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Some Stirring Performances in Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Ope...

Sam Smith

Die Zauberflöte is Mozart’s final opera, and takes the form of a Singspiel that combines singing with spoken dialogue. In it, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro, who she claims is evil. As Tamino goes about his quest, however, and falls in love with Pamina, he learns that things are the other way around. The Queen of the Night represents the forces of darkness, while Sarastro’s...


There is Nothing Quite Like The Mask of Orpheus at the London ...

Sam Smith

This autumn English National Opera is exploring the Orpheus myth by presenting four operatic takes on it. Now, following Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, both of which still have performances that can be seen, comes the third addition to the mix, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus. Without a doubt there is no other opera quite like it with the orchestra containing no strings, the score including electronic music (which was...


Schumann’s Dichterliebe ‘Updated’ in Zauberland at the Royal O...

Sam Smith

When Robert Schumann wrote his song cycle Dichterliebe in 1840 he originally composed twenty songs. Four of these were then cut before publication to produce the sixteen that we know today. No contemporary records reveal exactly why he decided to exclude them, so composer Bernard Foccroulle and librettist Martin Crimp took this as their starting point to intervene at the points where the songs were removed, and to extend the song cycle, to produce Zauberland. With the original sixteen...


A Highly Enjoyable New Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House, ...

Sam Smith

Gaetano Donizetti’s 64th opera Don Pasquale of 1843 represents both the zenith and the end of opera buffa because it stands as one of the finest examples of the genre, and yet there are practically none written after that date that are still in the standard repertoire. Set in Rome, it sees the ageing Don Pasquale disinherit his nephew Ernesto, who loves the young but poor widow Norina, for refusing the woman he had found for him. Even Don Pasquale’s own doctor Malatesta thinks...


Liceu: Turandot, a Symbol

Xavier Pujol

Turandot was the opera that would have been going on stage when the theatre was destroyed in a fire in January 1994. Embodying a spirit of continuity, Turandot was chosen to inaugurate the new theatre rebuilt in 1999. Now, on the 20th anniversary of Liceu’s re-inauguration, Puccini’s last opera was again the title selected to open the new season. Turandot, an opera which historically did not have any particularly significant relationship with the theatre has become, due to the...


Musical Credentials Trump Concept in Orpheus in the Underworld...

Sam Smith

This autumn English National Opera is exploring the Orpheus myth by presenting four operatic takes on it, including Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus and Philip Glass’s Orphée. Each is being introduced in the order in which it was originally composed so that the season began with Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, and now continues with Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, the first version of which premiered in 1858. It is good to see the Offenbach...


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