Lemoyne’s Phèdre: intense mythological drama at the Bouffes du Nord

Lemoyne: Phèdre ****

Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, 8th June 2017

If you’d told me that Phèdre had been composed by Gluck, I’d have completely believed you. Instead, the composer of this tragédie lyrique was Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (1751-1796) of whom I knew absolutely nothing. He was, apparently, an admirer of Gluck and Phèdre contains many of the ingredients present in a score such as Iphigénie en Tauride, pushing the boundaries of Classical opera to its limits. Simply staged and presented without interval in the compact, antique space of the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord – Peter Brook’s Parisian base for years – it provided 90 minutes of music drama packed with astonishing intensity.

Judith van Wanroij (Phèdre)
© Grégory Forestier

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Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre claims three tenor victims in Paris

Halévy: La Reine de Chypre ***

Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 7th June 2017

The only opera you’re ever likely to encounter by Fromental Halévy is La Juive, which probably qualifies the composer as a “one hit wonder”. But Halévy wrote around 40 operas, of which La Reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus), premiered at the Salle Le Peletier in 1841, comes about halway. Richard Wagner, reviewing for the Dresden Abend-Zeitung, praised Halévy’s score as “noble, feeling and even new and elevating”, concluding that La Reine de Chypre was “decidedly the best that has appeared on the Opéra’s boards since Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots”.

© Gaëlle Astier-Perret

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Don Giovanni all at sea at Opera Holland Park

Mozart: Don Giovanni **

Opera Holland Park, 3rd June 2017

This production opens like the perfect whodunnit. Passengers embark with their luggage aboard an ocean liner for a transatlantic cruise, busily locating their cabins. Within moments there’s an attempted rape, a murder and nowhere for the villain to flee. All we need is Hercule Poirot to waddle onto deck and apply his “leetle grey cells” to unmask the culprit. Instead we get Mozart’s Don Giovanni transported by director Oliver Platt to The Queen Mary in the 1930s for Opera Holland Park’s new staging. It looks handsome enough – particularly the costumes – but the concept is flawed.

John Savournin (Leporello) and Ashley Riches (Don Giovanni)
© Robert Workman

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All that glitters: Miskimmon’s hyperactive Semele opens Garsington’s season

Handel: Semele ***

Garsington Opera, 1st June 2017

“Endless pleasure” could almost be the anthem of opera festivals up and down the country, accompanied by images of long interval picnics and rolling lawns basking beneath golden late afternoon sun. Garsington Opera is one such pastoral idyll – a deer park, lake and cricket pitch all on hand – opening its 2017 season with Handel’s Semele, in which the title character extols the joys of being Jupiter’s mistress, “Endless pleasure, endless love”. Whether it could be used to describe Annilese Miskimmon’s hyperactive production is another matter.

Heidi Stober (Semele) and Christine Rice (Juno)
© Johan Persson

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Giant haystacks: Pelly’s sunny L’elisir d’amore romps back to Covent Garden

Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore ****

The Royal Opera, 27th May 2017

This was meant to be Pretty Yende’s night. The South African soprano, praised for her bel canto feats at houses like The Met and Paris, was making her much-anticipated Royal Opera debut as Adina, the beautiful landowner playing hard-to-get in Donizetti’s joyous comedy, L’elisir d’amore. In the end, it was the Armenian tenor singing country bumpkin Nemorino who stole hearts. Liparit Avetisyan wasn’t quite making his Royal Opera debut, having performed in a single La traviata earlier this season. His appearance here saw Avetisyan replace the originally scheduled Rolando Villazón.

Pretty Yende (Adina) and Liparit Avetisyan (Nemorino)
© ROH | Bill Cooper

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