Werther – Massenet – Royal Opera House

Jules Massenet took a novel from Goethe to compose a lyrical 4 act opera from a French libretto by Eduard Blau.  It was meant to have its premiere at the Paris Opera Comique in 1887, but due to a fire at the Opera House this did not happen and it did not take place until 1892 in a German language translation in Vienna.  The French language premiere followed that year in Geneva.  

Einstein on the Beach – Glass – Grand Theatre Geneva

Aviel Cahn has arrived at the newly opened Geneva Opera House and in the first production under his control has taken the City and opera scene by storm.  This is a man of incredible pedigree having taken the Vlaanderen Opera – he was in charge for 10 years – to its peak in 2019 by obtaining the International Opera Award for Best Opera Company.  Instead of starting his new tenure in Geneva with a Puccini/Verdi/Strauss banker, his first opera is out of left field, Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach.

Aida – Verdi – Arena di Verona Italy

For over 100 years the Arena in Verona has formally hosted opera, with Aida being at the forefront of the entertainment on show.  The huge Verona Arena, which is a first century Roman amphitheatre, is at the centre of activities in this old medieval town.  The Arena originally hosted 30,000 people every night during the summer but, even in Italy, health and safety gradually reduced this sum to 25,000, 20,000 and today 15,000 maximum capacity. 

La Fille du regiment – Donizetti – Royal Opera House

Eat your heart out Florez and Dessay.  A new pair of principals have hit London and star in Laurent Pelly’s 12 year old production of La Fille du regiment.  The mishmash production is very much a ‘Dad’s Army’ fun billing.  The comedy is always at the forefront and is infectious and the two new principals bring the house down.  In fact there appears no singing weak link in a most enjoyable evening. 

Rusalka – Dvorak – Glyndebourne

One of Dvorak’s most well-known operas composed at the beginning of the twentieth century is a lyric fairy tale in three acts and sung in Czech.  This production by Melly Still is more an imitation of the Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid with tragedy at its core, but little to delight the fairy tale purists until a powerfully struck ending, both visually and musically, enables redemption at last.

Un ballo in maschera – Verdi – Opera Holland Park – Young Artist Performance

The original Greek Director Rodula Gaitanou, with design by Takis, produced an attractive moveable wooden panelled set that was used throughout this opera - apart from the great entrance of the Fortune Teller.  In this Young Artist performance the direction was taken on by Rachel Hewer, who has worked on a number of shows at the Royal College of Music and Glyndebourne.  She had Sion Corder as her Lighting Director, Steve Elias as the Movement Director and Brett Yount as the Fight Director, all from the main production.  The work was updated to the 1940s, but still retained its ambiguous eccentricities and disguised assassin’s violence, which were a pre-cursor to the death of Gustavo.  The area of concern was always the replacement of the cemetery scene with a hospital scene, which didn’t necessarily reflect the storyline, particularly the need for Amelia to suffer injections to cure her love.  Bizarre!

Hansel & Gretel – Humperdinck – English National Opera & Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

ENO & Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre teamed up to provide a musical feast – literally – of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel.  Directed by the long-term Director of the Regent’s Park Opera Timothy Sheader and supported by the ‘Tony Award’ nominated, Peter McKintosh, as the Set and Costume Designer, Lizzi Gee as the Movement Director and Oliver Fenwick as the Lighting Director.  The team really produced a fun staging culminating in a great candy house with lots of colourful gingerbread men. 

Madama Butterfly – Puccini – Diva Opera at Syon Park & Children with Cancer UK

Children with Cancer UK teamed up with Diva Opera at Syon Park to deliver an adventurous piano-led Madama Butterfly, simultaneously raising sufficient funds for a very worthy cause.  Every year around 4,500 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK and the charity provides wide ranging practical and emotional support to families struggling with the effects of childhood cancer.

Falstaff – Verdi – The Grange Festival

Michael Chance took a real risk in his appointment as Artistic Director and CEO of the new Grange Festival, but with this wonderful production of Falstaff the risk really seems to have paid off.  He has overseen a very good season at The Grange Festival, but in conjunction with the Director, Christopher Luscombe, this Falstaff is a success in every department, particularly visually and musically.

Don Carlo – Verdi – Grange Park Opera

In an ambitious tilt at major opera houses, Grange Park Opera has revived its 2016 staging of the immense and dramatic Verdi opera, Don Carlo, which was premiered in 1867.  The original five act French libretto was shortened somewhat to a four act Italian version, which was on show in the Woods in Surrey and in this respect Jo Davies’s modest plain sets were more suited to this country house production.  

Andrea Chenier – Giordano – Royal Opera House

Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, often regarded as the poor relation of the 19th century Verismo operas, had its first revival at the ROH since David McVicar’s 2015 controversial new production.  This opera, first performed in 1896 at La Scala Milan, is a story based on the life of the French poet, Andrea Chenier, who was executed during the French revolution in 1794. 

Phaedra – Henze – Linbury Theatre – Royal Opera House

Hans Werner Henze died at the age of 86 in 2012.  He was a German Atonal Composer and left Germany for Italy in 1953 due to an intolerance toward his left wing politics and homosexuality.  He became a member of the Italian communist party and indeed wrote a Requiem in 1968 for Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh.  He even spent a year teaching in Cuba.  Whilst his father enrolled him in the Hitler Youth, it was clear that music was his forte and after the Second World War he became a Conductor at the Wiesbaden Staatstheater. 

Devotion and Desire – National Opera Studio

Once more the National Opera Studio comes up trumps in its joint production, with the Welsh National Opera, of ‘Devotion and Desire’.  This programme was directed by Emma Jenkins, whose career started as a staff director at the English National Opera, but has also more recently included work with the WNO, where she has directed the NOS residency for the last three years.