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,…

Climbing the walls: ‘Jenůfa’, Royal Opera House

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the first opera I’ve seen at Covent Garden since lockdown is this unflinching depiction of confinement and familial dysfunction, Claus Guth’s new staging of Janáček’s masterpiece, ‘Jenůfa’. (Please beware spoilers in this piece – I’ll be roaming around the entirety of the plot, the better to discuss the production.) The drama…

Britten’s War Requiem finds new life with ENO’s staging

At the Coliseum to watch the first UK staging of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem on its opening night, I was curious to see how Turner prize-winning photographer, Wolfgang Tillmans would tackle this work as set designer. War Requiem’s reputation has soared since 1962, when it was first performed in Coventry Cathedral. As a choral work,…

An opera for our troubled times: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ at ENO

How to turn one of Shakespeare’s late “problem plays” into an opera? It’s something which has preoccupied conductor and composer Ryan Wigglesworth since his student days. Now 37, his ruminations have come to fruition in this commission for English National opera (ENO) and in The Winter’s Tale, he has produced an opera for our troubled…