"A kind of diabolical Toy Story": The best Opera on this month

Leeds, London and Birmingham all host what promise to be great performances
August 16, 2017
L’enfant et les sortilèges

Leeds Grand Theatre, 16th September to 18th November

Ravel’s second opera is a kind of diabolical Toy Story. A warning to children it tells of a child who mistreats animals, toys and objects with a disdain bordering on the sadistic. When the objects come alive and give him a dose of his own medicine matters get really lively. Originally intended as a ballet it evolved into an opera over the years following Ravel’s wartime experiences and finally received its premiere in 1925 in Monte Carlo with ballet scenes choreographed by Georges Balanchine. Surreal, nightmarish and ultimately redemptive (see below) it is one of the rare examples of an opera that transcends its origins to become an exquisite jewel. Never mind Disney—if you want to know what a singing armchair sounds like, go to Leeds.


The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham University, 21st September to 24th September

Music schools and colleges are often great sources of rare works, performed by inquiring and often gifted students. Here is just such an example. Nicola Porpora’s 1708 opera has lain unperformed for 300 years until The Barber Institute of Fine Arts decided to bring the baroque work back to life. Daisy Evans, Artistic Director of Silent Opera, directs this well-merited revival which includes an illuminating multi-media visual design and recitative in English and arias in Italian.

Die Zauberflöte

Royal Opera House 12th September to 14th October

David McVicar’s 14-year-old production of Mozart’s insanely entertaining opera remains a delight. The score delivers on every level of this fantastic journey, which pits earthy philosophy against aerial magic and includes one of most challenging soprano roles in all opera in the character of the Queen of the Night.