Richard Bratby

Richard Bratby is the chief classical music critic of The Spectator

Crapcore: ENO’s The Rhinegold reviewed

Tubas and timpani thunder in The Rhinegold as the giants Fasolt and Fafner, having built Valhalla, arrive to claim their fee: Freia, goddess of beauty and youth. It doesn’t go well. Suddenly Fasolt drops his defences and declares his yearning (the translation is John Deathridge’s) for ‘a woman who’d lovingly and softly live with us

Do conductors have to be cruel to be good?

Playing under the baton of Arturo Toscanini must have felt a bit like fighting in the trenches. There are recordings of him rehearsing in the 1930s or ’40s. The orchestra is bowling along; there’s a low muttering, and then suddenly, out of nothing, the explosion. A scream of rage: a huge, operatic, animalistic roar. There’s

What makes a Christmas song Christmassy?

Temperature records for Los Angeles in the summer of 1945 are patchy, but 90 in the shade seems to have been the norm. It was during one such scorcher, presumably, that the songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn pulled up at a red light on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Cahn suggested going to

Hugely entertaining: Royal Opera’s Alcina reviewed

A hotel bellboy, the story goes, discovered George Best in a luxury suite surrounded by scantily clad lovelies and empty champagne bottles. ‘George, George’, he sighed. ‘Where did it all go wrong?’. It’s the same deal, essentially, with Ruggiero, hero of Handel’s Alcina. As the curtain rises he’s in the boudoir of Alcina, a smokin’

Grey, grey and more grey: Aida, at the Royal Opera House, reviewed

Grey. More grey. So very, very grey. That’s the main visual impression left by Robert Carsen’s new production of Verdi’s Aida. Possibly a few older operagoers still think of Aida as a fabulous spectacle: horses, temples, caparisoned elephants and all the gilded splendour of the Pharaohs. But if you cut your opera-going teeth more recently