Wednesday 20th December 2023 at 1.00pm
Cinderella by Alma Deutscher
Performed by the Opera San Jose in 2017
In this engaging version of the fairytale, Cinderella’s father is manager of a ‘little opera house at the edge of town’ who, after the death of his wife, marries an ‘ageing prima donna’. When he dies, Cinderella’s stepmother takes over the opera house and turns Cinders (Vanessa Becerra) into a copyist slave: despite her skills, she is not allowed to write her own music and her compositions are confined to her mind (beautifully performed on violin and piano by Deutscher, off stage). The shoe-fitting scene is replaced with the prince asking potential brides to set one of his poems to music; Cinders’s stepsisters steal her work and present it at the singing competition as their own. Our heroine eventually sings her song to the prince, and the pair are united.
Wednesday 15th November 2023 at 1.00pm
La Boheme – Puccini
Puccini’s evergreen paean to young love and the bohemian life has captivated generations of Met-goers through Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic production. Movie theatre audiences got to see it with fresh eyes in a touching performance starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas as the frail seamstress and her poetic lover.
Giacomo Puccini has been described as “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”, and his operas are some of the most popular and frequently-performed of all time, including Tosca, La bohème, Madama Butterfly and Turandot. He is known for his astonishing gift for melody, matched by a strong theatrical sense and rich harmonisation
Wednesday 18th October 2023 at 1.00pm
Eugene Onegin – Tchaikovsky
Met Opera Production
Eugene Onegin is among the most popular Russian operas and I really enjoyed this production. Sets and costumes are beautiful and they give a feeling of autumn that fits the opera. Renee Fleming I mostly know as Desdemona and Violetta .Here as Tatyana she gives us both naive and romantic young Tatyana and in Act 3 when Tatyana is married,great maturity. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is truly great as Onegin in both his acting as a bored and arrogant young aristocrat and in the big final duet with Tatyana and in his voice. Ramon Vargas as Lensky did a truly great job with the big aria Lensky sings .I knew him as Alfredo and Rodolfo,and now as Lensky he managed to get me emotional. The rest of the cast also does an amazing job. Overall,amazing Eugene Onegin.
Synopsis – Click here
Wednesday 20th September 2023 at 1.00pm
MADAMA BUTTERFLY – Puccini
Visually authentic and musically very good
Wednesday 16th August 2023 at 1.00pm
IOLANTHE – Gilbert and Sullivan – Regretfully Cancelled
or The Peer and the Peri
is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, first performed in 1882. It is one of the Savoy operas and is the seventh of fourteen operatic collaborations by Gilbert and Sullivan. In the opera, the fairy Iolanthe has been banished from fairyland because she married a mortal; this is forbidden by fairy law. Her son, Strephon, is an Arcadian shepherd who wants to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. All the members of the House of Peers also want to marry Phyllis. When Phyllis sees Strephon hugging a young woman (not knowing that it is his mother – immortal fairies all appear young), she assumes the worst and sets off a climactic confrontation between the peers and the fairies. The opera satirises many aspects of British government, law and society. The confrontation between the fairies and the peers is a version of one of Gilbert’s favourite themes: a tranquil civilisation of women is disrupted by a male-dominated world through the discovery of mortal love.
Wednesday 19th July 2023 at 1.00pm
THE MIKADO – Gilbert and Sullivan
In the Japanese town of Titipu, the citizens are tired of the constant round of executions taking place for even minor offences. They appoint as Lord High Executioner the next prisoner on Death Row, one Ko-Ko, a tailor, on the supposition that he cannot execute anyone as he is himself first in the queue.
Nanki-Poo, the emperor’s son, flees from the Court to escape the attentions of Katisha, who wishes to marry him. Disguised as a minstrel, he arrives in Titipu, where he falls for Yum-Yum, one of a trio of sisters who are schoolgirls and wards of Ko-Ko. When Katisha traces him to the town she is prevented from exposing his identity, and claiming him. She retreats to fetch the Mikado, who is already on his way, concerned at the absence of regular executions in the town.
When the Mikado arrives, he is told that an execution has been carried out. Unfortunately he discovers the supposed victim to be Nanki-Poo, and the penalties for killing a royal heir are serious. The only solution is for Ko-Ko to marry Katisha, thus leaving the way free for Nanki-Poo to come out of hiding and marry Yum-Yum.
