Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Wyndham Theatre - People, Places and Things with Denise Gough ★★★★★

"The production’s beaming star, Denise Gough plugs away in to our addict with sheer authenticity. She becomes the single most important focal point of the stage – in fact, she becomes the audience’s addiction. Fuelled by energy and intense charisma, her performance strength is so spot-on that you’ll want to lean forward, get off your seat, just, so you can get closer to her and the highly stimulated stage. It is no wonder that she won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress 2015."

Click here to my read full review on
Ends 4th June. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

King's Head Theatre: Così fan tutte ★★★★

There are those who can enjoy La Traviata and La bohème multiple times in a year, but I’m one of those operagoers that can see Così fan tutte again and again. Why? Admittedly Don Giovanni, another of Mozart’s tremendous works, is one of my favourite operas and a lot of that has to do with the highly memorable and addictive music, as well as the hilarious narrative that caused a bit of a stir when it was first shown in 1790 at the Burgtheater in Vienna.

Considering it was written and performed in the late 1700s, some may argue that Mozart’s Così was ahead of its time, depicting would-be fiancées falling for new lovers on the same day their fiancés had been called away to war. It would be fair to say that today, where so-called freedom of speech and supposed gender equality exists, current directors wouldn’t be fazed about the way that women are depicted in this opera.

Così fan tutte translated from Italian means both 'School for lovers' or 'women are like that'. It would be unfair to suppose that ‘women are like that’ and, of course, Mozart or his librettist Da Ponte didn’t compose the opera to voice such opinion but some sources suggest that the young composer was writing against the backdrop of the French Revolution, in the final years of the Enlightenment era where rational and liberal thoughts were motivating creative minds, leading to vast new artistic innovations, including this one.

I’ve seen a variety of productions of Così - from the circus-styled extravaganza at the ENO, the Met Opera’s traditional staging and Opera Vera’s modern-day setting with a cameraman recording Don Alfonso charming a TV audience – and I’ve realised how fun, easily adaptable and versatile Così can be performed today.

Now, the King’s Head Theatre have concocted something far more original, which includes both Così as the opera and the play by Louis Nowra, an Australian comedy, as well. Sadly, due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to see the play but I can tell you that I was, more than, pleased with what I took from the opera alone.

Music director, Elspeth Wilkes plays Mozart's reduced score vividly on the piano. Director Paul Higgins sets his opera in a TV studio with digital screens, diary rooms, a security guard and a talk show host to propel the story forward. This hilarious opera follows the male lovers as they get into the cab laughing away outside the King’s Head Theatre Pub, having sealed a deal with the TV presenter, then the audience watch as their women cry. As they pretend to drive away to a false destination, the fiancés return secretly disguised as trendy, preppy types. Yet, the TV show is more of a reality show that is geared towards tearing up relationships for better entertainment value, false drama and cat fights like a typical Jerry Springer show. 

Baritone Steven East is rich in tone as the philosopher Don Alfonso, dressed in a tacky presenter’s suit, and he comes across as a manipulative TV star than a wise Socrates attempting to teach something new. The reality show tries to prove these male contestants wrong - that their fiancées aren't as loyal as they originally thought - at the expense of ruining their relationship and providing better TV ratings.

Caroline Kennedy recently sang the role of Despina in Opera Vera (click here), a few weeks before I had seen this production, where she gave a supremely confident performance. However, her depiction of Despina here is very different. Kennedy retains the same independent and liberal attitude compared to Dorabella and Fiordiligi, but she shows signs of previously being hurt by a loved one and is forced by the sleazy Don Alfonso to take part in the trickery game. Nonetheless, her different accents and singularly talented and silky smooth voice shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The other soloists also deserve credit. Laurence Panter as Ferrando is bright and enthusiastic, Jevan Mcauley as Guglielmo was incredibly impressive, having a way with charming the audience with his warm, deep voice. Ailsa Mainwaring is a skilled actress too and sung well, yet there were times where she sounded weaker than others.

