All in English National Opera

War Requiem at the English National Opera

In 1958, Benjamin Britten was asked to write a work for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral – the old one had been bombed and destroyed in 1940 and hundreds of people had died.  Britten decided that this work would commemorate the dead of both World Wars and his text combines the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead, with fairly dour poems by Wilfred Owen.  After its premiere in 1962, Shostakovich regarded Britten’s War Requiem as ‘The greatest work of the 20th century’ and indeed it was universally hailed as a masterpiece. 

Lucia di Lammermoor at the English National Opera

David Alden’s 2008 staging is brought back to the Coliseum for its second revival, with an outstanding cast, a compelling translation into English by Amanda Holden and clever moving sets by Charles Edwards.  This is a truly interesting performance of a subject – forced marriage, here of Lucia – which is relevant in some communities even today.  However, this is the Scottish Highlands and the dark and unattractive costumes, designed by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, are a testament to Highland imagery. 

Porgy & Bess at the English National Opera

Porgy & Bess, the folk opera composed by George Gershwin with the libretto by the original author, DuBose Heyward and Lyricist, Ira Gershwin, was first performed in Boston in 1935.  The libretto tells the story of Porgy, a black disabled street beggar living in the Charleston slums, attempting to rescue his love, Bess, from the clutches of Crown, her violent and possessive lover, and her drug dealer, Sporting Life. 

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.

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!

Satyagraha at the English National Opera

This incredible opera written by Philip Glass had its world premiere in 1980 in Rotterdam and its UK premiere in Bath in 1997.  Its main commissioning in the UK was an incredible production at the English National Opera in 2007, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Opera New York, with the Director Phelim McDermott and his Improbable team in charge. 

Marnie at English National Opera

Alfred Hitchcock’s film Marnie, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, was lightly based on the original book by Winston Graham.  Hitchcock’s film ending was more dramatic perhaps than the books.  The Composer, Nico Muhly, decides to stick more closely to the original book version, with skilful subtlety that is so prevalent in its musical score.

Aida at the English National Opera

Aida was premiered in Cairo’s Opera House at the end of 1871, having been commissioned by the Isma’il Pasha.  Its premier was meant to coincide with the opening of the opera house, but as a result of the Franco-Prussian war the scenery and costumes were stuck in Paris and Verdi’s Rigoletto was performed instead, with Aida premiering later in the year.  The premiere was met with great critical acclaim and the European premiere was held in February 1872 at La Scala Milan.  Over the next 20 years the opera became part of the staple repertoire of opera houses all over Europe and America, where different productions tried to deal with the passionate nature of relationships between three high born individuals, ultimately ending in inevitable betrayal. 

Rigoletto at the English National Opera

An old friend is back.  To see Jonathan Miller’s Rigoletto return to the stage was a great comfort.  It has been intelligently revived by Elaine Tyler-Hall and the sets (particularly the art deco at the beginning of Act I and in Act II) as well as the bar scene in Act III are clear, precise and still very relevant today.