Baffling and vile: ETO’s Manon Lescaut reviewed

In 1937, John Barbirolli took six pieces by Henry Purcell and arranged them for an orchestra of strings, horns and woodwinds. Nothing unusual about that: arranging baroque music for modern symphony orchestras was what famous conductors used to do. Beecham and Hamilton Harty re-upholstered Handel. Mahler did something similar with Bach, then directed the result from a grand piano, and wouldn’t you give anything to have heard him? All good clean fun in those innocent days before the advent of historically informed performance. ‘Can you tell me what was happening?’ asked a woman on the way out It’s unusual to hear these things revived now, and curiouser still when the

Juicy solution to the Purcell problem: Opera North’s Masque of Might reviewed

Another week, another attempt to solve the Purcell problem. There’s a problem? Well, yes, if you consider that a composer universally agreed (on the strength of Dido and Aeneas) to be a great musical dramatist left only one stageable opera (that’d be Dido and Aeneas), but hour upon hour of theatre music that’s effectively unperformable in anything like its original context: i.e., yoked to text-heavy Restoration dramas. How to get this stuff back on stage?  The story is rudimentary – just enough to support song, dance and a thumping great moral Masque of Might, David Pountney’s new extravaganza for Opera North, is one solution, and it’s rather a fun one.

40 per cent sublime, 60 per cent ridiculous: ENO’s The Valkyrie reviewed

It’s the final scene of The Valkyrie and Wotan is wearing cords. They’re a sensible choice for a hard-working deity: practical but with a certain retro flair. Slumbering under a red puffer jacket lies his daughter Brünnhilde, and as Wagner’s music yearns and flickers, the Lord of Ravens shuffles slowly around on all fours, methodically attaching the carabiners for the climactic flying effect. First one, then another. Then another. Four more to go! Possibly we’re not meant to be seeing this. Possibly it was meant to be obscured by the ‘large final fire effect’ that a slip in the programme tells us has been cut (‘despite extensive planning’) at the