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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...
Schumann’s Dichterliebe ‘Updated’ in Zauberland at the Royal O...Sam Smith
When Robert Schumann wrote his song cycle Dichterliebe in 1840 he originally composed twenty songs. Four of these were then cut before publication to produce the sixteen that we know today. No contemporary records reveal exactly why he decided to exclude them, so composer Bernard Foccroulle and librettist Martin Crimp took this as their starting point to intervene at the points where the songs were removed, and to extend the song cycle, to produce Zauberland. With the original sixteen...
A Highly Enjoyable New Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House, ...Sam Smith
Gaetano Donizetti’s 64th opera Don Pasquale of 1843 represents both the zenith and the end of opera buffa because it stands as one of the finest examples of the genre, and yet there are practically none written after that date that are still in the standard repertoire. Set in Rome, it sees the ageing Don Pasquale disinherit his nephew Ernesto, who loves the young but poor widow Norina, for refusing the woman he had found for him. Even Don Pasquale’s own doctor Malatesta thinks...