Culture

Culture

The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

Homework, not theatre: WNO’s Cosi fan tutte reviewed

Opera

Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte hasn’t always been taken seriously. In fact for much of the 19th century it wasn’t even reckoned to be very good (Donald Tovey described its characters as ‘humanly speaking, rubbish’). For the modern director, there are several potential approaches. One – the hardest – is to try and evoke in the

Gleefully silly: Scottish Opera’s Marx in London! reviewed

Opera

A bloke was working the queue outside the Theatre Royal, selling a newspaper called the Communist. ‘Marxist ideas, alive today!’ he shouted into the Glasgow drizzle. Was he part of the show; a Graham Vick-style touch of Total Theatre? In any case, he didn’t seem to be shifting many units. He might have been even

Fresh as an April shower: Opera North’s Albert Herring reviewed

Opera

Opera North has launched its spring season with Giles Havergal’s 2013 production of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, performed (as conceived) in the Howard Assembly Room – the company’s studio space next door to the Grand Theatre. The economics of opera are a dark and dismal science, but one of the few constants is that ticket

Everything hits the spot: Royal Opera’s Elektra reviewed

Opera

Aristotle wrote that classical tragedy should evoke pity and awe. With Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the awe can be taken as read: a certain irreducible level of epicness is written into the score, even if – like Sir Antonio Pappano on the first night of this new production at the Royal Opera – a conductor takes

Irresistible: Hansel and Gretel, at the Royal Opera House, reviewed

Opera

Fun fact: Engelbert Humperdinck composed part of Wagner’s Parsifal. Shortly before the première, it was discovered that Wagner’s score didn’t allow time for a crucial scene change. The 27-year-old Humperdinck, then working as Wagner’s assistant, composed a few temporary bars to cover the gap and, rather to his own surprise, found that they met with

Cliché, cynicism and a car-crash finale: Royal Opera’s Jephtha reviewed

Opera

London’s two opera houses have been busy staging non-operas. Handel’s English oratorio, Jephtha, is his final exercise in a form that only existed because it was, explicitly, not opera (Georgian theatres needed something to play during Lent). We know better today, and dramatised reboots of Handel oratorios are proliferating, possibly because – unlike his actual

Ebullience and majesty: Opera North’s Falstaff reviewed

Opera

Opera North has launched a ‘Green Season’, which means (among other things) that the sets and costumes for its new Falstaff are recycled. On one level, that’s nothing new: this eternally underfunded company has been performing miracles of sustainability for years now, and there’s usually at least one production each season that looks like it’s

The future of opera – I hope: WNO’s Candide reviewed

Opera

Bernstein’s Candide is the operetta that ought to work, but never quite does. Voltaire’s featherlight cakewalk through human misery, set to tunes from the West Side Story guy: what’s not to like? And what can be so wrong with its twinkle-toed score that the combined rewriting efforts (and this is not remotely the full list)

Featherweight fun: La Cenerentola, at Nevill Holt Opera, reviewed

Opera

‘Goodness Triumphant’ is the subtitle of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and you’d better believe he delivers. It’s the sweetest thing imaginable; true, the stepsisters are awful, but their spite bubbles over in streams of such sunny major-key effervescence that it’s hard to hold it against them. As for their father Don Magnifico, you can’t seriously hiss

Electrifying: the Grange Festival’s Queen of Spades reviewed

Opera

In opera, as in so much high-budget entertainment, expectation management is half the battle. With its massive Greek Revival mansion, approached through miles of rolling parkland, The Grange Festival has the grandest setting of any of the summer festivals; and that might have something to do with why the opera served up there has so

To die for: Grange Park Opera’s Tristan & Isolde reviewed

Opera

There are a lot of corpses on stage at the end of Charles Edwards’s production of Tristan & Isolde for Grange Park Opera. At this stage in the drama, directors tend to fade out the bloodbath, the better to focus on Isolde’s final dissolution into bliss. But as Michael Tanner argues, Tristan, like the Ring,