in Revival of Jonathan Miller’s The Mikado at the Lon...Sam Smith
The Mikado, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular works and the subject of Mike Leigh’s film Topsy-Turvy, is a farcical operetta that sees all of the residents of the town of Titipu trying to escape execution, including the executioner! First performed in 1885, its nominal Japanese setting is a thin veil for its real commentary on English values, hierarchies and arcane laws and conventions. This being so, director Jonathan Miller decided to do away with any notion of Japan...
Some Stirring Performances in Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Ope...Sam Smith
Die Zauberflöte is Mozart’s final opera, and takes the form of a Singspiel that combines singing with spoken dialogue. In it, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro, who she claims is evil. As Tamino goes about his quest, however, and falls in love with Pamina, he learns that things are the other way around. The Queen of the Night represents the forces of darkness, while Sarastro’s...
There is Nothing Quite Like The Mask of Orpheus at the London ...Sam Smith
This autumn English National Opera is exploring the Orpheus myth by presenting four operatic takes on it. Now, following Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, both of which still have performances that can be seen, comes the third addition to the mix, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus. Without a doubt there is no other opera quite like it with the orchestra containing no strings, the score including electronic music (which was...