DIARY OF ONE WHO DISAPPEARED, Janáček, Grimeborn

The poems which inspired the mysterious song cycle Diary of One Who Disappeared first appeared anonymously published in a newspaper in May 1916. They immediately caught the eye of composer Leos Janáček, who completed this song cycle by 1920. The poems, eventually attributed to Ozef Kalda, tell the story of a young man who falls in love…

Dark, desperate, magnificent: Handel’s Jephtha, Iford

As Handel wrote Jephtha‘s haunting central chorus, “How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees,” his own sight temporarily failed him, and he had to break off work. Although he would live for another eight years, Jephtha would prove to be Handel’s last oratorio: a disturbing story from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Judges, in which the…

Yet another Icarus: Lanza

The world shows us so many Icaruses: gifted people who fly too high too fast, and are soon burned by the extent of their own success, spiralling irrevocably into addiction, debt, ill health or other self-destructive behaviours. Mario Lanza’s immense promise as a talented young tenor in the Forties drew him into an increasingly ill-starred…

Green-eyed miracle: Salieri’s The School of Jealousy, Bampton

There’s always a special sense of relaxed occasion at Bampton: each performance, of just one carefully picked and often rare work, feels like the culmination of months of intense preparation, and yet the whole company glows with the joy of sharing this latest operatic find with the world, creating an atmosphere at once calm, confident…

Who pulls the strings? Mozart’s Magic Flute at Longborough

Like Glyndebourne’s recent Rinaldo, Longborough’s Magic Flute seems to take shape as a young boy’s daydream, or perhaps the world of his storybook coming to life in his imagination. A sense of dreamlike surrealism never quite fades from the stage: magic feels real in Thomas Guthrie’s vivid production, thanks to the skilful use of puppetry throughout the…

Clamorous harbingers of blood and death: Verdi’s Macbeth at Buxton

Buxton International Festival are currently staging Verdi’s first, 1847 Macbeth, written for the Teatro della Pergola, Florence, a theatre similar in size to the Edwardian jewel-box of Buxton’s own Opera House (just look how beautiful it is). This earlier version is a shorter, sharper work, which sees Macbeth dying on stage with one final aria to…

Fresh peaches of temptation: Britten’s Albert Herring at Buxton

July brings a flurry of festivals to the exquisite Georgian spa town: not just the opera, literature, jazz and other music of the Buxton International Festival (soon to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019), but well dressing, a special Derbyshire tradition which can be directly traced back to the 17th century. Art meets life, then, in…