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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...

The Barber of Seville at the London Coliseum

Sam 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 Ballo

Xavier 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...

Opera Online columnists