Columns linked to Jacquelyn Stucker

Henze’s Final Opera Phaedra at the Royal Opera House, Covent G...

Sam Smith

Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra, with libretto by Christian Lehnert, was written in 2007, five years before the composer’s death and four years after he actually announced he was never going to write another opera. The first half relates the story of how Phaedra’s love for her stepson Hippolyt triggers catastrophe, as told by many writers across the ages including Euripides, Jean Racine and Sarah Kane. The second half, in contrast, follows a mythological tradition alluded to...


London’s Sixth Ever Performance of Handel’s Berenice at the Ro...

Sam Smith

Handel’s Berenice was written at a time when the composer desperately needed a success. By 1737 he had been competing for audiences with the rival Opera of the Nobility for four years, but unfortunately things did not play out as he had hoped. Pressures, including the work involved to complete the piece, led him to have a stroke, and the opera, conducted by John Christopher Smith as the composer’s right hand was temporarily paralysed, lasted a mere four performances. Although...


Semiramide at the Royal Opera House, London

Sam Smith

Semiramide is arguably the greatest Rossini opera not to be regularly performed today. This does not mean, however, that it has been entirely neglected, and it was recently recorded, and performed at the BBC Proms, by Opera Rara on period instruments. Musicologist Rodolfo Celletti has suggested that ‘Semiramide was the last opera of the great Baroque tradition: the most beautiful, the most imaginative, possibly the most complete; but also, irremediably the last’. This is...