A joyous The Gondoliers from Scottish Opera at Hackney Empire

1st April 2022

The overarching feeling of Scottish Opera’s The Gondoliers at London’s Hackney Empire is joyful exuberance. It sounds a fanfare for the pleasure of live performance returning after the long darkness of this dreadful pandemic; a splendidly staged, marvellously sung and genuinely funny evening of Gilbert & Sullivan. The opera has particular interest to aficionados, the […]

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Don Giovanni, to hell and back

18th March 2022

Don GiovanniWelsh National OperaWales Millennium Centre By Mike Smith The concept behind this take on the Mozart moral tale is Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, a monolithic bronze works, with human figures cast into the metal – as becomes the fate of the great seducer Don Giovanni. Figures from the vast masterpiece were also created […]

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Life’s a beach on Alcina’s love island

8th February 2022

It is intriguing that a wave of Alcinas is hitting our opera houses. Opera North has dived in first with a pared down Handelian adventure for this Baroque menage or menagerie a cinq on the sorceress’ love island. Characters wonder on stage and wonder off again, usually after singing but not always, and there is […]

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Singing soars above what risks being a one trick zebra

7th February 2022

I have had a Jon Snow moment, watching a production that is based on one premiss, black people can be vulnerable outsiders, surrounded by as far as I can see virtually an overwhelmingly white audience. I am not sure what that says about opera or about its reach, but I also suspect that applying a […]

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Singers and orchestra save this show from being a ring of dire

21st November 2021

I sometimes wonder whether Wagner sets some sort of challenge from beyond the grave on the Ring Cycle to test its strength. The challenge being: who can make such a pig’s ear of a production to destroy the magnificence of the music and the impact of the story on audiences. This time it was down […]

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A large tot of happiness from ENO’s Pinafore

21st November 2021

HMS Pinafore at English National Opera is a joyous entertainment that revels in the humour while ensuring the highest standards of musicianship. It is, shock horror, enjoyable. Yet it is a mark of our strange times when performing Gilbert and Sullivan seems quite brave and some companies would fret themselves onto a woke apoplexy performing […]

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Satyagraha, certainly gorgeous but a little of its time

19th October 2021

It may sound like sacrilege to make a negative comment about Philip Glass’ Satyagraha as it has achieved iconic status, but while this remains a glorious piece of music and stunning theatricality in the Phelim McDermott staging, the 40 plus year old opera seems dated. First staged by English National Opera back in 2007, this […]

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No need for laying it on with a trowel with this clean if grubby Il tabarro from Mid Wales Opera

13th October 2021

It is a challenging enterprise to take opera out to smaller venues at the best of times let alone when audiences are still wary in Covid days but it is one that Mid Wales Opera with Richard Studer and Jonathan Lyness at the tiller do with a sure touch and excellent musicianship. The combination of […]

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Rosina takes control – on every level

30th September 2021

The auditorium might have been extremely lightly populated but those who had come along to see the show, masked or unmasked such is the confusing state of affairs in Wales, enjoyed a rare treat – an enjoyable production from Welsh National Opera without any psychobabble or a la mode gobbledegook. It was heartening to hear […]

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An airbrushed show that has Madam Butterfly as a human commodity for whoever has the money to pay

25th September 2021

Welsh National Opera at Wales Millennium Centre It must be deeply annoying for a director when the opera gets in the way of a concept. Drat – the libretto. You can fiddle with settings, play around with costumes, even tweak the translation but there are some things that you cannot escape. Well, you would have […]

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