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Toutes ses chroniques . 83
An Entertaining and Well Sung La fille du régiment at the Roya...Sam Smith
La fille du régiment of 1840 was Gaetano Donizetti’s first opera set to a French language text (by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François-Alfred Bayard). Its premiere at the Opéra Comique in Paris has been described as a ‘barely averted disaster’ with the lead tenor apparently being frequently off-pitch, and composer and critic Hector Berlioz slating the piece as he had his own axe to grind with Donizetti. Nevertheless, Berlioz...
Strong First Revival of Richard Jones’s Boris Godunov at the R...Sam Smith
Boris Godunov is Modest Mussorgsky’s only completed opera, and is considered to be his masterpiece. Its subjects are the eponymous Russian ruler, who reigned as Tsar from 1598 to 1605, and the False Dmitry I, who succeeded him almost immediately but was killed only a year later. The Russian-language libretto was written by the composer, and is based on Pushkin’s blank verse drama Boris Godunov as well as Nikolay Karamzin’s History of the Russian...
A Highly Inventive Hansel and Gretel at Regent’s Park Open Air...Sam Smith
Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, which premiered in 1893, is based on the eponymous fairytale that was recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. It follows the Grimm version of the story reasonably closely, although there are a few notable differences including the fact that the Mother here is not intent on losing the children in the forest so that she and her husband might survive the hard times. She sends them out to collect berries as a punishment for...
Strong Revival of Jonathan Kent’s Tosca at the Royal Opera Hou...Sam Smith
Based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language play, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca of 1900 not only occurs in a specific time and place, but on a precise date that can be linked to an historical event. All of the action takes place during the afternoon, evening and early morning of 17 and 18 June 1800, following the Battle of Marengo between Napoleon’s army and Austrian forces. The Austrians were initially triumphant and sent news of victory back to Rome, but the...
Magnificent Central Trio in Andrea Chénier at the Royal Opera...Sam Smith
Andrea Chénier of 1896 is by far the best known opera by Umberto Giordano (1867-1948), an Italian composer whose profile might have been higher today had not his considerable talents been somewhat eclipsed by those of his contemporary Puccini. It is loosely based on the life of the eponymous poet (1762-1794), who was executed during the French Revolution, while the character Carlo Gérard was inspired by Jean-Lambert Tallien, a leading figure in the Revolution. Sondra...
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...