All in Royal Opera House

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. 

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. 

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. 

Katya Kabanova – Janacek – Royal Opera House

Born in 1854, Leos Janacek was a Czech Composer whose music was inspired by Slavic folk music and contemporaries such as Dvorak.  Although his first opera, Jenufa (dedicated to the memory of his young daughter) was first performed in 1904 in the city of Brno, it wasn’t until a revised version of Jenufa was performed in Prague in 1916 that Janacek first received great acclaim - at the age of 62.  A year later he met a young married woman (38 years his junior), who inspired him for the remaining years of his life, until his death in 1928. 

Carmen – Bizet – Royal Opera House

Nine months ago I reported on the opening of Barry Kosky’s new take on Carmen.  It was unlike anything seen before at the ROH and at many times was visually stunning.  However, the problem is that despite some stunning scenes, including a 20 foot black dress train (both long and wide!) for Carmen in the final Act, the production overall lacks warmth in the heat of the Spanish sun and indeed it is cold in its interaction between principals.  The constant streaming across the stage steps by principals and chorus does not add to the village or factory atmosphere, as was required by Bizet.  However interesting the production appeared to be, it was in fact the collage of the scenes that provided the interest, rather than the visual impact throughout the evening.

Verdi's Requiem at the Royal Opera House

In a remarkable career spanning six decades, Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901, composed nearly 30 operas, at least half of which are at the core of today’s repertoire.  His Requiem, premiered in 1874, stands as a unique testimony to his artistic and human vision and is a setting of the text for the Roman Catholic mass for the dead as it existed until its revision in 1970. 

Götterdämmerung at the Royal Opera House

Götterdämmerung, the last of the four operas making up Wagner’s Ring Cycle, held our breath throughout the six and a half hours of operatic intensity. Keith Warner’s production comes to its sizzling end as the ring and the gold is once more returned to its home with the rhinemaidens, beautifully, and finally fleshily, played by Lauren Fagan, Christina Bock and Angela Simkin.

Die Walkure at the Royal Opera House

Die Walkure is the second part of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle and is based on Norse mythology, where a Valkyrie is a female figure who decides in battle which soldier shall live or die.  It received its premiere in Munich in 1870 and was first presented as part of the complete Ring Cycle in 1876 in Bayreuth.

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.