One for sorrow: Claus Guth directs a taut, dark Clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Mozart: La clemenza di Tito ***

Glyndebourne, 26th July 2017

A single magpie settles on a branch beside a lake. Two boys stalk through the long reeds. The older one hands the younger, fair-haired lad a slingshot and watches as he takes aim, aghast when the stone hits its mark and the magpie thuds to the ground. Using video projections in his new Glyndebourne production, Claus Guth fleshes out the backstory between Tito and Sesto, so we understand the sovereign’s inevitable act of forgiveness – the opera’s title La clemenza di Titorather gives away the denouement – when the emperor spares Sesto’s life after surviving an assassination attempt.

Richard Croft (Tito) and Anna Stéphany (Sesto)
© Monika Rittershaus

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Tereshkina and Kim add fire to the Mariinsky Ballet’s dusty Don Quixote

Minkus: Don Quixote ***

Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House, 24th July 2017

The fireworks – when they came – were explosive, Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim igniting the Royal Opera House stage in a frenzy of effervescent footwork. Tereshkina whipped out her fouettés and Kim’s double tours en l’air fizzed as Kitri, the innkeeper’s daughter, and Basilio, the fresh-faced barber, celebrated their wedding with the grandest pas de deux. Ovation done and dusted, the eponymous Don Quixote blesses the couple and then… curtain. In his 1901 restaging based on Petipa, Alexander Gorsky certainly ends Don Quixote with a bang, yet for much of the evening the Mariinsky Ballet’s production underwhelmed.

Viktoria Tereshkina (Kitri) and Kimin Kim (Basilio)
© Jennie Walton

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Sumptuous Strauss from Louise Alder in Wigmore jump-in

Louise Alder & Gary Matthewman ****

Wigmore Hall, 22nd July 2017

We anticipated a Ukrainian barihunk singing Tchaikovsky, but ended up with an English rose singing Strauss. “Travel problems” detained Andrei Bondarenko from making his Wigmore Hall recital, his place taken at very short notice by Louise Alder, whom I last saw here in February. During the intervening months, Alder has been busy: a deserved finalist in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, winning the Audience Prize; releasing her first solo recording; singing a divine Sophie in WNO’sRosenkavalier. On Friday, she sang Marzelline at the Proms. Not a soprano to let the grass grow under her feet.

Louise Alder
© Gerard Collett

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A love letter from Berlin as Barenboim and the Staatskapelle make Elgar their own

Prom 2: Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin ****

Nobilmente (It.). Nobly, in a noble style. As a musical term, it’s almost exclusively associated with the works of Sir Edward Elgar, who first employed it in his piano transcription of the Enigma Variations. The score to his Symphony no. 1 in A flat major is headed Nobilmente e semplice, Elgar’s musical equivalent of the English stiff upper lip, a restrained march initially played as but a distant memory. There was little stiff upper lip though about Daniel Barenboim’s heart-on-sleeve account with the Staatskapelle Berlin, the highlight of a splendid Prom concert.

Daniel Barenboim
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou

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From Auber to Halévy: El-Khoury and Spyres celebrate a pair of French stars in style

Opera Rara: Joyce El-Khoury & Michael Spyres ****

Cadogan Hall, 14th July 2017

Opera Rara celebrated Bastille Day with a tribute to two great French singers, Julie Dorus-Gras and Gilbert Duprez. Dorus-Gras was a leading soprano in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, creating key roles in operas by Meyerbeer, Halévy and Berlioz. Duprez changed the course of tenor history, famed for being the first such singer to employ powerful chest voice for top Cs in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Stepping into their shoes at Cadogan Hall were two singers with remarkably individual voices, Joyce El-Khoury and Michael Spyres, for a toothsome programme of arias and duets.

Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury
© Russell Duncan (2014)

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