Columns linked to Martyn Brabbins

Natalya Romaniw Reigns Supreme in Madam Butterfly at the Londo...

Sam Smith

Set in Japan, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly of 1904 explores the relationship between the American naval officer Pinkerton and the Nagasaki born Cio-Cio-San, who he both affectionately and patronisingly calls Madam Butterfly. She takes their marriage extremely seriously, even converting to Christianity the day before their wedding and consequently being ostracised by her family. He, on the other hand, sees his union as being akin to his Japanese house,...


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...


Iain Bell’s New Opera, Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechap...

Sam Smith

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel is a new opera by composer Iain Bell and librettist Fiona Jenkins, and represents a co-commission between English National Opera and Opera North. Though the figure of the killer has enjoyed much attention as his identity, motive and mindset have been speculated on throughout the ages, the women he dispatched and mutilated have been more or less forgotten. This opera intends to redress the balance by considering the poverty they experienced that put...


A Staged Version of Britten’s War Requiem at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

While most composers’ settings of the Catholic Church’s Requiem Mass were written to honour departed individuals, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is rather different. It was commissioned to be performed at the consecration of the newly built Coventry Cathedral in 1962, the old structure having been bombed during the Second World War. It was therefore designed to commemorate all lives lost in war, and, although circumstances prevented this from happening, it was planned for...


Radical but Flawed Presentation of Salome at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

Despite only being mentioned briefly in the New Testament, the character of Salome has certainly caught the imagination as she has pervaded art, literature and music over the centuries. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark she is described as a girl who pleased King Herod so much at his birthday feast with her dancing that he promised her anything she desired. After consulting Herodias, the husband of Herod and her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate, with Herodias...


World creation: Marnie at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

Marnie is best known today as a 1964 Hitchcock film, but it actually started life as a novel written by Winston Graham in 1961. It tells of a woman who has been damaged since childhood after believing that she killed her baby brother, because that is what her mother told her. As an adult she has taken on a series of jobs, each time embedding herself in the organisation before robbing it and moving on to another using yet another pseudonym. Her philosophy is that if God is capable of...