Opera

Sadistic and repellent and thrilling: Mascagni’s Iris reviewed

7 December 2019 9:00 am

If you’ve ever felt that poor Madama Butterfly had a bit of a raw deal, then you really, really don’t…

Handsome and revivable but I wasn’t moved: Royal Opera’s Death in Venice reviewed

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Premièred within two years of each other, Luchino Visconti’s film and Benjamin Britten’s opera Death in Venice both take Thomas…

Meet the unrivalled Sun King of early music, William Christie

23 November 2019 9:00 am

It’s morning in the garden of William Christie, and he’s talking about home improvements. ‘I planted three pines up there…

Ravishing and poignant: ENO’s Orphée reviewed

23 November 2019 9:00 am

Billy Wilder, asked for his opinion of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of his movie Sunset Boulevard, famously replied: ‘Those…

Why are Haydn’s operas so lousy? La fedelta premiata reviewed

16 November 2019 9:00 am

There’s a book about musicals that every opera lover should read. Not Since Carrie by Ken Mandelbaum is a history…

English National Opera's triumphant new production of Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus, directed by Daniel Kramer. [Photo: Alistair Muir]

A triumph: ENO’s Mask of Orpheus reviewed

26 October 2019 9:00 am

ENO’s Mask of Orpheus is a triumph. It’s also unintelligible. Even David Pountney, who produced the original ENO staging in…

More misogynistic than the original: ENO’s Orpheus in the Underworld reviewed

12 October 2019 9:00 am

It’s Act Three of Emma Rice’s new production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, and Eurydice (Mary Bevan) is trapped…

Why are so many operas by women adaptations of films by men?

31 August 2019 9:00 am

Opera’s line of corpses — bloodied, battered, dumped in a bag — is a long one. Now it can add…

Why this première felt important: James MacMillan’s Fifth Symphony reviewed

24 August 2019 9:00 am

All symphonies were sacred symphonies, once. Haydn began each day’s composition with a prayer, and ended every score with the…

Bracing and provocative – but would Wagner have approved? Arcola’s Rheingold reviewed

10 August 2019 9:00 am

When it comes to the opening of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Mark Twain probably put it as well as anyone: ‘Out…

Clare Presland as Susanna in Il segreto di Susanna at Opera Holland Park Image: © Ali Wright

It’s not fair – I liked Il segreto di Susanna before it was cool: OHP’s double bill reviewed

3 August 2019 9:00 am

Should a secret pleasure ever be shared? Spoiler alert: Susanna’s secret, unknown to her husband Gil, is that she smokes.…

An overcooked blowout: Glyndebourne’s Die Zauberflöte reviewed

27 July 2019 9:00 am

Think back to when you were 12, and the sensation of re-opening your favourite book. (This is The Spectator; I’m…

‘I just kept getting turned down and turned down’: Catherine Foster

From the NHS to Bayreuth: Norman Lebrecht talks to midwife-turned-opera singer Catherine Foster

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Every summer for the past six years, Bayreuth has risen to its feet to acclaim an English Brünnhilde. Catherine Foster,…

A sonic masterclass: the Silesian String Quartet at Wigmore Hall reviewed

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Of all the daft notions about the classical music business, the daftest is that it’s a business at all. Seriously:…

Leo Jemison (Miles), Elen Willmer (Flora) and Sophie Bevan (Governess) in The Turn of the Screw at Garsington Opera

Deft, elegant and genuinely chilling: Garsington’s Turn of the Screw reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Think of the children in opera. Not knowing sopranos and mezzos, pigtailed and pinafored or tightly trousered-up to look child-like,…

You leave awe-struck but also a bit frazzled: Holland Festival’s Aus Licht reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

In Stockhausen’s Klavierstück XI hands become fists, arms and elbows clubs, shoving, pounding and ker-pow-ing the keyboard to near oblivion.…

Testosterone and passion: Royal Opera’s Marriage of Figaro reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Another turn around the block for David McVicar’s handsome 1830s Figaro at the Royal Opera — the sixth since the…

Can an Offenbach production be too silly? Garsington’s Fantasio reviewed

22 June 2019 9:00 am

The tears of a clown have often fallen on fertile operatic ground. Think of Rigoletto and I Pagliacci; or The…

Easily the best thing I’ve seen at the Grange Festival: Falstaff reviewed

15 June 2019 9:00 am

‘Tutto nel mondo e burla’ sings the company at the end of Verdi’s Falstaff — ‘All the world’s a joke’…

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

16 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…