Synopsis – click here
Wednesday 21st June 2023 at 1.00pm
Le Comte Ory – Rossini
Imagine a picturesque medieval country where most of the men have gone off to fight in the crusades several thousand miles away. Among the few who have remained behind is a young noble man intent on seducing as many women as he can. His eye is on one virtuois countess in particular, he disguises himself and takes up residence outside her castle to plot his next move. When his cover is blown, he boldly decides to make another attempt at conquest by dressing up as ….a nun
Synopsis; Click Here;
Wednesday 19th April 2023 at 1.00pm
MANON – Massenet
Natalie Dessay embodies the character of Manon remarkably, even within this
framework. With the girlishness never exaggerated, each movement seemingly
spontaneous (about how many opera singers can that be said?), her love for Des
Grieux sincere, her sadness in her “Adieu” absolutely believable, there seems to be
no artifice. (By the end of the aria, she’s curled in the fetal position on top of the
table.) She turns coloratura into perfect peals of laughter absolutely organically in
the first act; her Cours de la Reine scene is vocally properly dazzling.
Wednesday 19th April 2023 at 1.00pm
by W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
The seaside village of Rederring, the local Castle and the Baronetcy of Ruddigore are under a curse – the Baronet must perform one crime each day or die in hideous torment. This is enforced by the ghostly gallery of portraits representing his ancestors back to the original recipient of the Curse.
Wednesday 15th March 2023 at 1.00pm
IL TABARRO / SUOR ANGELICA / GIANNI SCHICCHI
Puccini’s idea of presenting three short operas in one evening led to the creation of his Il Trittico, or Triptych, which premiered in 1918. The tripartite structure, however, quickly fragmented, with the comic Gianni Schicchi becoming instantly popular while the emotional thriller Il Tabarro (The Cloak) and the intense personal tragedy of Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) tended to fall by the wayside.
In recent times, though, increased attention has been paid to the work as the composer intended it to be performed.
Il Trittico Review – Three Operas for the Price of One
Posted on February 11, 2012 by philip
On Sunday, February 5, 2012, and again on Tuesday I saw my second complete Il Trittico and I was reinforced in two of my opinions. One, that Puccini’s three one-acts are even better taken as a whole, and two, that an ROH production with Conductor Antonio Pappano and Stage Director Richard Jones will be first rate.
I’ll be honest with you. Taken by itself, I don’t really like Il Tabarro. I’m sure that it is verismo to the nth degree in its depiction of life on a canal boat in the Seine – but that’s not my own personal verismo. That being said, Trittico Uno is a perfect gem. The story is not pretty, the characters are not pretty, the music is not pretty. But each of story, characters, and music matches the other parts perfectly, and the whole builds to its grisly end with mounting tension. All of this is perfectly captured by Pappano and Jones and singers Lucio Gallo, Eva-Maria Westbroek, and Aleksandrs Antonenko.
Captain Michelle (Lucio Gallo) forces his wife Giorgetta (Eva-Maria Westbroek) down onto the dead body of her lover Luigi (Aleksandrs Antonenko)
The curtain comes down, and I can breathe again. But only briefly because there is no intermission between the first two parts. The curtain goes up and my first reaction is kudos to D. M. Wood, lighting designer. All of Il Tabarro was played in semidarkness which emphasized the darkness of the story – and suddenly the stage is brilliantly lit; the contrast almost hurts the eyes.
In all previous productions of Suor Angelica that I have seen, the setting has been an outdoor area of a convent. Which works fine. But Jones has set his scene in the children’s ward of a nun’s hospital. Various activities are going on and from time to time it focuses on a particular nun seated on a lab stool and grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle. And whenever the conversation or action refers to young children or joining the convent or on desire, this nun’s face tightens in misery and her herb-grinding is energized with a repressed vicious energy.
This nun is, of course Sister Angelica, and she is showing us clearly and uncontrollably that she longs for her son – the illegitimate baby she bore seven years ago and has neither seen, heard from, or had news of since he was torn away from her minutes after his birth. For Angelica was the elder daughter of a prince and the son’s father was a mere commoner; the conception was a bitter disgrace for the whole family. The instant the infant was born the mother was whisked away to a convent, never to be spoken of or spoken to again.
I have never, ever, seen an opera singer who so completely lived a fictional character as Ermonela Jaho lived Sister Angelica. The opening scene described above was just the start. A bit later, Angelica’s aunt, the Princess (Anna Larsson) visits to demand that Angelica sign away her financial birth-right in favor of her younger sister. Angelica has no objection to doing that; in fact for a moment she forgets her own grief and rejoices over the fact that her little sister is getting married. But first, “Tell me of my son.” Auntie demurs: “You’re here to atone for your sin, not to grieve.” This enrages Angelica: “I’ve happily given everything I possess to the Virgin Mary, but I cannot give her the love and yearning I feel towards my son.” Even though she is less than half as old as the Princess and not much more than half as tall, she lights into her relative with all the fury of a tigress defending her cubs. Her aunt replies without showing much feeling one way or another, “Two years ago he became very ill. We did everything we could to save him, but . . . ” Angelica gasps, “My son is dead!” and falls to the floor in a faint.
