Divine passion: Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, Grimeborn

Aylin Bozok’s productions of French opera for Grimeborn have all been marked by their elegance, restraint and psychological intensity. Bozok exchanges the orchestra for a piano accompaniment (played here with plangent, unmistakeable panache by Kelvin Lim), keeps the singing in French but projects a clear English translation above the stage, and places our focus squarely…

Songs for a mad emperor: Sarah Toth’s Nero Monologues

Sarah Toth’s Nero Monologues is a pastiche opera, or pasticcio: this is a recognised form of opera making, used by Handel among others, where rather than writing an entirely fresh score, a composer collates (some might smirkingly say today ‘curates’) a selection of other people’s music, organising the chosen arias or passages to illustrate a…

Rapturous, languorous beauty: Lully’s Armide, Grimeborn

If you fancy being entertained like a French king, head to Grimeborn for Lully’s Armide. Lully’s artistic monopoly over French opera lasted well beyond his death (thanks to some dastardly patenting, as the excellent programme notes explain): he took full advantage of his pre-eminent position musically, as well as financially, creating opera for Louis XIV of rapturous,…

Lust, silk and strangulation: Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy

Oscar Wilde never finished his play A Florentine Tragedy, an unsettling little story of the attempted seduction of a merchant’s wife by the local prince, and that prince’s death at the hands of her jealous husband, who comes home early in the piece to find them together. Alexander Zemlinsky’s challenging score makes this intense short opera…