World Report: Reviews of Opera from around the World: United Kingdom

By Forbes, Elizabeth | Opera Canada, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

World Report: Reviews of Opera from around the World: United Kingdom


Forbes, Elizabeth, Opera Canada


LEEDS

MARTINU'S SURREALIST OPERA JULIETTA, FIRST produced in Prague in 1938, was cleverly staged for Opera North by David Pountney, who also made the fluent English translation, and designed by Stefanos Lazaridis (sets) and Marie-Jeanne Lucca (costumes). Michel, a bookseller, arrives in a seaside town to look for Julietta, with whom he fell in love on a previous visit. As none of the inhabitants has any memory, his search is difficult, but he does find Julietta. In Act III, set in the Office of Dreams, Michel finally realizes that he, too, lives in a dream, where each man has his Julietta. Tenor Paul Nilon took on the heavy central role of Michel with great success, and Rebecca Caine looked and sounded lovely as the elusive Julietta. Tenor Alan Oke, baritone Adrian Clarke and bass Jonathan Best, who each sang several roles, stood out from a large cast. Steuart Bedford was the deft, sympathetic conductor.

LONDON

A NEW PRODUCTION OF THE FLYING DUTCHMAN found the English National Opera orchestra in magnificent form under their new music director Paul Daniel, who conducted an invigorating performance, staged without interval by the Norwegian team of Stein Winge (director) and Timian Alsaker (designer). Willard White made a fine Dutchman, suitably intense and ghost-ridden, while Rita Cullis, singing her first Senta, won great (and deserved) applause. David Rendall's lyrical Erik and Stephen Richardson's mercenary Daland were both excellent. The chorus, in ringing voice, surpassed itself.

Paul Daniel was also the conductor for Janacek's From the House of the Dead, in which chorus and orchestra again sang and played to tremendous effect. Tim Albery's production, designed by Stewart Laing, did not attempt to hide the bleakness of the opera, based on Dostoevsky's novel of life in a Siberian prison camp, but stressed the final message of hope, symbolized by the flight of the injured (live) eagle. A large cast was superbly led by baritone Andrew Shore as Shishkov, with strong support from tenors Robert Brubaker as Luka and John Daszak as Skuratov.

The new production of Verdi's Falstaff, staged by Matthew Warchus and designed by Laura Hopkins, scored a bull's eye. Alan Opie, recently acclaimed for his first Don Alfonso in Cosi fan Tutte, tackled his first Falstaff with even greater success. Managing to be at once funny, moving and outrageous, he dominated the opera, despite strong competition from Rita Cullis as Alice, Keith Latham as Ford, Catherine Wyn-Rogers as Quickly and Mary Plazas as Nannetta. Charles Workman's gorgeous Fenton nearly, but not quite, stole the show. Oliver von Dohnanyi conducted with immense care for exquisite orchestral details.

Homeless while Covent Garden is being restored, the Royal Opera found temporary accommodation at the Barbican Theatre, where the company mounted the kind of works unsuitable for a large theatre. Handel's Giulio Cesare, directed by Lindsay Posner and designed by Joanna Parker, though not very imaginatively staged, was well-performed vocally, with Amanda Roocroft a delightful Cleopatra and Ann Murray a notable Caesar. Three excellent countertenors--Brian Asawa (Ptolemy), David Daniels (Sextus) and Jonathan Peter Kelly (Nireno)--lent authenticity to the proceedings, while Ivor Bolton conducted a small orchestra with great skill. …

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