Clamorous harbingers of blood and death: Verdi’s Macbeth at Buxton

Buxton International Festival are currently staging Verdi’s first, 1847 Macbeth, written for the Teatro della Pergola, Florence, a theatre similar in size to the Edwardian jewel-box of Buxton’s own Opera House (just look how beautiful it is). This earlier version is a shorter, sharper work, which sees Macbeth dying on stage with one final aria to…

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…

Patriot games: Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at Fulham Opera

Sung with glorious musicality by a fine cast, there is no better chance to get really close to this extraordinary work than Fulham Opera’s clear, dynamic production. Director Fiona Williams’ 1980s gangster setting suits the power-mongering plot well: in sharp suits and shellsuits, with glittering watches and flick knives, the rival political gangs huddle on the…

Getting behind the mask: an intense Un ballo in maschera at Iford

Sung in beautifully clear English, Timothy Nelson’s small-scale production for Iford pulls the audience right inside Verdi’s vortex of emotions which keeps Ballo so gripping from beginning to end. Cricket whites, modest floral dresses, evening dress and cigarettes give a sense of the loucheness, yet residual innocence, of the very early 1920s, while poppies and military…

Verdi meets The Queen Vic: an uproarious Falstaff from Fulham Opera

Fulham Opera’s Falstaff opens in a modern day pub: crisps are on the table, children are playing with mobile phones, and Falstaff himself is in tracksuit bottoms. It’s effectively a case of Verdi meets The Queen Vic, soaked in a London underworld atmosphere of wideboys, semi-functional alcoholics and glossy Essex beauties. Directed by Daisy Evans, the action…

Minimalise this: Verdi’s Rigoletto by Opera Loki

Opera Loki’s vision for Rigoletto is strongly Victorian, with white painted faces, stage makeup and traditional, yet simple costumes. Directed by Rae Leaver, the production’s vision is that of “a ragged group of performers, fortune tellers and travellers [who] come together to perform a very special piece before they disband” – a concept you could blink and…

Visceral Verdi via 1950s Hollywood at Grange Park Opera

Grange Park Opera’s sharp new monochrome production takes La traviata to poolside bars awash with cocktails and pills, where Violetta clutches onto reality with breathless desperation in Fifties Hollywood. Claire Rutter gives a searingly powerful central performance, supported by a strong cast in the hands of a supremely intelligent director. Click here to read my full…

Sob-along-a-Verdi: OperaUpClose’s La Traviata

La Traviata has always been up close and personal. Its 1853 première was actually a critical failure, due to a revolutionary decision by Piave, Verdi’s librettist, to give the opera a contemporary setting – something which the Venetian audience had never seen before. Revived a year later, but this time in a Louis XIV setting,…