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,…

Troublingly fun: Treemonisha, Grimeborn

Scott Joplin was rightly proud of Treemonisha, an opera for which he wrote both libretto and score; it was never fully staged in Joplin’s lifetime, much to his pain, but its eventual premiere in 1972 led to Joplin being awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976. Musically, Treemonisha is a rare and precious artefact, preserving the sounds and…

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…

Blitz spirit: Rossini’s Comte Ory, Grimeborn

Rossini’s Le Comte Ory is a flirtatious farce in which a naughty young Count drives everyone demented with his relentless erotic enthusiasms: and it glitters, musically and dramatically, with madcap Rossinian flair all the way through. For Grimeborn, Opera Alegria have moved the setting from the Crusades to the Second World War, with Count Ory as a…

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…

Bad boys go head to head: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Grimeborn

Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera of shocking brutality, with savage emotional aggression rivalling physical violence throughout its fast-paced plot. Fulham Opera’s reduction for Grimeborn brings Donizetti’s dark, doomed characters to vivid life with some glorious principal singers, supported by a dramatic piano accompaniment from Ben Woodward. Foremost is Alberto Sousa’s passionate, difficult Edgardo, a…