Orfeo: Claudio Monteverdi (1607)

★★★★

(Royal Opera House in collaboration with the Roundhouse, January 2014)

In 1607 Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, came up with a rather original way to celebrate Carnival at his court. It was inspired by something he’d seen in Florence a few years earlier in 1600, when he’d been a guest at the wedding of Maria de’ Medici and Henry IV of France. He’d been deeply impressed by the main entertainment offered at the festivities: a new kind of play, set to music by Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini (who’d already produced a similar work called Dafne in 1597).

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Tristan und Isolde: Richard Wagner (1865)

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

★★★★

(Royal Opera House, London, 14 December 2014)

I ended up at Tristan by accident, if such a thing is possible. Shortly after I’d seen Poppea at the Barbican and Giulio Cesare on DVD, I was enthusing to my opera buddy about how marvellous Sarah Connolly was. She said that Connolly would be at the Royal Opera House this December. Would I like to go to see her? ‘Hell, yes!’ I said. Then my friend mentioned the catch. Connolly was singing in Wagner’s Tristan. Five hours of psychologically intense angst including a forty-minute love duet. In German.

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Idomeneo: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1780)

Mozart: Idomeneo

★★★

(Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 3-24 November 2014)

The one with the shark

There’s something rather exciting about going to see a production which has divided opinion as starkly as this new staging of Mozart’s Idomeneo. There has been at least one one-star review and one five-star review, but most critics seem to come down somewhere in the middle, struggling in a sea of interesting ideas which never quite come together. I sympathise with them. There were certain things I liked very much and some things I found self-indulgent and silly, but my overall impression was that it was a mixture of promising concepts which lacked the Promethean spark to bring them to life.

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