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Ernani at La Scala: Francesco Meli, Ailyn PérezJames Imam
'Mi raccomando brevità, e fuoco,' is how Verdi illustrated his blueprint for Ernani to his librettist Piave. He can't have been disappointed by the final product. Verdi's fifth opera brims with rollicking tunes, stirring arias and incendiary ensemble numbers -- it is an uninterrupted flow of musical invention. Such has not secured Ernani regular appearances at La Scala. The opera had last appeared at the Milan house 32 years ago, in a production from Luca Ronconi...
Radical but Flawed Presentation of Salome at the London ColiseumSam 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...
A recycled Favorite Closes the Liceu seasonXavier Pujol
The Liceu closes its season with the slightly surprising restaging of its own setting (co-production with the Teatro Real de Madrid) of La Favorite’s original French version by Donizetti. This opera had been very popular at the Liceu during the 19th and 20th centuries, with over 200 accumulated performances, although only 10 of which were of the French version and these took place in the early 21st century. The restaging appears surprising as 16 years ago it was...
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...