Kimonos and karma: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at Iford

Madame Butterfly enjoys extraordinary popularity today: even people who have never been to an opera in their lives could probably recognise its title. But why? Despite its surface familiarity, it’s a dark, upsetting piece, entirely devoid of romance, brimful of callous manipulation. Above all, its score is a far more challenging, experimental listen than we…

Songs of innocence and experience: Verdi’s Falstaff at Garsington

Bruno Ravella’s fast-paced direction for Garsington Opera honours Falstaff’s intense immediacy with a clear emphasis on dynamic physical and visual comedy underpinned by taut stagecraft, while still allowing time for its vital moments of pathos to breathe on stage in this subtle, elegant production. Henry Waddington’s dextrous characterisation means Falstaff’s connection to Rigoletto, another Verdi tortured clown, feels unmistakeable.…

So foul and fair a day: Verdi’s Macbeth at Iford

Macbeth’s turbulent emotions and fierce storms make it ironically ideally suited to an English summer evening, as the clouds gather menacingly overhead (although I managed to stay dry at Iford). Director Bruno Ravella presides over a sophisticated traditional reading which proves faithful to both Shakespeare’s eerie original, and also to Verdi’s passionate protests for Italian…