Motion captures: William Kentridge at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

As I write, there is just under a fortnight left – including two weekends – to see the Royal Academy’s retrospective of South African artist William Kentridge. I urge you to go if you can. Kentridge also directs and stages opera, and it’s thanks to English National Opera (‘ENO’) that I first encountered his work….

Spear pressure: ‘Parsifal’, Opera North

‘Here is where time becomes space’: this is one of the most famous – and mysterious – quotes from Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal’, which at its best can make that scientific impossibility seem real. Unhurried, epic storytelling punctuated with moments of overwhelming beauty or horror that somehow transcend a mere auditorium in what feels like…

Insula Orchestra presents Fidelio at the Barbican on its European tour

In a special one-nighter, Paris-based orchestra, Insula, performed its new, semi-staged production of Fidelio at the Barbican this week. Insula’s stop-off in London was part of Insula’s European tour, which ends in a staged version of the opera in Paris’s new concert hall, La Seine Musicale on 14th, 16th and 18th May In opera, semi-staged can mean as little as a…

Body horror: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, at English National Opera

This icy, subtle production presents Margaret Atwood’s terrifying vision with a clear-sighted, almost detached precision. Poul Ruders’s score gets under your skin, amping up the tension as events come to a head, while the heart-breaking performances relentlessly deal the emotional blows. Opera as commentary, catharsis and conscience: brilliantly done. * ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ the opera,…

Così Fan Tutte in Coney Island: All the Fun of the Fair with Dazzling Mozart Score

Così Fan Tutte is arguably one of the world’s most loved operas.  Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte and Mozart chart the emotional journey of two couples; Fiordiligi and Ferrando, Dorabella (Fiordiligi’s sister) and Guglielmo. They are engaged to be married and still have everything to learn about love. Don Alfonso, self-made philosopher, bets with the two fiancés, that…

A Moving New Production of Cunning Little Vixen at ENO

Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen is a perplexing but masterful opera, full of darkness, yearning and joy.  On the surface it is a fantastical story, that of a Vixen who is captured by a Forester and who escapes, after causing a minor Orwellian revolution amongst the hens. She falls for a Fox, and my apologies for the spoiler,…

Countertenor Orliński embraces film with Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater

On a wet February evening, I attend a cinematic event at London’s Soho Hotel. Countertenor, Jakub Jósef Orliński, fresh from his successes at the Royal Opera, is starring in a film of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater. In the screening theatre, Orliński sits in the front row with an audience of journos, prs, record company execs behind him. …

Kitchen-sink drama: Handel, ‘Theodora’, at the Royal Opera House

Handel’s ‘Theodora’ is an oratorio. In other (well, more) words, it’s a vocal/choral work that would normally have a plot at its core, but presented as a purely aural experience. Traditionally, oratorios would be sung in concert with no staging, movement, or action to speak of. The music must propel any narrative, drive every reaction,…

Retrospecstive 2021: slight return

One more look in the rear-view mirror before 2021 disappears completely… After the multi-course blowout of choosing 25 recordings of the year, this is more of a digestif, if you will. A few events and developments that gave me cause for celebration: one each for pop, classical, TV, media and film. Bon ‘Voyage’: the return…