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Il Trovatore at the Liceu: The best was the bad guy

Xavier Pujol

Yet another title from Verdi’s “popular trilogy” at Liceu. We had Rigoletto in March and now, to close the season, Il Trovatore. Betting repeatedlyfor the most popular operas can be dangerous: whilst it is true that they bring with them a full house, they also generate disproportionate expectations in an audience that know them (of thinks to know them) by heart and who wish – often in vain – to listen on stage to the results that tend to belongmore to the...

Mitridate, re di Ponto at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

Based on a play by Jean Racine, Mitridate, re di Ponto is an early Mozart opera that premiered in December 1770. The musicologist Daniel E. Freeman recently demonstrated that Mozart incorporated some musical motives from Josef Mysliveček’s La Nitteti, which was first performed in April 1770 just a month after the young Amadeus first met the older composer, into his own operatic setting. Nevertheless, this hardly detracts from the achievement of a fourteen-year old composing such an...

Otello at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

Like the Shakespeare play upon which it is based, Giuseppe Verdi’s penultimate opera Otello of 1887 is the story of a general in the Venetian military whose skills in managing political and personal affairs do not match those he has demonstrated in fighting. When his ‘friend’ Iago feels Otello has sidelined him for promotion, he lays a trap to make Otello believe his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful, and the general falls whole-heartedly for the deception with...

Don Giovanni at the Liceu: an impossible opera?

Xavier Pujol

It has often been said, in a variety of ways and with a range of argumentations, that Don Giovanni belongs to the limited group of ‘impossible operas’ or ‘trap operas’ in the sense that they are so big, perfect and powerful, and their deep subject – rather than their superficial plot – is so transcendental that, on one hand they are almost always bigger than their performers, and on the other hand they also generate such perfection expectations in the...

L’elisir d’amore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

L’elisir d’amore of 1832 is one of Gaetano Donizetti’s most popular and light-hearted works. Set in a village in the Basque Country at the end of the eighteenth century it sees the humble Nemorino love the landowner Adina, even as she tells him she is fickle and that he should forget her. When, however, she reads the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Nemorino is inspired to ask travelling quack doctor Dulcamara if he has any of the potion that enabled Tristan to win his love....

Aribert Reimann's Medea at Komische Oper Berlin

Achim Dombrowski

Aribert Reimann – now in his 80ies – is one of the most important and prominent contemporary German composers. Since composition of his opera Lear (first performed with grand success at Munich State Opera in 1978), he considered the creation of another stage work based on one of the huge mythological characters of world literature, Medea. But it's only when discovering the Austrian writer Grillparzer’s adaptation (first performed in 1821) that the subject...

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