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Sir Bryn Terfel Stars as Falstaff at the Royal Opera House, Co...Sam Smith
There are certain operas such as Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Handel’s Radamisto where one will forgive the odd piece of clunky or prosaic direction if the musical credentials underpinning the evening are strong. There are other pieces, however, such as Ravel’s L’heure espagnole and Shostakovich’s The Nose where, if the staging is not slick from start to finish, the evening is almost wholly undermined. There is actually something unfair about this, because it...
First Rate Revival of Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House, C...Sam Smith
Don Giovanni of 1787 is one of three operas that Mozart wrote with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (the others being Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte). It tells of the eponymous hero, or rather antihero, who effortlessly conquers thousands of women. Although in the process he makes many enemies, the ladies he has cheated have a habit of coming back for more or trying to save him, and in the end he is responsible for his own downfall. When the ghost of the Commendatore who he...
Ratcheting up the Tension in The Turn of the Screw at Regent’s...Sam Smith
The Turn of the Screw is a 1954 chamber opera by Benjamin Britten, with Myfanwy Piper’s libretto being based on Henry James’ eponymous novella of 1898. Told across a prologue and sixteen scenes, with each of these being preceded by a variation on the twelve-note 'Screw' theme, it has been described as one of the most dramatically appealing of all English operas. Set in an English country house in Bly in the middle of the nineteenth century, it tells of a young...
The Royal Opera and London Sinfonietta Reveal a Cave at the Pr...Sam Smith
All operas are about more than just the music. In the case of composer Tansy Davies and librettist Nick Drake’s new creation Cave, however, the music, word, message and setting all possess such significance that the work would have been all the poorer had any of them not received the attention that they do. This is the second time that Davies and Drake have collaborated, following Between Worlds, which was produced by English National Opera and staged at the Barbican Theatre in...
First Revival of Richard Jones’ La bohème at the Royal Opera H...Sam Smith
Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 creation La bohème is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world today. Set in 1830s Paris, it focuses on six young adults and the love that four of them find with each other amidst the most impoverished of circumstances. One couple (Marcello and Musetta) have a stormy relationship but their frequent battles prove that their love actually has staying power. Rodolfo and Mimì, on the other hand, enjoy an apparently perfect love, but it...
Outstanding Musical Credentials Create an Enchanting Lohengrin...Sam Smith
Lohengrin of 1850 is the sixth of Richard Wagner’s thirteen operas, and the third he wrote (after Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser) to be regularly performed still. It stands very much at a crossroads in that it harks back to classical opera in some respects, but in others looks forward to the composer’s later music dramas by including leitmotives and being essentially through-composed (although a few distinct arias are to be found within it). It is also the...