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Patrice Chéreau's devastating Elektra returns to La ScalaJames Imam
The sense of expectation that surrounded the return of Patrice Chéreau's production of Elektra to La Scala is testament to the artistry of the French director, arguably the greatest the nation has produced in the postwar period. Time and again, Chéreau's conceptions bore to the heart of the drama, and through an often startling simplicity of directorial means. The director's Elektra, his last production, opened in Aix in 2013 before travelling to La Scala....
Strong Revival of David Alden’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Lon...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 Lord Arturo Bucklaw in order to restore the...
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...
Getting Under the Skin of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at the...Sam Smith
Porgy and Bess was written by George Gershwin, with libretto by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, in 1935. It was based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s play Porgy, which was itself adapted from DuBose’s eponymous novel of 1925. Set in South Carolina in the 1920s, it explores the lives of the African American residents of Catfish Row, a fictitious place on the waterfront of Charleston. Here, Porgy is a disabled beggar while Bess is the lover of Crown, a tough stevedore. Crown...
Sublime Solomon at the Royal Opera House, Covent GardenSam Smith
It is highly fitting that the Royal Opera House should present George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Solomon now since its predecessor on the site, the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, hosted the first performance on 17 March 1749. At the time of its premiere the composer’s decades-long domination of the London opera scene had already come to an end, but his oratorios in English, which he had begun composing while still writing operas, were going from strength to strength. While...
Wake-Walker's La finta giardiniera travels to La ScalaJames Imam
It takes a special production to ensure listeners do not get helplessly lost in the messy operatic overgrowth of La finta giardinieria. Written by Mozart at the age of 18, the score possesses little of the trailblazing innovation that would characterise his mature operas. Conventional arias are joined together with tiresome stretches of recitative, in a dreary musical terrain that only occasionally lights up to flashes of musical genius. The story centres on Sandrina, a noblewoman...