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Les Vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera House, LondonSam 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...
The Barber of Seville at the London ColiseumSam Smith
The three plays in Pierre Beaumarchais’ Figaro trilogy are The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784) and The Guilty Mother (1792). In 1786 Mozart based his opera on the second of these, and thirty years later Rossini utilised the first, which involves the same characters of Figaro, Count Almaviva, Rosina, Doctor Bartolo and Don Basilio, for his own comic masterpiece. Like Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier that...
An ugly, disoriented and only half well sung BalloXavier Pujol
The overall result of the Un ballo in maschera’s opening at Liceu – presented as the official opening of the season, although the season had de facto already started last month with Il viaggio a Reims – is clear: the men and choir were good, less so the women, passable the conductor and orchestra, ugly and dark the production and very poor the stage direction. Let’s start with what went well. Carlos Álvarez is at the best moment of his career, already...
Aida at the London ColiseumSam Smith
Set in Ancient Egypt, Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida of 1871 centres on a love triangle between Radamès, Amneris and Aida. As a Princess of Egypt and the daughter of the King, Amneris believes that her feelings for the Chief of the Guard Radamès ought to be reciprocated, and is horrified when she discovers that he and Aida, an Ethiopian slave, are actually in love. When Aida’s father Amonasros is captured in battle, with the Egyptians not realising that he is the King...
Il viaggio a Reims at the Liceu: A light and easy appetiserXavier Pujol
Liceu has resumed its activity with Il viaggio a Reims, an unusual title for a season opening. We need to consider however that these performances, despite being the first ones, do not have the ‘official’ opening character that will arrive at the beginning of October with Un ballo in maschera. But why is Il viaggio a Reims not an appropriate title to open the season? Because, to start with, dramatically it isn’t a proper opera but rather a sort of scenic cantata...
La bohème at the Royal Opera House, Covent GardenSam Smith
Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 creation La bohème, which is almost cinematographic in its length and proportions, 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...