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. 

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. 

Billy Budd – Britten – Royal Opera House

It is incredible when in an all-male opera the keenest applause at curtain call is reserved for a lady – the female Director, Deborah Warner.  She directs a new production for the ROH, in conjunction with opera houses, both in Madrid and Rome, where this production has already premiered.   It is the ROH’s first new staging of this work since Zambello’s 1995 staging.  Warner is becoming a bit of a Britten specialist with her brilliant Death in Venice for ENO in memory, with others to follow suit.  Here she brings the 1797 timeframe up to the modern era, with costumes by Chloe Obolensky and sets by Michael Levine to match.  The abstract staging is based around moving platforms all surrounded by rigging, which at appropriate times move to produce varying levels on the stage, reflecting the different decks of the ship, HMS Indomitable. 

La forza del destino – Verdi – Royal Opera House

The starry eyed opening of Christof Loy’s new production of Verdi’s La forza del destino was triumphant with the world’s greatest singers in the title roles - Anna Netrebko as Leonora, Jonas Kaufman as Don Alvaro and Ludovic Tezier as Don Carlo.  This was casting as good as it gets and a really exciting evening was enjoyed by all that were present. 

Mirga Leads Tchaikovsky – LA Philharmonic – Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall

It was an unexpected privilege to witness the performance of the outstanding Moldovan Violinist, now in her early forties, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto under the baton of the Lithuanian Conductor, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.  They played together like a matching glove, always outstandingly in time and complete with their musical colour, but it was Kopatchinskaja’s night. 

Elisabetta I – Rossini – Hackney Empire

It is outstanding that the English Touring Opera reaches more towns and cities in the UK than any other opera company.  There is nothing easy in the repertoire that ETO performs (this year Elisabetta 1, Mozart’s Idomeneo and Verdi’s Macbeth, next year Mozart’s Seraglio and Kurt Weill’s The Silver Lake, A Winter’s Tale), but with all its work it brings opera to the people outside the main cities, which is hugely important and beneficial for the country as a whole.