Francesconi: Quartett (ROH, 18 June 2014)

After opening with Ben Frost’s critically mauled adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory, the ROH brings its 2013/14 season of operas in the Linbury Theatre to a triumphant close. Luca Francesconi’s Quartett is a triumph, an intricately crafted work which would reward multiple viewings and listenings. It is certainly a work which should become a staple of the contemporary opera circuit, and suggests that the composer’s full-scale opera for the company in 2020 will be unmissable.

Read my full review at Musical Criticism.

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A musical misfire from Nigel Kennedy in Oxford

Tuesday’s concert saw the Oxford Philomusica displaced from the Grade I splendour of their home in the Sheldonian Theatre to the larger venue of the art-deco style New Theatre. The reason? Nigel Kennedy was in town. The violinist’s three previous appearances with the ensemble had attracted full houses, and he drew a large and enthusiastic crowd again this time. Despite this overwhelmingly positive response, Kennedy’s concern for showmanship meant that he often failed to hit the mark musically.

Read my full review at Bachtrack.

Dialogues des Carmélites, ROH

Revolution, faith, and martyrdom: Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites tackles some weighty themes. The Royal Opera House certainly did them justice in a powerful production that balanced intensity and turmoil with moments of warmth and humour. Last seen at Covent Garden in 1983, the opera is unusual in many ways: much of the vocal writing is recitative, occasionally breaking into arioso; the nearest thing to a love duet is the dialogue between Blanche and her brother; and the cast is unusually large. Musically and dramatically top-notch, this production is simply exceptional.

Read my full review at Musical Criticism.