ETO’s new Barber cuts it in Hackney

English Touring Opera’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which opened at the Hackney Empire on Thursday night, is, at first glance, a highly conventional affair. Set firmly in Beaumarchais’ late 1700s, with contemporary sets and costumes, and eschewing any extraneous business, it is a straightforward narrative of young love’s triumph over elderly Machiavellian scheming. If you think that sounds a little worthy and just a bit dull then think again, for this is a show that grabs the audience’s attention and holds onto it from start to finish, so accomplished is it in its wit and invention.

My full review is at Opera Britannia


Interview: Thomas Guthrie

English Touring’s new production of The Barber of Seville opens on 8th March at the Hackney Empire. It is directed by Thomas Guthrie, whose second production this is for the company following his well-received Fairy Queen last year. A former ROH Young Artist, he may be unique in that he enjoys successful parallel careers as both a singer and a director. Acknowledging that he was not originally enamoured with Rossini’s opera buffa, considering it to be a piece of froth often weighed down with extraneous business, his opinion changed when he had the opportunity to work on the Royal Opera House’s current staging. He worked alongside the production’s creators, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, during its original run, and subsequently assistant directed a revival.

The full interview is at Opera Britannia

Classy Figaro at the ROH compromised by casting changes

If the curate wonders what has become of his much travelled egg, he could have located it last Saturday evening at the Royal Opera House, where it was masquerading as a performance that had much to commend it but was ultimately undone by some unbalanced casting.

David McVicar’s 2006 staging (placing the action amid the revolutionary turmoil of 1830s Europe) remains a thing of beauty. With Tanya McCallin’s gorgeous designs and Paule Constable’s at times magical lighting (the transition from sunset to Rembrandtesque candle light at the end of Act III is a genuine coup de théâtre) he has created a production that is well on the way to attaining iconic status.

My full review is at Opera Britannia

Sumi Jo serves up an enigma at Cadogan Hall

I learned something at Cadogan Hall on Friday night: those Medieval transmutationists weren’t barking mad after all – alchemy is real. Take one South Korean soprano, one solo flautist, add a light dusting of French froth, and pure, gleaming gold will miraculously appear. The downside seems to be that if you don’t get the formula quite right, you’re stuck with something a bit nearer to lead for most of the evening.

My full review is at Opera Britannia:

That awkward moment when people tell you you’re a fake

(Published at The Telegraph’s blogs website on March 19th, 2012)

In a blogpost that I wrote last week in the aftermath of Katherine Jenkins’ hysterical response to being parodied on Twitter, I asked why she attracts this kind of attention, and what drives a sane person to spend time and energy in the creation of an online persona for the sole purpose of rubbing her up the wrong way. Come to think of it, why have I invested three thousand words in the space of seven days in explaining why she fully deserves the contempt she receives from both those who earn their wages in the world of opera, and those who spend their money watching them? No doubt Jenkins, her fans and her best friend, the Daily Mail, would prefer to believe that I am obsessed with her. An elitist snob who is envious of her success. Probably a recluse. With lank hair and eczema. And an incriminating bag of sweets.

Continue reading “That awkward moment when people tell you you’re a fake”