Unexpected Opera’s The Rinse Cycle

“A Ring Cycle set in a launderette? Well, I’ve seen weirder productions…”  Unexpected Opera’s approachable and slick reduction of Wagner’s epic starts on a characteristically unstuffy note, and proceeds to soften us up with disarmingly cheesy jokes, some ribald stage antics, and bags of energy. The Rinse Cycle cheerfully pokes fun at itself, as well…

Tempest-tossed on the storm of life: Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at Fulham Opera

Wagner declared in his 1851 pamphlet Communication to my Friends that “the Flying Dutchman… gives emotionally compelling expression to… the longing for peace from the storms of life.” And Daisy Evans takes this sense of exhausted, eternal displacement as her directoral cue: it is our sudden, imposed rootlessness which puts us all at sea with the Dutchman, lost in…

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Secret Opera

Secret Opera’s Die Walküre at King’s College Chapel on the Strand was already the subject of some anticipation from all who had seen their reasonably successful Das Rheingold the week before; but this performance exceeded even my own hopes, with a superb pair of star-crossed lovers, a wonderfully sung Wotan (voiced last-minute from the wings…

Wagner, Das Rheingold, Secret Opera

In King’s College’s highly-wrought, painted and gilded chapel, almost fine enough to be an antechamber of Valhalla itself, Secret Opera’s Das Rheingold opened with a truly magical evocation of the river Rhine. The whole cast formed a stately procession up the aisle to the sanctuary, carrying blue helium balloons whose long ribbons were coiled carefully…

Romancing the stones

The desecration of monuments is a hot topic today: ISIS and other actors in the Middle East are being regularly, widely and rightly castigated for their destruction of world heritage sites, something for which US troops were already being criticised in the earliest stages of the Iraq War. It’s not a new trend: the price…

A bewildering bed of roses: King Size at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House

King Size is an ultra-modern take on the German tradition of Liederabend, or the “evening of song”, mixing Schumann, Wagner and Schubert with the Jackson 5 and Stephen Sondheim. This production by noted European director Christoph Marthaler, originally from Theater Basel, is intriguing, but feels oddly rootless, moving from one understated, vaguely humourous situation to another…

A Tale of Two Tannhäusers: Theater Freiburg at Norwich

Theater Freiburg don’t usually tour, so this journey to the Norwich Theatre Royal is itself a pilgrimage of a kind. The camaraderie and team spirit stirred up by the unusual challenge of moving such an enormous company, sets and all, to perform two great Wagner epics in one week (Parsifal preceded Tannhäuser) in a different…

A magnificently minimalist Ring from Fulham Opera

Fulham Opera’s production is an act of distillation which rebels against everything we’re usually told about the Ring: and it allows the vibrant power of Wagner’s story, and the sheer beauty of his music for the human voice, to hit us harder and deeper than any production I have seen before. It is simply staged, brilliantly sung,…