An unexpected joy of lockdown is seeing world-class performers in their natural habitats. Habitat is the apposite word for Simon Keenlyside, who read zoology at Cambridge before focusing on his operatic career and who describes a love of nature as “the marrow” of his existence. He looks to music for its validation.
For Wasfi Kani, the unstoppable founder of Grange Park Opera, even a pandemic is only a temporary setback. As soon as she had accepted this summer’s country house opera season at The Theatre in the Woods was lost, she set about mobilising the “pandemicists” and amassing funding for a Found season.
In his final decade, the Czech nationalist Janacek, found a new love interest and produced five major operas. The most accessible and refreshing is The Cunning Little Vixen (premiered in 1924), with its comic acceptance – like late Shakespeare – of the redemptive power of love and renewal, and its tragic awareness of the forces of raw nature and of life’s disappointments.
Don Carlo – or Don Carlos – in history was the mentally unstable son of Philip II of Spain whose brief betrothal to the woman his father later married and contacts with Protestant rebels in the Low Countries provided ammunition for the “black legend” propaganda whipped up by the opponents of his father’s rule.
This was the first time I had seen this operetta and the idea of Viennese kitsch did not excite me. Director Max Webster clearly shares my antipathy for schlock. His production is a wonderful reframing of the story from a post #MeToo perspective.
Lucca, Italy, was the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini in 1858 in an apartment that is now a museum to the last and most famous of generations of Puccini maestros, restored to its Second Empire glory, down to a bed, surrounded by columns, that replicates the one in which Puccini was born.
Tolstoy’s great, complex, genre-busting sprawl “War and Peace” is about many things, including Russian nationalism to the extent that when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin reached for the work to promote a patriotic defence of the Motherland.
La Forza del Destino was first performed in 1862. Not satisfied, Verdi carried on revising it for years, adding in 1869 the famous sinfonia overture that announces so many of the work’s overwhelming musical themes.