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A Highly Inventive Hansel and Gretel at Regent’s Park Open Air...Sam Smith
Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, which premiered in 1893, is based on the eponymous fairytale that was recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. It follows the Grimm version of the story reasonably closely, although there are a few notable differences including the fact that the Mother here is not intent on losing the children in the forest so that she and her husband might survive the hard times. She sends them out to collect berries as a punishment for...
Schrott: Ideal Scarpia in Tosca at LiceuXavier Pujol
The musical power and dramatic efficacy of Tosca are such that it survives almost all the productions that have been made of it – not always with the same success. The restaging of the Tosca co-production by Liceu and Teatro de la Maestranza from Sevilla, which was already seen in 2014, wasn’t a good idea. The production – dramatically conventional and visually extravagant – was ugly and sad back then and continues to be so despite the changes that have been...
Strong Revival of Jonathan Kent’s Tosca at the Royal Opera Hou...Sam Smith
Based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language play, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca of 1900 not only occurs in a specific time and place, but on a precise date that can be linked to an historical event. All of the action takes place during the afternoon, evening and early morning of 17 and 18 June 1800, following the Battle of Marengo between Napoleon’s army and Austrian forces. The Austrians were initially triumphant and sent news of victory back to Rome, but the...
Magnificent Central Trio in Andrea Chénier at the Royal Opera...Sam Smith
Andrea Chénier of 1896 is by far the best known opera by Umberto Giordano (1867-1948), an Italian composer whose profile might have been higher today had not his considerable talents been somewhat eclipsed by those of his contemporary Puccini. It is loosely based on the life of the eponymous poet (1762-1794), who was executed during the French Revolution, while the character Carlo Gérard was inspired by Jean-Lambert Tallien, a leading figure in the Revolution. Sondra...
Henze’s Final Opera Phaedra at the Royal Opera House, Covent G...Sam Smith
Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra, with libretto by Christian Lehnert, was written in 2007, five years before the composer’s death and four years after he actually announced he was never going to write another opera. The first half relates the story of how Phaedra’s love for her stepson Hippolyt triggers catastrophe, as told by many writers across the ages including Euripides, Jean Racine and Sarah Kane. The second half, in contrast, follows a mythological tradition alluded to...
Les Pêcheurs de Perles at Liceu: A Risky Winner BetXavier Pujol
Christina Scheppelmann, artistic director at Liceu, commented on the text in the programme of Les pêcheurs de perles, that the opera’s plot is ‘naive and old fashioned’, and considered that ‘it is hard for this story to be emotionally touching’. Later, in regards to the work of stage director Lotte de Beer, who situates her version of this opera in a reality show, Scheppelmann wrote that Beer’s work manages to ‘make the story work from...