Blame game: Strauss’ Daphne at Grimeborn

Daphne comes from one of the most controversial (read: embarrassing) periods of Strauss’ life, when he continued to compose under the Nazi regime, rather than taking a principled stand (or moving away from Germany). For Strauss’ Daphne at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, director and conductor José Manuel Gandia took Strauss’ discomfiting collaboration as the starting point…

Tawdry goings on: Gala at Grimeborn

The topic of Ergo Phizmiz’s small opera Gala is Gala Dalí’s overwhelming passion for Jeff Fenholt, the original star of Jesus Christ Superstar, who was a ‘boy toy’ for Gala when she was 79 and he was 29. There’s a double geriatric sex scene (no fun to witness), and a bit of live rabbit-boiling thrown in for good…

Love conquers all, kills some, exiles others: Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea at Grimeborn

Ryedale Festival Opera’s version, in a clear and lyrical new translation by John Warrack, absolutely understands Monteverdi’s sophisticated agenda: and, with a talented cast in director Nina Brazier’s capable hands, resoundingly succeeds on all levels, giving us an evening of luxurious beauty, abandoned sensuality and superb characterisation. Click here to read my full review on…

Biting the hand that feeds: Madame X at Grimeborn

Masetto (now an impoverished immigrant artist, more reminiscent of Puccini’s poet Rodolfo than Mozart’s Masetto) and Zerlina (all girlish scruples definitely removed, along with most of her charm) encounter Don Giovanni again in the shape of a cardboard-cutout capitalist, Mr Wilmore, whose seduction of Zerlina this time is bald, transactional and unpleasant: and, worst of all,…

Luxurious, plaintive and dark: Massenet’s Werther, Grimeborn

Massenet’s Werther is a tragic tale of unrealised and forbidden passion between a dutiful wife (Charlotte) and her husband Albert’s best friend, Werther, whose final, violent resolution comes at that most emotionally loaded of times – Christmas. Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is the original inspiration for Massenet, whose opera (like Goethe’s work) is itself…

Pseud Psychic: Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium at Grimeborn

OperaView have created a small and intense production in which Menotti’s music comes across clearly: a ravishing piano accompaniment, played by Maite Aguirre, veers from schmaltzy sweetness, reminiscent of a silent film score, to bursts of plunging malevolence. Menotti’s strongest melody of all, the dark lullaby “The Black Swan”, sung first by Monica and later,…