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Double the Thrill in this Double Bill: Cavalleria rusticana an...

Sam Smith

Damiano Michieletto’s take on Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which represents a co-production between Opera Australia, La Monnaie in Brussels, The Göteborg Operaand the Royal Opera House, was well received when it first appeared at the latter venue two years ago. With this first revival from Rodula Gaitanou proving just as strong, and hence confirming that its initial success was no fluke, it is reasonable to acclaim the...


Once again, the brillant excess of Tristan

Xavier Pujol

Excessive in every material and conceptual aspect, hypertrophic, beyond the limits of anything reasonable, redundant in the text to desperation, with a minimal dramatic action that tests the ingenuity and patience of stage directors, with terrible vocal demands, inhumane for the protagonists. Exhausting for everyone, audience included, the Wagnerian Tristan und Isolde is in its overflow one of the most sublime and genius excesses created by Western culture. Once again we have been put...


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...


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...


Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House, London

Sam Smith

Based on Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor of 1835 is set in Scotland. The Ashton and Ravenswood families have a long-standing hatred of each other with the former family now owning the estate that previously belonged to the latter. The Ashtons have themselves fallen on hard times, however, leading the Master of Lammermoor Enrico to insist that his sister Lucia marry the wealthy Arturo Bucklaw to restore the...


Les Vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera House, London

Sam Smith

Giuseppe Verdi’s Les Vêpres siciliennes of 1855 tells of the French occupation of Sicily in the thirteenth century. Prior to the opera’s opening the Sicilian patriot Jean Procida was exiled and the French conqueror Guy de Montfort, who became the island’s governor, violated a Sicilian woman who subsequently had a son called Henri. At times the Sicilians are a little too ready to accept their subservient position, but three individuals are determined to set the...


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