Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is a contemporary ballet based on the Russian romantic work Swan Lake, from which it takes the music by Tchaikovsky and the broad outline of the plot. Bourne‘s rendering is best known for having the traditionally female parts of the swans danced by men.
The Royal Opera House is also offering live streamings
La Boheme – Until 17 July: Puccini’s opera of passion, friendship and heartbreak is one of the best-loved operas worldwide. Its music includes such treats as Rodolfo and Mimì’s Act I arias and duet, the ebullient choruses of Act II and Mimì’s heartrending death scene. Richard Jones’s recent production for The Royal Opera perfectly captures the vulnerability of youth amid the harshness and glamour of a big city. The atmospheric designs, by Stewart Laing, evoke both the poverty of the bohemians’ attic home and the splendour of Paris’s shopping arcades on Christmas Eve. The opera blends tragedy and comedy, the soulful and the spirited, into a powerful encapsulation of the intenseness of life’s experiences to its young would-be artists and their lovers, in this recording performed by a winning young cast under the baton of Antonio Pappano, Music Director of The Royal Opera. Read more
15 hours of epic Wagner opera
If you want to challenge yourself to a marathon of 15 hours of epic opera, BBC Arts and The Space presented Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, in a radically stripped-back, critically acclaimed production by Opera North. Filmed during live performances in Leeds in 2016. Set in a world populated by dwarfs and giants, gods and river-maidens, Das Rheingold establishes the cycle in thrilling fashion, beginning with music that evokes the very dawn of time. In Die Walküre (Part 2), it is human emotion that takes centre stage, with musical highlights including Winterstürme and the Ride of the Valkyries. Wagner’s unparalleled orchestral scene-painting reaches new heights as we meet the daring hero Siegfried in Part 3, the grandson of Wotan, king of the gods. The musical and dramatic power of Götterdämmerung (Part 4) is awe-inspiring, as the epic cycle concludes with the end of the old world of the gods, and the dawn of a new era. There’s also some inspiring bonus material. WATCH HERE
NT Live Theatre
The National Theatre has the world’s greatest treasure trove of live theatre recordings from the last ten or so years, filmed at a high enough quality to be streamed free on YouTube as part of its NT Live programme.
Every Thursday throughout May, a new play will premiere on YouTube at 7pm BST (8pm in South Africa), available to watch for free, for a week.
The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan, with Helen McCrory and Tom Burke, is streaming until 16 July.
It’s 1952, in West London. When Hester Collyer is found by her neighbours in the aftermath of a failed suicide attempt, the story of her tempestuous affair with a former RAF pilot and the breakdown of her marriage to a High Court judge begins to emerge. With it comes a portrait of need, loneliness and long-repressed passion. Behind the fragile veneer of post-war civility burns a brutal sense of loss and longing.
It’s a sad fact of romantic mathematics that two doesn’t go into three. Nobody knows that better than Sir William Collyer, his wife Hester and her lover Freddie, three of the lead characters in Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea
Carrie Cracknell’s critically acclaimed production of Terence Rattigan’s devastating masterpiece features Helen McCrory (Medea, Peaky Blinders) and Tom Burke (War and Peace, The Musketeers). Read more
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, with live orchestral accompaniment by Southbank Sinfonia, is streaming from 16 July. Read more
The Fugard at Home presents The Fugard Theatre’s 2016 production of Athol Fugard’s, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek until 20 July
Written and directed by Athol Fugard and co-directed by Paula Fourie, the play is inspired by the life of farmworker Nukain Mabuza, a self-taught artist living in segregated, pre-liberation South Africa. The Stone Garden of Nukain Mabuza is considered by experts in outsider art circles as one of only 44 global examples of environmentally based outsider art.
Ageing Nukain has spent his life-transforming the rocks on a koppie at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Aided by his young companion Bokkie, we now find Nukain confronting his last challenge: paint a huge boulder at the summit. Yet before long, the landowner’s wife, Elmarie Kleynhans, arrives and makes demands about the painting, laying bare the profound rifts of a country hurtling towards the end of apartheid. When Bokkie – now known as Jonathan Sejake – returns years later, it is to confront the legacy of Revolver Creek left to him as a young man trying to find his place in the new South Africa. Starring Tshamano Sebe, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Sne Dladla and Lihko Mango. WATCH HERE
Opera From The Metropolitan Opera in New York
Opera buffs are in opera heaven with the Met’s series of free Nightly Opera Streams that features outstanding performances from the award-winning Live in HD series.
