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Quartett at the Liceu: some distressing unbearable truths

Xavier Pujol

Composer Luca Francesconi clarified the purpose of his piece to journalist Tom Service (The Guardian 19/06/2014) for the premiere of his opera Quartett in London in 2014: Don’t dare to come if you can't accept that you need to analyse what you do and who you are. This piece is violent, it’s sex, it’s blasphemy, it’s the absence of mercy. The only two characters in the opera are the definition of cynical, they have made a pact that they don’t have to...

Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

Francesco Cilea is one of several Italian composers who might have been far better known today had they not lived at around the same time as Giacomo Puccini. As it is, their own considerable talents have tended to be eclipsed by those of the great composer to the extent that the only operas of Cilea’s that are performed with any regularity today are L’arlesiana and Adriana Lecouvreur. The latter was also the only one of the composer’s that was unequivocally acclaimed as a...

Rigoletto at the London Coliseum

Sam Smith

Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto was a triumph when it premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1851, and has remained one of the composer’s most frequently performed operas ever since. Its popularity is thoroughly deserved but might still be deemed interesting, given that it is a contender for the cruellest opera in the mainstream repertoire. While many works see the innocent suffer and die, there is usually a sense in which...

Il trovatore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Sam Smith

Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore of 1853 is based on Antonio García Gutiérrez’s play El trovador. Set in fifteenth century Spain it tells of the noble lady Leonora who is in love with the troubadour Manrico, but is herself loved by the Count di Luna, a nobleman in the service of the Prince of Aragon. The Count’s younger brother Garzia supposedly died in infancy when a gypsy was burnt at the stakefor allegedly bewitching him, and the charred body of a baby was...

Charles Gounod Romeo et Juliette at the Vienna State Opera

Helmut Pitsch

French composer Charles Gounod was deeply religious and even he did not decide for a clerical career his strong belief dominated his life. His surviving opus consists of many sacred works but also 12 operas of which only two gained world-wide popularity, Faust and Roméo et Juliette. They are good examples of the French Opéra Lyrique, of which Charles Gounod is a leading representative. © Wiener Staatsoper GmbH / Michael Pöhn © Wiener Staatsoper...

Beczala, sublime Werther

Xavier Pujol

Looked down on by the official cultural savants (including psychoanalysts) for embodying the trivialisation and heavy-handed simplification of one of the most powerful love stories of the western culture, almost like a creation myth; and despised as well by the scholarly musicology of the 20th century that considered Massenet to colour everything with an unbearable bourgeois temperateness and a sticky and decorative sweetness, Werther is one of those “Cinderella” titles that...

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