All in Royal Opera House

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.

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. 

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. 

Salome at the Royal Opera House

If this is how the Royal Opera House is starting 2018, then we are in for a vintage year. 

 

Oscar Wilde’s original French play Salome, translated into German all in one Act, is just under 2 hours of intense brutality and unyielding musical brilliance, built on a theme of eroticism and murder.  It was first performed in Dresden in 1905 and Gustav Mahler himself wanted to conduct the opera in Vienna, but in fact the censors refused consent and did not relent until 1918.  It was initially banned in London until performed at Covent Garden under the baton of Thomas Beecham in 1910. 

Rigoletto at the Royal Opera House

If the French had anything to do with it, Rigoletto would never have been performed.  Based on Victor Hugo’s play ‘Le roi s’amuse’, where Verdi described the subject matter of the play as ‘immense’, it was highly controversial as it depicted the King of France as an immoral and cynical womaniser.  As a result, the opera had to undergo many changes before the censors allowed it to be performed, opening at La Fenice in Venice in 1851.  Even though the King of France was deleted from the opera – he was converted to the Duke of Mantua – the opera was banned in France and not performed there until 1882. 

Semiramide at the Royal Opera House

Gioachino Rossini was born in 1792 and was a prodigious composer of operas – composing 39 altogether.  At the age of 31 he composed his last opera in Italy, being Semiramide, which had its premiere in 1823 in Venice.  The music recreated the Baroch tradition of decorative singing with unparalleled skill.  The ensemble scenes, particularly the duos between Arsace and Semiramide, together with the choruses, are of an extremely high order. 

Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House

These two operas, Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Rugerro Leoncavallo, both had their world premieres in the last decade of the 19th century and in fact were first staged as a double bill at the Metropolitan Opera New York in December 1893.  They have both been hugely successful as a duet and indeed the original Director of this revival, Damiano Michieletto, has brought a common theme to the two operas, relocating them both to a small town in Southern Italy, with a bakery for the Cav and a community hall for the Pag. 

Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House

Lucia di Lammermoor was Donizetti’s 46th opera written in 1835 and based on Sir Walter Scott’s similarly titled novel.  It was premiered in Naples in its original Italian version, but very soon thereafter a French version (which is rarely performed) was commissioned for the Paris Opera.  Many of the great sopranos have sung the role of Lucia, some of whom have made their career as a result, such as Melba, Callas, Sutherland, Anderson, Serra, Gruberova and more recently, Damrau and Dessay.

La Boheme at Royal Opera House

What is a banker in operatic terms?  This is not a financial question!  Stand up Richard Jones for producing a La Boheme banker for the Royal Opera House, which will undoubtedly be performed for many years to come, but I imagine not as much as the wonderful old production by John Copley. 

Turandot at The Royal Opera House

The original story of Turandot is centred on the epic works of the 12th century Persian poet, Nizani, based on Turad-Dokht (daughter of Turan).  This was Puccini’s last opera and in fact he never completed the third Act at the time of his death in 1924.  The ending of this opera was completed by Alfano, based on sketches left behind by Puccini.  The original premier of Turandot was held in Milan in 1926 and conducted by Toscanini.  Luciano Berio was also sanctioned to make a new completion for the opera, but this is rarely performed.

Otello at the Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House pulled out all the stops in giving us a new production of this incredibly forceful Verdi opera, Otello.  Keith Warner was asked to direct this new production and the cast of Jonas Kaufmann as Otello, Maria Agresta as Desdemona and Marco Vratogna as Iago was almost as good as it gets today.  

La Traviata at the Royal Opera House

La Traviata (the fallen woman) is one of Verdi’s most popular operas. It is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas and its world premiere was at La Fenice in Venice in 1853. As with everything to do with opera there was a dispute with the local authority who insisted that a contemporary setting was inappropriate and the production had to be circa 1700. It was not until 1880 that a more contemporary production was staged.

L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

L'elisir d'amore is a two-act comic opera by the Italian composer Donizetti and was premiered in 1832 in Milan. The opera was written in six weeks! It is a love story reflecting on how a young farm worker Nemorino gets his girl, the farm owner Adina, despite the interest of a rival the boastful Sergeant Belcore and using a love potion put together by the dubious Doctor Dulcamara.

Meistersinger at the Royal Opera House - The Last Night!

It was the last night and last chance to see whether there had been an improvement in this mess of a production.  Needless to say, there hasn’t!  In fact, with Beckmesser opening a bottle of fizzy orange in this first Act – did I miss this or was it added – in this 1920’s/30’s production, it was clear that Kasper Holten was giving not an inch to his critics.