A great advantage for South Africans is that it is streamed nightly in the US, which means we can watch it daily until midnight!
You can watch it in subtitles and there as some fantastic backstage interviews after each viewing. Registration on the Met Opera site is free.
Saturday, 11 July, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece exemplifies the dramatic sweep, complex characterization, and insight into human nature that define great Russian literature and music. The story comes from Pushkin, and provides one of opera’s most compelling heroines: Tatiana, an intelligent but naïve adolescent girl who is first rejected by an older, more worldly man, then blossoms into an elegant, rich, aristocratic woman and returns the favor when the two meet again. The score is a chiaroscuro tour-de-force, sensitively capturing the many shades of the characters’ turbulent, conflicted emotions.
Deborah Warner’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s tragic romance, directed by Fiona Shaw, opened the Met’s 2013–14 season. Anna Netrebko stars as Tatiana, the young woman whose impulsive declaration of love is coolly rejected by Mariusz Kwiecien’s Onegin—with unexpected consequences years later. Piotr Beczała is Lenski, the friend-turned-rival Onegin kills in a duel. Oksana Volkova (Olga), Elena Zaremba (Madame Larina), and Alexei Tanovitski (Prince Gremin) co-star, with Russian maestro Valery Gergiev conducting. Synopsis
Sunday, 12 July, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly
Ever since it opened the 2006–07 season, Anthony Minghella’s striking production of Madama Butterfly has been a Met classic. Drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese theater, Minghella’s staging retells this heartbreaking tale with brilliant stagecraft, bold colors, and bunraku puppetry. Key to the staging are symbolic visuals that tap into traditional Japanese culture while honoring the searching, timeless beauty of Puccini’s mid-career masterpiece.
In this Live in HD performance from the fall of 2019, Chinese soprano Hui He stars as Cio-Cio-San, the young geisha who puts her trust in a visiting American naval officer, only to later be abandoned by him. In a feat of operatic heroics, tenor Bruce Sledge appears as the callous Pinkterton, stepping into the role on short notice to replace an ailing colleague. Pier Giorgio Morandi conducts one of opera’s most tragic masterpieces, leading a cast that also includes mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Cio-Cio-San’s loyal companion, Suzuki, and Tony Award–winning baritone Paulo Szot as the U.S. consul Sharpless. Synopsis
Monday, 13 July, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Inspired by Wagner’s own tortured affair with the wife of his patron, this searing masterwork is based on Arthurian legend and tells of an illicit romance between a Breton nobleman and the Irish princess betrothed to his uncle and king. The composer’s larger-than-life sensibilities are on full display throughout the score: Along with intoxicating orchestral music that surges in tandem with the couple’s burgeoning passion and a chord left symbolically unresolved until the last moments of the opera, the opera also features one of the repertory’s most soaring and ecstatic final climaxes, as Isolde surrenders to a love so powerful that she transcends life itself.
The utter timelessness of Wagner’s masterpiece is superbly captured in Dieter Dorn’s production, designed by Jürgen Rose. It strips away the usual visual ballast from the drama to reveal the searing emotional truth at its core. Under James Levine’s probing conducting the great Met orchestra is a central character in the story. Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen are Tristan and Isolde, overwhelmed by their all-consuming love for each other which defies society and the law. René Pape is a devastating King Marke, the man robbed of his wife by his best friend. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen and Katarina Dalayman complete the cast. Synopsis
Tuesday, 14 July, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut
When he set out to write a new opera based on the same irresistible heroine that inspired Massenet’s popular Manon, the young Puccini was undaunted by the risk of provoking comparisons. As he explained: “Why shouldn’t there be two operas about Manon? A woman like Manon can have more than one lover.” And in his take on the alluring young country girl who becomes the toast of Paris before suffering a swift fall and ignominious end, Puccini came through with a masterpiece equal to Massenet’s, trading the French composer’s urbane elegance for overwhelming emotionality. Starring Kristine Opolais, Roberto Alagna, Massimo Cavalletti, and Brindley Sherratt, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From March 5, 2016.
