Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

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!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

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

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

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.



Eleanor Laugharne as Tytania and Barnaby Rea as Bottom [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama]
01 Mar 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, GSMD

There were high hopes for the 2012 debut production of A Midummer Night’s Dream by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Opera programme .

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: Tom Verny; Tytania: Eleanor Laugharne; Puck: Alexander Knox; Lysander : Stuart Laing; Hermia: Kathryn McAdam; Demetrius: Ashley Riches; Helena: Sky Ingram; Quince: James Platt; Snug: Joseph Padfield; Starveling: Hadleigh Adams; Flute: Jorge Navarro-Colorado; Snout: Luis Gomes; Bottom: Barnaby Rea; Theseus: Ciprian Droma; Hippolyta: Catherine Backhouse; Peaseblossom: Alba Bosch Teixidor; Cobweb: Faustine de Mones; Moth: Iria Perestrelo; Mustardseed: Laura Ruhi Vidal. Conductor: Stephen Barlow. Director: Martin Lloyd-Evans. Designer: Dick Bird. Lighting designer: Simon Corder. Choreograher: Victoria Newlyn. Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Barbican Theatre, London, 28th February 2012.

Above: Eleanor Laugharne as Tytania and Barnaby Rea as Bottom

Photos by Clive Barda courtesy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama


Instead of the usual cramped GSMD theatre, this took place in the Barbican Theatre, which allows much more scope for ambitious work, and training in theatre skills, part of the GSMD brief. At the Barbican, young artists of the future have a bigger platform in every way.

A magical effect to begin with. The mechanical curtain was imaginatively clothed in sparkling metal strips. Then, the set revealed a dormitory, perhaps some spartan public school whose fees don’t cover humane accommodation for the inmates. Fair enough, for Britten was traumatized at boarding school, and his music retraces lost innocence over and over again. Then in come the lovers, Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena appear in 1940’s military garb. Later, Bottom awakes in a bed suspended above the stage. If these images seem familiar, they’re derived. like collage, from several recent professional productions including the ENO, Garsington Opera and Glyndebourne. That’s not in itself a problem, since GSMD students are there to learn.

Perhaps this production was a collaborative effort, involving as many students as possible in the process, but Director Martin Lloyd-Evans might have exerted tighter editorial control to ensure a coherent vision. There are many levels in Shakespeare and in Britten, so A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides wonderful opportunities for young directors and designers to engage with many ideas. This time, though, everyone seemed to be playing safe. The designs (Dick Bird) don’t suggest that much thought has been put into the production. GSMD students are capable of very good work indeed. Read here about their production of Dialogues des Carmélites last year That was outstanding, and would have done credit to a professional house.

When the energy of the cast is engaged, however, there are excellent moments. The mechanicals, in particular, moved precisely, as if in a chorus line, each man perfectly synchronised, arms askew. (Movement by Victoria Newlyn). Very impressive, but individual personalities are not well defined. Not even Bottom, whom Shakespeare singles out for special treatment. It’s a wonderful role, which Barnaby Rea sang well but wasn’t called upon to develop theatrically. The lovers were well done, Ashley Riches’s distinctive voice instantly recognizable, even in anonymous uniform. We need good countertenors and Tom Verney’s Oberon had imposing presence. He’s very young so could well develop an interesting profile. Good singing from the choruses, particularly the quartet of fairies, who were vivacious and well blocked. Given the high calibre of GSMD’s Technical Theatre course participants, one might have expected more imaginative special effects to create the magic the staging lacked. At the Linbury Theatre a few years ago, Puck was played by a circus artist, abseiling from wires, as if he could fly.

MND_Guildhall_02.gifSky Ingram as Helena, Stuart Laing as Lysander and Ashley Riches as Demetrius

Nonetheless, best for last. Shakespeare and Britten wrote the Mechanical’s stage play with such wit that it’s impossible not to make it effective theatre. Now each singer made his mark, each evidently enjoying himself camping up and having fun. Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers sneer, but Shakespeare and Britten knew that amateur dramatics have quaint charm.

Anne Ozorio

MND_Guildhall_03.gifThe Mechanicals

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):