Left alone after the signing, Angelica in her faith believes that her son is now an angel in heaven and that he is listening to her every word. She sings how she has loved him and how she longs for the day that she can quit this earth and join him in heaven. “Send me a sign,” she pleads. “Write it in the stars.”
She believes she has received his message and that it said, “Do it now. You have the herbs and the knowledge. Join me today.” She rushes to her lab bench in the ward, pours some pills from one bottle, drips a few drops from a vial on each pill, and pops them one after another, each with a grimace and a swallow of water. All with a beatific smile on her face as she sings farewell to her fellow nuns “on my way to join my son in paradise.”
Suddenly she stops. Her face freezes. Slowly the radiant smile fades into sobriety, then to fear, to terror. She realizes she has just taken her own life – the worst possible sin. She is not on her way to heaven and reunion with her son, but is doomed to eternal damnation. “Forgive me Holy Virgin. Mother of all mothers, forgive me.”
Angelica’s faith was totally convincing. Tears were running down my cheeks. I was right there with her, pleading her cause.
The curtain falls to thunderous applause. But the drama is not over. The stage is still in total darkness. A single spot picks up a female figure in the wings and moves with her to center stage. One would expect the figure to be Ermonela Jaho taking her well-deserved initial bows for a superlative performance – one would be wrong. Angelica is there – not Ermonela. Her body is still heaving with emotion. In the past few minutes she has learned that her son is dead, she has taken poison so she can join him in heaven, she has realized that she will go to hell instead, she has pleaded for forgiveness but has died without knowing if her plea was granted.
On to Gianni Schicchi. But first, honesty impels me to point out one major thing about Suor Angelica that I did not like. In all other productions I have seen, directors have used various details to make it crystal-clear that the end is joyful. Forgiveness has been granted. Richard Jones wants us to think about it. There is no celestial light from above – there are no shooting flames from below. Angelica has realized her sin; she has made her plea to the Virgin Mary; she has died.
On to Gianni Schicchi. No more taut emotions. Farewell to fear and sorrow. Farewell to spirituality. Time to relax and give those laugh muscles some exercise. The plot is simple as could be. Buoso Donati dies of old age in the first minute of the opera, surrounded by a bunch of relatives eagerly looking forward to their inheritances. But his will leaves every penny of his considerable wealth to a monastery. Relatives don’t like this idea and plot with the equally scoundrelly but more intelligent and much more likeable Gianni Schicchi to replace that will with one more favorable to them.
Lucio Gallo (we saw him earlier as Michele in Il Tabarro) stars in the title role with wonderful casting for the motley crew of relatives. Of special note are the two eldest cousins Simone (Gwynne Howell) and Zita (Elena Zilio). Love interest and some lovely singing are provided by the delightfully young Rinuccio (Francesco Demuro), the only non-venal relative and Schicchi’s daughter Lauretta (Ekaterina Siurina). Puccini’s music is delightfully light-hearted and . . .but that’s enough. This opera is to be seen and heard, not to be written about it. Go, if you get a chance.
Synopsis of all three operas here;
Wednesday 15th February 2023 at 1.00pm
Maria Stuarda – Donizetti (Met Opera)
Late 16th century. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has been forced to abdicate her throne and flee her kingdom after the rebellion of her Scottish nobles. A Catholic, crowned at the age of nine months, she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France and raised from childhood at the French court. At 18, she returned to her native land, following the sudden death of her husband Francis II, having reigned as Queen of France for little more than a year. Unable to exert control over her Protestant nobility and beset by insurrections, plots, and murders, she has sought asylum in England from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.
But her presence in Protestant England is untenable to Elizabeth and her advisors. As a descendant of the Tudor line, the English Catholics see Mary as the rightful heir to Henry VIII’s crown (Elizabeth having been declared illegitimate following the execution for adultery of her mother, Anne Boleyn). An English inquiry into the scandalous murder of Mary’s dissolute second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, has proved inconclusive as to her complicity in the crime but has served as a pretext to keep the former Queen of Scotland imprisoned for many years.
Wednesday 18th January at 1.00pm
Manon Lescaut – Puccini (Royal Opera House)
“From the moment Kaufmann and Opolais embark – with infinite delicacy – on their emotional journey, it becomes clear that this is a vocal marriage made in heaven. His warmly burnished sound is balanced by the exquisitely-nuanced purity of hers, and they are supported by a performance in the pit, under Antonio Pappano, of rare refinement.” – THE INDEPENDENT
When Manon meets the young student Des Grieux they fall in love. They elope – but when the elderly Geronte offers Manon a life of wealth and luxury, her head is turned.
Manon cannot forget Des Grieux. Des Grieux attempts to flee with her, but before they can escape, Geronte has Manon arrested. They escape, but, on the run again, Manon collapses from exhaustion. She dies in Des Grieux’s arms.
Synopsis for this opera here
Last Updated on November 17, 2023