Wednesday, 15 July, Verdi’s La Traviata
Few operatic figures are as beloved as Violetta, the dignified, selfless, and sickly heroine of Verdi’s classic tragedy. An elegant courtesan with a heart of gold, she chooses true love over the amusements and riches of her glamorous Parisian life, then sacrifices everything for the sake of a young woman she’s never even met. All of this—the glitter of her earlier wealth, the heat of her passion with the ardent young Alfredo, the pain of their separation, and her tragic end—lands with devastating weight thanks to Verdi, whose score stands as one of music’s greatest depictions of love and loss. Starring Ileana Cotrubaș, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. Transmitted live on March 28, 1981.
Thursday, 16 July, Puccini’s Turandot
An ancient Chinese princess presents each new suitor with a series of riddles; success will win her hand, but failure costs his head. One brave warrior prince rises to the challenge, determined to thaw Turandot’s frozen heart. Puccini raises the temperature to boiling by lavishing the legendary tale with some of his finest and most spectacular music—not to mention “Nessun dorma,” one of the catalogue’s most beloved arias. Combined with Franco Zeffirelli’s breathtakingly opulent production, it makes for one of opera’s grandest experiences. Starring Maria Guleghina, Marina Poplavskaya, Marcello Giordani, and Samuel Ramey, conducted by Andris Nelsons. From November 7, 2009.
Friday, 17 July, Berg’s Wozzeck
A brutal yet captivating piece of music and theater, Wozzeck is based on Georg Büchner’s groundbreaking play Woyzeck, a searing, shockingly modern drama that was written in the 1830s but first saw the stage some 80 years later as the First World War inexorably approached. It is the harrowing tale of a hapless soldier driven by humiliation and jealousy to murder his lover, and Berg only amplifies the suffering and horror with his brilliantly thorny, overwhelmingly powerful score—the ultimate musical depiction of a mind’s descent into madness. Starring Elza van den Heever, Tamara Mumford, Christopher Ventris, Gerhard Siegel, Andrew Staples, Peter Mattei, and Christian Van Horn, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From January 11, 2020.
Saturday, 17 July, Rossini’s La Cenerentola
A timeless tale told in a florid bel canto style, Rossini’s take on the Cinderella story offers an ideal propellant for a virtuosic mezzo-soprano to rocket from rags to riches. But in this retelling, the supporting characters soar just as high: Cinderella’s Prince, her stepfather, and the Prince’s valet are given memorable arias, and the composer rounds out his score with ingenious ensemble flourishes. A vivacious masterpiece, La Cenerentola brings stock fairy tale characters to dazzling life. Starring Elina Garanča, Lawrence Brownlee, Simone Alberghini, and John Relyea, conducted by Maurizio Benini. From May 9, 2009.
Sunday, 18 July, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro
This immortal opera, based on a scandalous Beaumarchais play banned in the composer’s own time, delivers a parade of brilliant and memorable numbers, and is at once a riotous comedy of class and sexual politics and an incisive, still-relevant social commentary. Constructed around an upstairs-downstairs narrative, it makes ingenious dramatic use of tangled love interests, interwoven deceptions, and slapstick farce, marshals a large ensemble cast of distinctive characters, and wraps it all in Mozart’s sublime music. Starring Amanda Majeski, Marlis Petersen, Isabel Leonard, Peter Mattei, and Ildar Abdrazakov, conducted by James Levine. From October 18, 2014.
Monday, 20 July, Puccini’s La Bohème
As classic as opera gets: the most-performed work in Met history, in Franco Zeffirelli’s beloved staging (the most-performed production in Met history), documented in a 1982 telecast that stars four Met legends: Teresa Stratas, José Carreras, Renata Scotto, and James Morris. An archetypal tragedy filled with gorgeous and deeply affecting music, Puccini’s timeless tale of love, camaraderie, jealousy, and loss in the garrets and cafés of bohemian Paris has reliably enchanted audiences and left them in tears since its 1896 premiere. Starring Teresa Stratas, Renata Scotto, José Carreras, Richard Stilwell, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From January 16, 1982.
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