More smoke than fire: Die Walküre, Grimeborn

Grimeborn are following up their fantastic 2019 Das Rheingold (see my previous review) with Die Walküre this year. Moving to the gorgeous Hackney Empire, with the Orpheus Sinfonia comfortably ensconced in the pit, this production has a far larger canvas, and opportunity, than its sister Rheingold ever did. However, it fails to achieve the emotional heft and visceral immediacy of its predecessor,…

Swoonsome swashbuckling: Cabildo, Grimeborn

Director Emma Jude Harris “couldn’t believe her luck” when she discovered Cabildo, the only opera by pioneering composer Amy Beach: her witty, dynamic production of this passionate chamber piece glows with humanity and joy. Set in the modern day, but incorporating an extensive period flashback to 1812, Cabildo tells the story of Mary (expressive soprano Helen Stanley, in…

Graceful gestures: Hotspur & Pierrot Lunaire, Grimeborn

The double bill of Gillian Whitehead’s Hotspur with Schoenberg’s great Modernist Pierrot Lunaire is the first outing for innovative opera company formidAbility, which seeks to bring disabled and non-disabled professional artists together on (and off) the opera stage. Accessibility is at the heart of the project, building features which will make opera intelligible to disabled audiences into the very…

Overpruned to wilting point: Violetta, Grimeborn

Violetta is a reduction of Verdi’s La traviata, using only three characters: the doomed courtesan Violetta, her idealistic yet immature lover Alfredo, and – surprise! Alfredo’s mother. Yes, Germont père is exchanged by Opera Allegra for Germont mère; an eyecatching decision with a potential cascade of interesting effects on the all-important gender dynamics of this piece at…

Hurtling into blankness: Entanglement! An Entropic Tale at Tête à Tête

Opera and physics: as a combination, what could possibly go wrong? As I briefly scanned one of the many programme notes generously supplied for the brave audience of Entanglement! An Entropic Tale, entitled “Quantum Mechanics, Shroedinger, The Uncertainty Principle and Wave-Particle Duality”, I felt a sense of mounting panic. However, as experiments go, Entanglement! wasn’t…

Pick a side: Schutzwall at Tête à Tête

Although opera is traditionally associated with grand narrative structures, sometimes its heightened psychological intensity can be remarkably effective at drawing us into an intimate historical moment, and just keeping us there a little while. Schutzwall tells the story of two sisters – Angelika Meyer (Mimi Doulton) and Suzanne Meyer (Ella Taylor) – suddenly separated by…