Photo: ROH

From Mozart to the Merchant of Venice: the best opera this month

The must-see operas
June 22, 2017
Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Royal Opera, Covent Garden 26th June to 7th July

Commissioned in Milan to write an opera for the carnival, Mozart spent five months creating Mitridate, Re di Ponto in 1770. Any doubts about allowing a 14-year-old boy loose on an opera seria were dispelled at its successful premiere. This extraordinary work, based on a libretto by Racine, consists of a series of arias with only two ensembles. It went into hiding for almost three centuries, eclipsed by Mozart’s prodigious output. Graham Vick’s 1991 production for the Royal Opera draws parallels between the stylised form of Baroque opera and Japanese and Indian stagecraft—influences echoed in Paul Brown’s stunningly opulent designs. This is a rare opportunity to witness the birth of a genius.

The Merchant of Venice

Welsh National Opera at the Royal Opera House, 19th and 20th July

Andre Tchaikowsky (no relation) wrote The Merchant of Venice in 1981 though it wasn’t performed until 2013 at Bregenz, where it was hailed as a masterpiece. The Merchant of Venice is a potent attack on prejudice and a response to the composer’s experiences as a child in the Warsaw Ghetto and his homosexuality. David Poutney’s production is a revelation, drawing on Freudian psychoanalysis while remaining faithful to Shakespeare.

Kat’a Kabanova

Holland Park Opera 15th June

Leoš Janácek’s Kat’a Kabanova is an opera of dark sensuality and immediate intimacy. Olivia Fuchs’s 2009 production was regarded as the best Holland Park Opera had ever mounted. The composer’s distinctive score brings the drama to life effortlessly, replete with traditional Czech folk styles and lyricism. A proper grown-up opera and a timely revival.