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Brilliant Performances in First Revival of Keith Warner’s Otel...

Sam Smith

Like the Shakespeare play upon which it is based, Giuseppe Verdi’s penultimate opera Otello of 1887 is the story of a general in the Venetian military whose skills in managing political and personal affairs do not match those he has demonstrated in fighting. When his ensign Iago feels Otello has sidelined him for promotion, he lays a trap to make Otello believe his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful, and the general falls whole-heartedly for the deception with disastrous...


Cavalleria - Pagliacci: Alagna's Great Tour de Force

Xavier Pujol

Christmas is coming and Liceu, like many other theatres, has decided once again to offer an attractive programme for the non-specialised audiences, who on these festive dates decide, perhaps for the only time in the season, to go for one night at the opera. On this occasion, the offer has consisted in the traditional double act integrated by Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, the famous pair of short verismo operas, which tradition has transformed into an unbreakable matrimony. In...


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 Coliseum

Sam 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 Francisquita

Xavier 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...


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