And then there's Stephanie Edwards as Fiordligi. Not only does she exhibit a tenacious character, she has a stunning, sweet-toned voice and acting prowess that I haven’t seen in a young soprano at an early stage in her career before - she is a soloist I hope to see and hear again! So, if laughing, giggles, TV gimmicks and opera is what you're looking for, then here is it.

Così is showing on the 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th, 31st March and the 2nd and 3rd of April. For more information and to purchase tickets please click here.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

How to get cheap Opera Tickets in London, even if they are sold out

There seems to be two misconceptions about opera tickets. Firstly - a point which has been argued to death - that 'opera tickets are expensive' and secondly, once a show, or production, has sold out there is no way you can see it, ever!

As a reviewer and blogger, I have the advantage of seeing many operas in London through press tickets, however, this is not ALWAYS the case. With the amount of theatre and opera I see per week (which can range between two to five shows in a week), there are occasions where opera and theatre companies do not provide me with that complimentary ticket. This has encouraged me to seek alternative ways of gaining access to sold out shows and finding the cheapest tickets, which might not always offer the best view but still provides me with a means to view 90% of the opera, and hearing beautiful music and amazing voices.

Opera, theatre, even ballets and classical music concerts, are not only composed and written for the rich and affluent. Keen culture vultures can go and enjoy shows without breaking the bank! Alongside discounted theatre websites and (believe it or not) newspaper, magazine and online publications, actual opera companies offer reduced tickets and special offers as well! 

Here are two examples from newspaper, magazine and online publications:
For the 5-Star rated Akhnaten at the ENO, Time Out were offering 40% off on tickets. 
  • Dress Circles tickets on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were £79 (now £47.40) and Upper Circle tickets were £39 (now £23.40).
  • Dress Circles tickets on Tuesdays were £59 (now £35.40) and Upper Circle tickets were £34 (now £20.40). (Click here to see the offer.)
The Daily Mail also, at times, offer £10 tickets to Sussex Opera House at Glyndebourne. Although they might not be available on ideal dates (or close to the stage), it's still a massive chunk from the usual £90+ to £200+ tickets, which is the going rate for most Glyndebourne operas. (Click here for article.)

Keeping a close eye on the schedules and calendars of your favourite opera companies, opera festivals (Grimeborn, Tête-à-Tête) or concert halls (Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, St John's Smith Square), is probably the most effective way of knowing what operas are being showed so you can prepare ahead and purchase the ticket(s) you want, before they get snapped up by someone else. 

Social media, particularly Twitter, is another way of keeping tabs on opera tickets (including returns) on the day. Sometimes fellow Tweeters (and opera lovers on other social media platforms) let people know if they have tickets up for grabs. I've been fortunate enough to meet some very generous operagoers and classical music aficionados who have offered me their spare ticket last minute through Twitter and Facebook.

I've provided a list of opera companies (unfortunately not all) that not only dispel the idea that opera tickets are expensive but provide ways for customers to see a sell out show on the cheap!

The English National Opera (ENO)

