An Electrifying ‘Mask of Orpheus’ at ENO

  Aerialists, Matthew Smith (Orpheus Hero) and Alfa Marks (Eurydice Hero)   Commissioned by ENO, The Mask of Orpheus, caused quite a stir, when it premiered at the Coliseum in 1986. Some heralded it as a genius work. Others found it difficult, which probably explains why it has not been fully staged again until now….

Trouble in Rice’s Underworld

  Emma Rice’s ENO staging of Orpheus in the Underworld has been much maligned in the traditional press recently, much to my dismay. Her efforts to update this nineteenth century operetta to suit the modern zeitgeist and ‘me too’  sensibility have been frowned upon by those supposedly in the know, who see her efforts to…

Benjamin Britten and the Challenge of Singing

  Portrait of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten  by Kenneth Green 1943   The voice is an extraordinary thing. Air pumped from our lungs, passes over the fleshy folds in our throat, to emit a full spectrum of sounds. Some more pleasing than others. Last weekend I shouted and screamed so hard at a football…

Interview: Star Baritone Jacques Imbrailo

    Jacques Imbrailo is singing in Jules Massenet’s Werther (see our review here) at the Royal Opera House and then he is off around the world on various singing engagements through 2020. In April this year, this rising star among baritones earned great reviews in Billy Budd and his Albert in Werther is another…

Werther: A Romance Worthy of Revival

Isabel Leonard, Charlotte. Juan Diego Flórez, Werther.   As I step into the  Royal Opera House’s stylish new café, there is the familiar Covent Garden buzz. It’s the opening night of Werther, and also the start of the new opera season. The talking points are Joyce di Donato’s upcoming title role in Agrippina. She was…

Mothers and Sons and L’arlesiana

Yvonne Howard, Rosa Mamai and L’innocente sung by Samantha Price.   At a performance of L’Arlesiana at Opera Holland Park recently, I was bowled over by Yvonne Howard’s heart-breaking aria, Esser madre è un inferno (To be a mother is hell!). Howard as the long-suffering matriarch is superb. When she pleads for God to watch over her son,…

Iolanta: Coming Into the Light

  Portrait of Peter Ilitsch Tchaikovsky by Nikolai Dimitriyevdi Kuznetsov 1893   Tchaikovsky’s philosophical and psychological opera, Iolanta, playing at Opera Holland Park, has been a big hit with critics and audiences alike this summer. It is easy to see why, with its starry line up of singers such as the soprano Natalya Romaniw together…

Classical Opera Goes Virtual

  Tim Benjamin is not the first composer to use digital sound and music in opera. Modern opera is all about experimentation and if you are a small opera company with constrained budgets, virtual is the way to go if you want a chorus in the score! But this is not quite Tim Benjamin’s story,…