La Clemenza di Tito: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)

La Clemenza di Tito

★★★★ ½

(Glyndebourne, 31 July 2017)

As the overture plays, we watch two boys running through a wheat-field on grainy old film: the older one dark and responsible; the younger, blond and cherubic. The older boy teaches his friend how to use a catapult fashioned from a v-shaped stick, aiming at an old bottle, but the little one isn’t content until he spots a magpie perched in a tree. His aim is too true: the magpie falls. The spot of blood on its breast is the only hint of colour as the music comes to an end and gathers itself ready for Act I. This strangely haunting little film was our introduction to Glyndebourne’s Clemenza di Tito: a fantastic production which places renewed emphasis on the troubled relationship between the emperor Titus and his boyhood friend.

Continue reading

Hercules: George Frideric Handel (1745)

Alice Coote

★★★

(The English Concert directed by Harry Bicket at the Barbican, 4 March 2015)

Six months into my Baroque voyage of discovery, it’ll soon be time to jump in at the deep end for the London Handel Festival. From fully-staged operas to concerts, solo recitals and pasticci, the next month will offer a veritable banquet of Handel in all his forms. Before the Festival proper gets underway, we had an aperitif to enjoy: something of an oddity.

Continue reading

Xerxes: George Frideric Handel (1738)

Handel: Xerxes

★★★★

(English National Opera with Michael Hofstetter, until 3 October 2014)

This was all rather spontaneous. Having heard good things about the ENO’s current production of Handel’s Xerxes, I managed to get a last-minute ticket up in the balcony for Friday night and headed off for my inaugural Handel opera. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be like. It was lyrical rather than bombastic; humorous rather than noble; and full of the kind of bubbly wit that made it feel disconcertingly like The Marriage of Figaro. I knew virtually none of the music: the only aria I had to hand on my tablet was Se bramate d’amar vi chi sdegna from Cencic’s Handel album. It turned out of course that I knew another aria as well: it was a bit of a surprise when the opera opened with Ombra mai fù. (No, I didn’t know it was sung to a plane tree either: you learn something every day.)

Continue reading