    • Cheap tickets: Balcony tickets, in the first and second rows, are worth £12, but they come with a restricted view e.g. a pole or safety bar is in front of you, but I've never been fazed by this as I tend to see the majority of the staging. These tickets sell out fast, so find out when the ENO release tickets for the opera and book early!
    • Cheap tickets: Opera Undressed (£25) (Click here for more info) I've managed to get stall seats from Opera Undressed, which is usually worth £100+. All you need to do is register and you will get an email that will indicate when you can purchase your Secret Seat ticket(s). At the end of the performance, you also get the chance to meet some members of the cast and a lovely drink (G & T) on the house. However, there's only one or two opportunities to take advantage of Secret Seats, so perhaps get a friend to register thereafter to ensure you can continue to use Secret Seats. It should be noted, however, that these tickets are targeted at newbies to opera, so for those that that are regular operagoers...
    • Cheap tickets: Secret Seat (£20) is probably the best option (Click here for more info.) Secret Seats are released during the priority booking period and are for stall and dress circles seats, which are usually priced at £30. First, you decide when to see the opera and then you book online, in advance! From those who have experience booking them, they suggest you book Secret Seat tickets for several operas in the season. The only catch is that if you book for a group, of say four, sitting next to all of them isn't guaranteed, but you're promised to sit next to at least one. Also, although the website says there are a limit on Secret Seat tickets, there have been occasions whereby operagoers have managed to get Secret Seat tickets on the day of the opera, so it is worthwhile keeping an eye on the ENO social media accounts in case they pop up.
    • Cheap tickets:Access All Arias - If you are aged 16-29 or a full time student, you can purchase stall tickets for £30, dress circle tickets for £20 and upper circle tickets for £10 through Access All Arias. You can also bring another adult with you for the same price, and purchase a programme booklet for half the price. Talk about convenient! (Click here for more information.)
    • Cheap tickets, and great for sell out shows: The £10 Standing ticket - I recently discovered this method for ENO's Ahknaten, which was completely sold out. Surprisingly, I felt that while I was watching the opera, I had a better view than those sitting in the row in front of me. You can only purchase them in person on the day, and sometimes you can buy an extra ticket for your friend if they are running late (which I was.) When I arrived at 6.30pm (for a show that started at 7.30pm) there were many standing tickets available, therefore there isn't a limit of them on the day. My advice is - just grab your opera glasses and ensure you wear the most comfortable shoes, then enjoy the show! Of course, I'm not recommending this to anyone who has been advised by their doctor to avoid activity that requires standing for a long period of time. 

      • Cheap Tickets: Upper Slips for £4 - £18 - Last year, to my joy, I discovered £4 Upper Slip tickets to see one of Tchaikovsky's ballets. I also managed to see La Traviata with Sonya Yoncheva for £14. These seats are on the side of the stage, high up, more so than the amphitheatre level, with a restricted view, yet I was pretty satisfied with what I was paying for. It's worth mentioning that it's a game of luck when purchasing these tickets - you don't know which side has the best view. Unfortunately the ROH box office doesn't know where the best side to view the production is until a week before the first night, usually the time when dress rehearsals have taken place, so you might be out of luck on choosing the wrong side to sit if you book months in advance. But there are...
      • ... Day tickets, which range from various prices. These can be cheap tickets and are great for sell out shows: On the actual day of the opera (or ballet), the ROH offers between 60 to 70 day tickets, so you can physically queue up to get a ticket of a sold-out performance. For your information, it's one ticket per person and the box office doesn't open until 10am! However, depending on the cast, conductor or popularity of the opera, you might have to get there very early. For the in-demand Tristan und Isolde production with Nina Stemme, two years ago, I queued up from 8am and managed to get an extraordinary view from the Grand Tier Boxes for £40. For Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek in Andrea Chénier, I was very tired - I queued up from 7.45am, and managed to see the hot cast from the Upper Slips for less than £20. And for the latest Il trittico, I arrived at the opera house at 8.41am and purchased an amphitheatre (S-Row) ticket for roughly £33, which allowed me to view the entire stage and see the wonderful Ermonela Jaho reprise her role as Angelica. 
      • Cheap tickets, and great for sell out shows: Phone in Day tickets - But you can't queue up on the day I hear you cry! Not to worry, from 10am you can still call the box office and see what tickets are available. When I want to see an opera on its opening night and all the seats are taken, there are standing tickets. For Wayne McGregor's ballet, The Ravel Girl, I managed to book a standing circle stall ticket for £6. Yes, £6! Again, wear comfortable shoes! Another example is this week's opening of Musorgsk's Boris Godunov with Britain's favourite baritone, Bryn Terfel where I managed to get a standing ticket for the same location, which was originally £18 reduced to £10. The reason being that it was a restricted view. The actual staging had two levels, which meant that it was hard for some, depending where they sat or stood, to see the higher level. I appreciated the fact that I was advised and made aware by the box office of this disadvantage; despite the restriction, I was still pleased with my view, though some people may not agree. 
      • Cheap tickets: Student Discounts: If you are a student, you can register to get e-mails from the ROH which will update you on special student days whereby tickets, no matter where they are located - orchestral stalls, amphitheatre, grand tier or upper slips - tickets are £10 each. During my student days, I would rely on these a lot and although they are only available on special days e.g. a weekday and not for all productions, they still give newbies an opportunity to get to see an opera live for a tenner.
      Opera Holland Park (OHP): The company offers thousands of ticket for free through their Inspire Tickets range and they go like hot cakes, so you have to apply early to get your hands on them. They also have many tickets at £17 per person. (Click here to look at last year's offer of Inspire.)
      • FREE tickets: 1,000 tickets are available for free for those aged between 7 - 18 and up to four people can apply, such as an adult and three young people. There's a deadline for applications for these free tickets, however, these seats are available for all 32 productions during the summer season. (Click here for more information)
      • FREE tickets: Patrons of the OHP (ages 60+) also have access to free tickets. Each year OHP offer 500 free tickets for the older audiences as well!
      • FREE tickets:Under-30's tickets - 300 tickets are offered to those under-30's and available to book on the phone for each production. (Click here for more information.)
      Small-scale opera productions
      Here are a few example of prices for small and local productions, which also prove how cheap opera tickets really can be.

