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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...
A gender-bending Ariodante is superb in its Salzburg revivalIlana Walder-Biesanz
To inspire his production of Handel’s Ariodante for the Salzburg Festival, director Christof Loy turned to a novel that shares a name with the opera’s source material (Ariosto’s Orlando furioso): Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. He makes no secret of this source, as quotes from Orlando (in Italian, for the sake of linguistic continuity) interrupt the overture and precede the third act. The concept is both consistent and effective. A mishmash of costume time periods from...
An overwhelming Wozzeck in SalzburgIlana Walder-Biesanz
There is always something happening in William Kentridge’s staging of Wozzeck. It can be hard to know what to look at—the supernumeraries creeping around in gas masks? The improbably piled-up junk that serves as a set? The charcoal drawings projected as backdrops? The little videos than range from absurd cartoons to scenes of abuse? It almost doesn’t matter. All these elements work together to create a cohesive atmosphere haunted by war and poverty. The production has...
The wrong cast for I due Foscari in SalzburgIlana Walder-Biesanz
Verdi’s I due Foscari is a definite contender for the title of “least dramatic opera”. Not much happens: the younger Foscari (Jacopo) is sent back into exile by the Venetian Council of Ten and dies on the way. His wife Lucrezia pleads and suffers, in vain. Led by the Foscaris’ enemy, Jacopo Loredano, the Council also votes to remove the older Foscari (Francesco) from his position as Doge. This double grief kills him. Despite his role as the antagonist, Loredano...