Opera

Sun & Sea (Marina), the Golden Lion-winning opera at the Venice Biennale. Photo: © Andrej Vasilenko

If opera survives, it’ll be thanks to artists and curators, not opera houses

25 May 2019 9:00 am

It was bucketing it down in Venice, yet the beach was heaving. Families, lovebirds, warring kids, a yappy mutt, all…

Musical shapeshifters: I Faglioni performing Leonardo: Shaping the Invisible at Milton Court Concert Hall Credit: Mark Allan/Barbican

The Holy Grail of concert-going: I Fagiolini deliver serious musicianship that never takes itself too seriously

11 May 2019 9:00 am

We’ve all read the article. It does the rounds with the dispiriting regularity of an unwanted dish on a sushi…

Individual performers make their mark: Jacques Imbrailo as Billy Budd and Alasdair Elliott as Squeak

An abdication of interpretative responsibility: Royal Opera’s Billy Budd reviewed

4 May 2019 9:00 am

The climactic central scene of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd ends unexpectedly. The naval court has reached a verdict of death,…

ENO's Jack the Ripper needs to decide if it wants to be a gore-fest or social history

6 April 2019 9:00 am

Is it possible to write a feminist opera about Jack the Ripper? Composer Iain Bell thinks it is, and his…

Jonas Kaufmann and Anna Netrebko in Royal Opera's La forza del destino. Photo: Bill Cooper

The most glorious singing anyone born after 1970 will ever have heard: La forza del destino reviewed

30 March 2019 9:00 am

To stage Verdi’s Il Trovatore, they say, is easy: you just need the four greatest singers in the world. The…

Deft humour and daft imagery: WNO’s Magic Flute reviewed

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Operas are like buses. Both are filled with pensioners and take ages to get anywhere, but more importantly they always…

Sarah Tynan, Nicholas Lester and Andrew Shore in ENO's new Merry Widow. Photo: Clive Barda

Cringingly vulgar, brainless and lacking heart: ENO’s Merry Widow reviewed

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Garrick Ohlsson is one of the finest pianists of his generation. Why, then, was the Wigmore Hall not much more…

Left: cartoon of Hector Berlioz published in the Wiener Theaterzeitung in 1846. Right: the composer in 1863, aged 59

David Cairns explains how we learned to love Berlioz

2 March 2019 9:00 am

For a century the visionary composer was seen as a freak, but finally, 150 years after his death, his time has come

Opera North's Rite of Spring shows the advantages of confining the music to the pit

2 March 2019 9:00 am

It was Stravinsky himself who suggested that, in order to preserve its difficulty, the opening bassoon solo of The Rite…

How good really was Berlioz?

23 February 2019 9:00 am

Hector Berlioz was born on 11 December 1803 in rural Isère. ‘During the months which preceded my birth my mother…

The thrilling first part of Dmitri Tcherniakov's new production of Berlioz's Les Troyens for Opéra Bastille. Photo: Vincent Pontet / Opéra National de Paris

Dau is not just a pretentious fraud – it's rather disgusting

16 February 2019 9:00 am

The best booers, in my experience, are the Germans. There’s real purpose and thickness to their vocals. Italians hiss. The…

Miraculous: Amanda Majeski as Katya Kabanova in Richard Jones’s Royal Opera production

One of the greatest operatic experiences of my life: Royal Opera’s Katya Kabanova reviewed

9 February 2019 9:00 am

Janacek’s upsetting opera Katya Kabanova, which hasn’t been seen in the UK for some time, turned up in two different…

Kang Wang as Tamino in Opera North's new Magic Flute. Photo: Alastair Muir

Only adults struggle with The Magic Flute. Kids get it

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Spoiler alert: it’s all a dream. At least, I think that’s what we’re meant to take away from the business…

Philipp Fürhofer's handsome and often ingenious designs for the Royal Opera's overcomplicated new production of The Queen of Spades. Photo: ROH 2018 / Catherine Ashmore

Never quite pivots from thesis to drama: Royal Opera’s Queen of Spades reviewed

19 January 2019 9:00 am

We increasingly accept the collision between life and art. Whether we’re puzzling over the real identity of Elena Ferrante, choosing…

It's Christmas. You don't want Götterdämmerung. You want a waltz-operetta

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Grade: A– 1898: two Parisiennes and a housemaid secretly invite each other’s partners to the Paris Opera ball and… c’mon,…

Gaelle Arquez as Carmen in Barrie Kosky's production at the Royal Opera. [Photo: ROH / Bill Cooper]

Kosky’s Carmen is still the smartest show in town – and the most fun

8 December 2018 9:00 am

It’s December, and while musical theatre is busy celebrating ‘warm woollen mittens’, opera, as usual, is far more interested in…

Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica performing performing Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Concertino for Violin and Strings in 2014. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/ Getty Images

As a symphonist, Mieczyslaw Weinberg was a master: Weinberg Weekend reviewed

1 December 2018 9:00 am

It’s a strange compliment to pay a composer — that the most profound impression their music makes is of an…

The Gyorgy and Marta show: the nonagenarian couple have been an unlikely hit on YouTube

One of the last living avant-gardists speaks – Gyorgy Kurtag on his new Beckett opera

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Musical revolutionary and YouTube star Gyorgy Kurtag is preparing to première his first opera, based on Beckett’s Endgame, at La Scala. Norman Lebrecht meets him

Sarah Tynan's mesmerising Lucia in ENO's Lucia di Lammermoor. Photo: John Snelling

Real psychological horror and a mesmerising heroine: ENO’s Lucia di Lammermoor reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

How do you solve a problem like Lucia? Murder, madness, abuse, possibly even incest, all set to a soundtrack of…

English Touring Opera's handsome production of Dido and Aeneas. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

In praise of the English Touring Opera — a minor miracle of the arts world

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Wolverhampton; Workington; Blackburn; Sheffield; Lancaster; Hackney. Every year English Touring Opera does what our national opera company doesn’t: packs up…

Thrilling, heartbreaking music drama — you need to see it: Sarah-Jane Lewis as Annie with the chorus in ENO’s Porgy and Bess

Thrilling, heartbreaking music drama – you need to see it: ENO’s Porgy and Bess reviewed

20 October 2018 9:00 am

Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess springs to life fully formed, and pulls you in before a word has been sung. A…

I genuinely liked Siegfried – which almost never happens: Royal Opera's Ring cycle reviewed

13 October 2018 9:00 am

‘On Brünnhilde’s rock I drew the breath that called your name; so swift was my journey here.’ It’s Act Two…

A woman-child of dangerous assurance: Allison Cook as Salome in Adena Jacobs’s new production for English National Opera. [Catherine Ashmore]

A fascinating failure, but a failure nonetheless: ENO’s Salome reviewed

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Yes, Oscar Wilde never wrote it. No, Strauss didn’t intend it. In fact, the composer famously demanded the Dance of…

Opera North’s Tosca will leave you quivering

29 September 2018 9:00 am

At the end of Act Two of Tosca there are some 30 bars of orchestral music — accompaniment to a…

Letter signed by Wagner from an exhibition at the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden in 2013

As a writer, Richard Wagner was both sublime – and unreadable

22 September 2018 9:00 am

No one any longer denies the immense significance of Wagner’s musical-dramatic achievement, even if they find it repellent. But his…