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Gran Teatre del Liceu: A cruel, spectacular Rigoletto

Xavier Pujol

A dramatic conception that was complex to decipher and perhaps even polemic, a surprising and spectacular visual coldness and a totally convincing musical resolution were the three main axis of the performance of Rigoletto presented by Liceu. It is difficult to dramatically face the great titles of the repertoire because it is a matter of finding the right balance between redundancy and extravagance, two extremes that are both artistically sterile. In this production of the Verdian...


Partenope at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

George Frideric Handel’s twenty year long domination of London opera began in 1720 with Radamisto, meaning that Partenope, which appeared in 1730, was at the midpoint of this golden period. The opera was extremely well received on its premiere, but it is about as far removed from opera seria as any of the composer’s works, and presents a challenge to any director who wishes to make sense of such a far-fetched story. English National Opera, however, has long been known as...


Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Royal Opera House, Coven...

Sam Smith

Many Wagner fans will rank Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg as one of their favourite works of all time, but the real measure of its strength is that many an opera-goer who normally avoids Wagner like the plague will make a special exception for Die Meistersinger. Unlike virtually all of the composer’s other mature works, it is not about gods, grails, rings and potions, but rather flesh and blood human beings. By exposing all of the foibles and frailties of this strangest of...


The Winter’s Tale at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

Any world premiere at one of London’s major opera houses is an exciting occasion, but Ryan Wigglesworth’s The Winter’s Tale was especially so given that it is based on a Shakespeare play that has seldom undergone the operatic treatment. There have been around a dozen works based upon the piece, including Max Bruch’s Hermione, Carlo Emanuele di Barbieri’s Perdita, ein Wintermärchen and John Harbison’s The Winter’s Tale, but that is a paltry...


Quartett at the Liceu: some distressing unbearable truths

Xavier Pujol

Composer Luca Francesconi clarified the purpose of his piece to journalist Tom Service (The Guardian 19/06/2014) for the premiere of his opera Quartett in London in 2014: Don’t dare to come if you can't accept that you need to analyse what you do and who you are. This piece is violent, it’s sex, it’s blasphemy, it’s the absence of mercy. The only two characters in the opera are the definition of cynical, they have made a pact that they don’t have to...


Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

Francesco Cilea is one of several Italian composers who might have been far better known today had they not lived at around the same time as Giacomo Puccini. As it is, their own considerable talents have tended to be eclipsed by those of the great composer to the extent that the only operas of Cilea’s that are performed with any regularity today are L’arlesiana and Adriana Lecouvreur. The latter was also the only one of the composer’s that was unequivocally acclaimed as a...


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