James M. Potter

writings on music, games, and culture

Month: May, 2015

Opera: Bizet’s Carmen, English National Opera, 28/05/15

Justina Gringyte leads a dramatic and lively staging of Bizet’s tune-fest

Playing Carmen in a modern production has to be one of opera’s harder gigs. You must not only be an agile mezzo, equal to Bizet’s seductive and twisty writing, but also convincingly irresistible to pretty much everyone, from Don José, as well as his fellow soldiers and commanding officer, to passing bullfighters. In addition, expect to be doing this whilst being groped lecherously by all and sundry. Read the rest of this entry »

Opera: Donizetti’s Poliuto, Glyndebourne Festival 21/05/15

Subtle it ain’t, but Donizetti’s martyrdom opera packs a punch

Initially banned for its depiction of the martyrdom of a saint, Poliuto has had to wait until the opening of Glyndebourne’s 2015 season for its UK première. Depicting the persecution of Christians in Armenia, it’s perhaps not entirely accidental that this new production falls on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide – but director Mariame Clément wisely avoids too specific a setting. It’s probably not the bel canto master’s most subtle score – each act starts slowly and builds to a forceful finale – but there are plenty of highlights, especially the concerted Act II finale. It helped that Enrique Mazzola in the pit consistently kept things interesting, leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a highly finessed and dynamic account. Read the rest of this entry »