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Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

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A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

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English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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English National Opera: Tosca

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English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

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Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

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On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.



Emma Bell as Vitellia
19 Jun 2007

La Clemenza di Tito – English National Opera

An increasing lack of substance and imagination behind ENO’s season scheduling means that a revival of a theatrically impressive recent production of a repertoire piece is to be welcomed, especially when that production comes with a cast of superior calibre.

W. A. Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito
English National Opera, London Coliseum, 8 June 2007

Above: Emma Bell as Vitellia
All images are copyright English National Opera and Robert Workman


Mozart’s late masterpiece is one of the most serious operas I have seen David McVicar direct, and although this production contains plenty of allusions to his distinctive directorial style, it is to his credit that he does not try his trademark trick of trying to turn the piece into a black comedy. His interpretation here is truthful and largely gimmick-free. The choreography (originally by Leah Hausmann, revived by Kai’a Lane) and sets (by Yannis Thavouris) are Japanese-inspired, and beautiful in their simplicity. The curved walls of the set move on and off in graceful arcs, creating light-and-shade effects, while the stage direction has a fluid, balletic quality. It helps that there are so few people on stage; the chorus sing from the pit, so the large stage is populated only by soloists and dancers.

Many of the cast returned from the original run. Paul Nilon repeated his impressively sung account of the title role, but there is still a feeling that he hasn’t found a great deal of complexity within the character. Emma Bell’s vocal performance as Vitellia was once again grippingly dramatic, though some of her characterisation verged on caricature (the most vengeful of her recitatives even raised a laugh from the audience).

Alice Coote (Sesto) and_Paul Nilon (Tito)New to the cast, Alice Coote was announced as suffering from a chest infection and although she showed a little vocal fatigue, she sang Sesto with remarkable breath control and sense of line. She also brought a refreshing sense of cohesion to the character development: ‘Parto, parto’ was no blazing showpiece but an impassioned piece of extended dialogue, all very much in context. In fact, all the scenes between Sesto and Vitellia.had an unusually palpable sense of dramatic harmony.

As Annio, Anne-Marie Gibbons gave an amiable and charming performance though her singing was a little monochromatic, and her voice was mismatched with Sarah-Jane Davies’s weightier Servilia.

In the pit, Edward Gardner kept the ensemble tight but the performance lacked energy and drive, especially in the more turbulent passages.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

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