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A Truly Overwhelming Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Royal Oper...Sam Smith
Although initially enjoying great success, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk of 1934 has courted controversy almost from day one. Being condemned from various quarters for its lurid descriptive music in the sex scenes, its supposed justification of Stalin’s genocide (the main protagonist kills her kulak in-laws) and its ‘primitive satire’ in its treatment of the priest and police, it was attacked by both Stravinsky (who described it as ‘lamentably...
Debauchery Trumps Emotion in La traviata at the London ColiseumSam Smith
Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata of 1853 is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world today. Based on Alexandre Dumas, fils’s play La Dame aux camélias, it tells of Violetta Valéry who is a famed Parisian courtesan. Beneath her apparently carefree exterior, however, she is suffering from tuberculosis and her world is shaken when she meets Alfredo with whom she falls in love. They run away together and live off the sale of her goods, but one day...
Andrea Chénier at the Liceu: A perfect nightXavier Pujol
Opera is the most complex and interdisciplinary form of artistic expression created by Western culture, all scenic and musical arts are represented. In this state of affairs, in the same way that it is very difficult to totally ruin an operatic performance it is even a greater challenge to achieve absolute perfection. Nevertheless, this is – or almost is – what happened in the premiere of Andrea Chénier at Liceu, one of the foundational titles of the verismo movement...
Admire rather than Love From the House of the Dead at the Roya...Sam Smith
From the House of the Dead is Czech composer Leoš Janáček’s final opera, having been left virtually complete when he died in 1928 and premiering two years later. It is based on Dostoyevsky’s eponymous novel of 1862, which describes life, and the experiences of several convicts, in a Siberian prison camp. The piece has never before appeared at the Royal Opera House, and in Krzysztof Warlikowski’s new staging, which represents a co-production...
Warm your Winter with A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the London ...Sam Smith
A Midsummer Night’s Dream of 1960 is Benjamin Britten’s operatic take on Shakespeare’s eponymous play. It follows the original story reasonably closely, although it focuses on certain aspects of the plot and downgrades the prominence of others. Robert Carsen’s classic production for English National Opera premiered in 1995. A new version by Christopher Alden was actually introduced in 2011, but Carsen’s was so impossible to keep down that it now returns to...
Romeo and Juliet at the Liceu: One of those sad tepid successesXavier Pujol
The stage is a space where life – or its simulation – is presented in an intense, concentrated way, where emotions and feelings guide the characters and their actions. In theatre, especially in opera, and in general in all scenic arts, the aim is always to achieve something intense. Life is tepid, the stage is always hot. If one cannot achieve an extraordinary success one must at least achieve an extraordinary failure that grabs the attention. Anything but an anodyne,...