Columns linked to Antonio Pappano

First New Production of Rigoletto in Twenty Years at the Royal...

Sam Smith

Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto was a triumph when it premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1851, and has remained one of the composer’s most frequently performed operas ever since. Its popularity is thoroughly deserved but might still be deemed interesting, given that it is a contender for the cruellest opera in the mainstream repertoire. While many works see the innocent suffer and die, there is usually a sense in...


Outstanding Cast Delivers in La forza del destino at the Royal...

Sam Smith

Set in eighteenth century Spain, Verdi’s La forza del destino sees the Marquis of Calatrava oppose his daughter Leonora’s South American lover Don Alvaro, believing he is not good enough for her. When, however, Don Alvaro surrenders himself to prove that he never violated her, he throws down his pistol and accidentally kills the Marquis when it goes off. Leonora’s brother Don Carlo sets out to avenge his father’s death but he and Don Alvaro end up fighting side by...


Too Clever by Half: The Queen of Spades at the Royal Opera Hou...

Sam Smith

Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades of 1890 is based on Pushkin’s eponymous short story of 1834. Set during the reign of Catherine the Great it sees the officer Gherman initially admire from afar, and then become increasingly obsessed with, the granddaughter of the old Countess, Liza. She, however, is engaged to Prince Yeletsky, and Gherman knows that his lack of wealth means he will never stand a chance of winning her. He learns, however, that the now elderly Countess...


A Masterly Performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem at the Roya...

Sam Smith

Although German conductor and Wagner associate Hans von Bülow was being derogatory when he described Verdi’s Messa da Requiem as an ‘opera in ecclesiastical garb’ (he later retracted the remark), it is a comment that describes the inherent power and theatricality of the piece. Such a description does not, in fact, need to carry negative connotations for as Verdi’s second wife, the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, wrote, a composer must write as the texts inspire...


A Truly Overwhelming Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Royal Oper...

Sam Smith

Although initially enjoying great success, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk of 1934 has courted controversy almost from day one. Being condemned from various quarters for its lurid descriptive music in the sex scenes, its supposed justification of Stalin’s genocide (the main protagonist kills her kulak in-laws) and its ‘primitive satire’ in its treatment of the priest and police, it was attacked by both Stravinsky (who described it as ‘lamentably...


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...