Ariadne auf Naxos at Opera Holland Park

As the thunderstorm roared and the rain fell on the canvas roof, Opera Holland Park’s Ariadne got off to a slow and uncertain start.  The prologue and particularly The Party Planner of Eleanor Bron were most difficult to hear, that is until the entrance and the ecstasy of The Composer sung by the Swedish soprano, Julia Sporsen.  She was a revelation with flawless delivery and a performance that tugged at the heartstrings, particularly when confronting her relationship with the Zerbinetta of Jennifer France.

Falstaff at the Royal Opera House

Giuseppe Verdi had written 27 operas by the time he started a four year project to in 1889 to write only his second comedy opera.  His first comedy work ‘Un giormo di regno’ was staged unsuccessfully in 1840 and Rossini, a great admirer of Verdi, commented that he thought him incapable of writing a comedy. Verdi was concerned that at his advanced age, to start a new substantial project was a real risk.  However, such was his profile that at the world premiere of Falstaff at La Scala Milan in early 1893, the huge success of his work was recognised with an applause lasting almost an hour. 

La Bohème at the Royal Opera House

Richard Jones must be delighted by this latest outing of his 2017 new production of La Bohème. The production is tighter and clearer. He and his designer Stewart Laing have put a huge amount of effort into the Act 2 Café Momus scene. It is outstanding, as he provides 3 shopping arcades on the stage, which eventually move apart as the Café Momus set arrives for the main part of that Act.

Mamzer Bastard at the Royal Opera House / Hackney Empire

The collaboration between the Royal Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama was established in 2013 as an opportunity for one composer every two years to research and write a major operatic work. Na’ama Zisser is the second such composer in residence, and she studied at the Royal College of Music under Turnage. Together with her sister Rachel and her partner Samantha Newton, who jointly wrote the libretto, they have structured a new chamber opera called Mamzer Bastard.

Un Ballo in Maschera at Grange Park Opera

In one of Verdi’s most frustrating experiences, this opera commissioned by Naples in 1857, was actually premiered in Rome in 1859.  The original score underwent significant transformations as a result of censorship regulations in both Naples and Rome and the disturbing political situation in France in 1858.  The plot concerns the assassination in 1792 of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was killed as the result of a political conspiracy against him.  He was shot while attending a masked ball.

Opera Blog - Lohengrin

Lohengrin is a romantic three act opera, written by Richard Wagner and first performed in Weimar in 1850 under the patronage of King Ludwig.  It was indeed this patronage that gave Wagner the means and opportunity to compose and build a theatre for and stage his epic cycle, the Ring of the Nibelung. 

Capriccio at Garsington

This is the last opera written by Richard Strauss, with a German libretto by Clemens Krauss and is unlike any of his other operas.  It is more like a ‘conversation piece for music’ where the Countess has two suitors, Flamand and Olivier, representing music and words.  That is the context of the arguments and discussions that run throughout this opera.  The question is, what is more important, Music or Word - or should it be Word or Music - and which one of the suitors will take precedence in the heart of the Countess?

Chess at the English National Opera

The opening of the rock opera production of Chess was written in 1984 by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Sir Tim Rice.  Chess is the sequel to the English National Opera music theatre production at the Coliseum, which began with Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel, Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close and Carousel starring Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe.

Michael Zaoui Premiere with the Aurora Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

What a privileged evening this was. 

 

Michael Zaoui, banker, is a governor of the South Bank.  At the age of 14 he tried to join conducting classes at the Paris Music Institute and was instantly rejected.  This rejection has lived with him ever since and was only cauterised with this concert, which was Michael’s premiere with the baton.  He has worked hard every day over a year on his dream to conduct, and was helped in his efforts by the wonderful Sian Edwards at the Royal Academy of Music.  In his ‘dream come true’ moment he was incredibly lucky to not only be the first – even trial – concert at the re-opening of the new Queen Elizabeth Hall, which has been closed for 2.5 years, but also had the privilege of conducting the wonderful Aurora Orchestra, who will be the resident orchestra at the QEH. 

Macbeth at the Royal Opera House

Verdi’s first version of Macbeth was completed in 1847.  It was his first Shakespeare play that he adapted for the operatic stage. This was a golden period of composition by Verdi stretching 16 years, which saw him produce 22 different operas, including, amongst others, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata. 

La Traviata at the English National Opera

La Traviata had a somewhat complicated beginning. This opera – The Fallen Woman – is a Verdi opera in three acts, adapted from the novel La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas. It opened in 1853 at La Fenice in Venice. Despite the Composer’s wish for a contemporary setting, the local authority insisted that the action be set in the early 18th century and it wasn’t until the 1880s that a more contemporary production was staged. In the original production, the acclaimed soprano singing the lead of Violetta was booed because she was considered to be too old (at 38) and too overweight to credibly play a young woman dying of consumption!