      And for those that love chamber music and recitals, there's Wigmore Hall's Under 35s Scheme where certain performances are accessible for £5 only. (Click here for more information.)

      I have only provided a handful of examples based on my experience. If you know other ways of getting cheap opera tickets, please let me know and volunteer this information. I believe that I've provided fair examples proving that opera ticket are cheap. If this doesn't convince you that this is the case, I don't know what will. 

      Thursday, 17 March 2016

      ★★★★★ ENO: Philip Glass - Akhnaten

      Photo by Richard Hubert Smith
      Director, Phelim McDermott and Improbable Theatre Company have produced something special at English National Opera at a time when the opera house really needs it. From stage designs by Tom Pye and Kevin Pollard, lavish costumes, mesmerising music and unbelievable voices - by soloists and the beleaguered ENO chorus -, this has prompted positive reviews from critics and sell out performances. (I almost missed out on seeing this production if it wasn’t for standing day tickets, which I bought on the day for £10 each.)

      Composed by Philip Glass, Akhnaten is mesmerising, enthralling, and enchanting. I simply had no idea what to expect, yet I left feeling excited about the production and mentally calmer than I had been before the opera begun.  It’s fair to say that there’s certainly something stunning and enchanting about Glass’s music here.

      Not many know of Akhnaten but he’s very different from other pharaohs. The life of Akhnaten, who was pharaoh of Egypt around 1350BC and married to Nefertiti, is known in ancient history for converting his people to believe a new religion, following a monotheistic sun god. The storyline, itself, is rather basic but the staging is finely executed by its remarkable music score and vocals, which is the key focus, I thought.

      Glass (being Glass) has distinctive features to his music – made up of modern minimalism and experimentation – that somehow relaxes and soothes you – it has a way of making you want to pray or at least meditate. McDermott ensures the performers move very slowly and it is this slowness, which increases the grandeur and mysticism of this opera.

      For one thing, there are no surtitles. The singing is partly done in ancient Egyptian (or Hebrew) and English, but there is a scribe (Zachary James) who explains in poetic verse, from the Book of the Dead, on what’s going on in every scenes. James performs with great diction and has the wonderful ability of projecting his voice to the entire auditorium; every person could hear his every word.

      American countertenor, Anthony Roth Constanzo is a complete delight as he performs as the newly made – naked and vulnerable - Pharaoh. His voice is splendid and his acting is completely engaging. Emma Carrington is elegant as Nefertiti and with Constanzo they sound stunning together when they sing a duet in act II. Rebecca Bottone as the pharaoh’s worried mother is also exquisite in voice. 
      Photo by Tristram Kenton
      Karen Kamensek takes care when she conducts but adds a layer of depth, which is audible from the pit. From as far back as the balcony, I could hear every little musical detail and the musicians seemed on point with Glass’s rapid and repetitive score.

      It was almost unpredictable with Glass: one moment I’d think someone’s phone had gone off or someone had loudly poured water into their cup, yet no – that was all part of Glass’s unpredictable score, which is an odd thing to say considering how his music is hugely repetitive. It has a trance-like effect and for the orchestra it was a tough challenge having to keep up but they seemed to be confident and secure.

      What’s also different is the clever input from jugglers who knew how to throw their balls around without slipping, but their ball-playing depict Akhnaten’s power and are not simply there as part of some cheap entertainment ploy. 

      Photo by Tristram Kenton
      The loudest applause went to the ENO Chorus. They were mostly seen in the first act, however, you could hear them in the back singing beautifully as ever in the other two acts. Each time I see them, they seem stronger in voice and stage presence, which comes as a shock to many when we hear about the financial squabbles going on regarding their pay currently - still- in disarray while the ENO's management try to think up a solution.

      I’m glad I went through the trouble of seeing this opera, which woke me up to beautiful sights and sounds. Although others and I will agree that Akhnaten was worth all the stars, there were some that deemed it 'dull' or 'boring' (and I'm sorry that they felt this way) but comparing Akhnaten to The Marriage of Figaro would be the wrong way of justifying why they didn't enjoy it. They are entirely different pieces within the same genre, and there's nothing wrong with preferring a different style over another. For me, this production worked more than I could imagine. 

      Last showing of Akhnaten is Friday 18th March 2016. You can purchase standing day tickets for £10 each in person. Click here for more information.

      Tuesday, 15 March 2016

      Fulham Opera: Verdi's Simon Boccanegra ★★★★

      It was only until the second half of the 20th century that Verdi's opera, Simon Boccanegra (1881) became recognised. It wasn't received well during Verdi's life, with its deep reflection of the composer's political thoughts on how Italy should be governed. His opera - on the beleaguered Dodge who is reunited with his illegitimate daughter he thought was dead - is currently showing at St John's Church by Fulham Opera, which produces some of the most magical moments I've ever seen on the opera fringe scene through its excellent cast of soloists, brave chorus and devoted musicians.
      Photograph by Matthew Coughlan
      It's a shame that Simon Boccanegra isn't performed enough, given Verdi's splendid and individual score, as well as the versatile storyline that combines family relationships with moral redemption and political power. Fulham Opera goes full steam on passion and shows the audience what they have been truly missing! 

      Director, Fiona Williams has the audience sitting at four corners, with the stage right in front of them. It's a clever way to see the multiple sides of the opera's characters; some with moral intentions while others hypocritical and motivated by wicked plans.
      Photograph by Matthew Coughlan
      Benjamin Woodward has the 12-piece orchestra of Fulham Opera playing dramatically, emphasising the elegiac mood and bitter tensions which brew during and, most of all, at the end, leading to the Dodge's assassination by poison. The excellent chorus (Roberto Abate, Patrizia Dina, Greg Hill, Ken Lewis, Hannah Macaulay, Rosalind O'Dowd, Naomi Quant, Chris Childs Santos, Lilly Scott and Timothy Tompkins) take no shortcuts and go above and beyond, singing brightly and building on the moody atmosphere; filled with fear, uncertainty and mysticism.

      With a simple stage, yet a dynamic space for the cast, Andy Bird's coordination of changeable lights plays an important part in marking out the intensity and symbolism for the various scene changes; moving onto a cool blue-lit night, a warm spring-like romance to a daring red for the scheming and plotting.
      Photograph by Matthew Coughlan
      One thing that is wonderfully conveyed is the relationship between Boccanegra and his daughter, Amelia, which is masterfully executed by Emily Blanch and Oliver Gibbs. There's a little sigh of relief when father and daughter meet again, after twenty-five years of separation, and a few tears are shed as Amelia embraces her dying father.

      Baritone lead, Gibbs plays the role of Boccanegra who gives an unflagging and uncompromising performance as both political leader and loving father. Blanch is charming throughout and conveys to the audience Amelia's good nature and character, which is sustained by her incredible and intense soprano voice.

      Photograph by Matthew Coughlan
      Alberto Sousa as Gabriele Adorno is simply outstanding and reenacts the tension, anguish and complexity of Adorno's character, dealing with love for Amelia yet lacking the knowledge that her father is the man he has been plotting to kill. Much credit goes to Sousa for singing exceptionally, especially for a role that many tenors turn down due to the vocal demands.

      Simon Hannigan as Jacopo Fiesco is serious, driven and lyrical in tone whilst James Harrison plays evil-deeds Paolo Albiani who conjures a scary and menacing conspirator with a robust baritone voice.

      By the end of the first act, I was blown away, particularly with the versatile music, high drama and heartbreaking storyline. Fulham Opera has converted me to love an opera - that is Simon Boccanegra. Honestly, it will leave you in awe! If there were anything to criticise, however, it would probably be the lack of softness of the pillows the audience had to sit on. Still it just goes to show how good the performance was if we, the audience, were willing to endure the stiffness of our seat.
      Photograph by Matthew Coughlan
      Fulham Opera's Simon Boccanegra production's remaining shows are on the 18th and 20th March. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.  
       ★★★★ Review of Il trittico at the Royal Opera House (click here) The show ended on the 15th March 2016
       ★★★★ Review of Norma at the English National Opera (Click here
      ★★★★ Review of Unexpected Opera's The Rinse Cycle (Click here
      Review of 

      Sunday, 13 March 2016

      Royal Opera House 2016: Il trittico (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi) ★★★★

      Il tabarro - Photo by Bill Cooper
      [5th March 2016]
      The longer awaited production of Richard Jone's Il Trittico at the Royal Opera House was a relief for many who saw the premier back in 2011, which received positive reviews at the time, However Puccini's triptych of love, jealousy, murder, loss and comic trickery wasn't always performed together. For example, Suor Angelica would be dropped, while Gianni Schicchi would be paired with another opera, and so forth. For this production conductor, Nicola Luisotto is on top form, fashioning the diverse styles of Puccini - when the music was dramatic Luiosotto made sure you knew trouble was on its way. 

      I've had the pleasure of seeing Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi by the talented Fulham Opera (review here) as well as Opera Holland Park's captivating production of all three (review here), and from this I've realised that putting these one-act operas together (originally Puccini's intention) - with their various storylines, diverse subject matters and versatile music - makes it a far more enjoyable night at the opera compared to seeing them as separate entities. What's more touching is that at the time of composing Il trittico (1918), Puccini was going through a difficult time in his life, making these operas more intimate and insightful of the composer's life. 

      Il tabarro ★★★★
      Some may not consider Il tabarro (The Cloak) as their favourite opera but I relish the opportunity to hear it because of the unique music, lovely arias, intriguing detail and riveting narrative - a married woman who is driven into a clandestine affair with one of her husband's workers as a way of coping with child loss. It's fair to say that Il tabarro is definitely not a happy opera. Alongside the main story, which ends with a monstrous murder scene, Puccini opens up a picture of Paris seeped with poverty, misery and a constant yearning for a better life, by the lower classes. 

      Based on Didier Gold's play, La Houppelande, Puccini felt compelled to turn it into a melodrama opera, which is set in a similar time and societal space as his famous opera, La bohème. Stage designer, Ultz places the opera on the dock of the River Seine with Parisians minding their own business - kissing their lover in the backstreets and bargaining for pleasure - with a boat for our child-less couple Michele and Giorgetta. Italian baritone Lucio Gallo's Michele exhibits the sadness and loneliness felt of man destroyed of this loss. Michele's sings to his wife in desperate need of affection, reflecting on the moments he wrapped her and their child with his cloak, while Giorgetta rejects him and gives flimsy excuses for not kissing him when he requests it.

      Patricia Racette, as Giorgetta, misplaces her love and desire for Luigi, persuading him to come back when Michele is asleep. Racette enthralls the audience with her splendid voice and Carl Tanner had me listening attentively when he sang lyrically and exquisitely to Hai ben ragione! meglio non pensare. I suppose it must be all that pitying for all of the characters including Frugola (Irina Mishura) and the burden of child loss that moved me the most. One moment complete euphoria, for Michele, and then complete despair and death for Luigi.

      Suor Angelica - Ermonela Jaho - Photo by Clare Colvin
      Suor Angelica ★★★★
      Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho is back again to regale us with her glorious performance as Angelica, as she did back in 2011. Suor Angelica is a spiritual opera that is said to have the most poignant and lyrical music of all three. Some of Puccini's best music comes from Il trittico (I agree) and again, this beautiful opera has a heartbreaking story to tell. Miriam Buether's set is a 20th century children's hospital where nuns look after children patients in a ward. 

      Having lived an immoral life, according to her family, Angelica is sent to a nunnery. After many years, she receives a visit from her unforgiving aunt who gives her the most devastating news. Jaho gives a courageous performance as Angelica, demanding an answer of the well-being of her son and showing the grief and shock as if it were real. Anna Larsson received a boo at the end but that was simply because of her convincing portrayal as the selfish and cold-hearted aunt who broke (our) Angelica's heart.

      Jaho's performance in Senza mamma is like a knife. When you see her wobble and weep as she realises the consequence of drinking poison, which Angelica thinks would bring her closer to her son, it really is harrowing. Her isolation and segregation from the other nuns is made clearer in their inability to do nothing as she goes into a frenzy, grabbing and begging them to help her. The enchanting music and courageous singing makes this one of the most moving opera performances I've ever seen; many in the audience were in tears by the end of it. 

      Gianni Schicchi - Photo by Bill Cooper
      Gianni Schicchi ★★★
      Wasn't it kind of Puccini to compose a lighthearted opera with the ‘desire to laugh and make others laugh' after all the dark melodrama and heart ache? Here, Gallo puts down Michele's cloak and returns to the stage as the raw and wittier Schicchi who saves the Donati family (well,) by impersonating their dead relative. In John Macfarlane's staging of Buoso's warmly-lit home, the family hang around waiting for the last moments of Buoso to die so they can each identify what they had inherited. To their disappointment, it turns out that Buoso had left them nothing and offered everything to the local monastery instead - they don't even get his mule!

      Gallo gives a memorable performance as Schicchi while Sussana Hurrell performed beautifully as Lauretta as she sung O mio babbino caro, delightfully; the audience sighed and applauded loudly as soon as she was done. Sicilian tenor Paolo Fanale was also a glowing voice on the stage as Lauretta's fiancé, together they represented the sweet side to the opera, fluttering their eyelids, encouraging Schicchi to help the family out so they can get married sooner. Much praise goes to the hilarious ensemble as the disgruntled and complacent money-hungry family sung by Elena Zilio, Marie McLaughlin, David Kempster, Gwynne Howell and Tiziano Bracci.

      Production ends on the 15th March 2015. Although it is three operas, it is shown in one performance. Click here to purchase tickets or call the ROH on the day to see if there are any return tickets.