ENO launches new season with guilty pleasures

  • Opera & Dance
ENO launches new season with guilty pleasures


Fri, 02/10/2015 - 10:25


The Barber of Seville, Andrew Shore, Eleazar Rodriguez (c) Mike Hoban
The Barber of Seville, Andrew Shore, Eleazar Rodriguez (c) Mike Hoban
01 October, 2015

THE English National Opera has come up trumps with the first two offering of its new season. 

A new production of Shostakovich’s dramatic Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is a real corker, musically quite sensational. Secondly, a revival of Jonathon Miller’s nigh-on perfect production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is just pure joy.

Famously, the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was denounced by Stalin two years after its 1934 premiere. That was mainly due to Stalin’s dislike of the composer’s brilliant display of musical pyrotechnics, veering from delicate woodwind passages to huge orchestral ensembles.

It’s precisely those musical pyrotechnics that are finely delivered by new ENO musical director Mark Wrigglesworth, an old Shostakovich hand.

American soprano Patricia Racette is tremendous as Katerina Lvovno. She earns the sobriquet “Lady Macbeth” for getting the guilts after wrong-doings mostly caused by her voracious sexual appetite.

She poisons her father-in-law, strangles her husband and finally kills her lover in flagrante with a younger rival. Thankfully, scenes of gang rape and violent love-mak­ing are tastefully handled, leaving the imagina­tion to be fired by the music.

Oddly, Stalin was supposed to enjoy violent sexual goings-on among the bourgeoisie – and Shostakovich beefed up that aspect to gain official approval. So it really was surprising Stalin took such a dislike to the opera.

Jonathan Miller’s much-loved staging of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville returns for its 12th revival since its first 1986 performance.

It remains fresh as a daisy, bubblingly effer­vescent, driven for­ward by Andrew Shore’s wonderful Dr Bartolo.

Time and again, though, you get the feeling Miller must have communed with Rossini to have come up with such a perfect night of musical happiness.

• Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Octo­ber 2, 8, 10, 13, 17, 20

• The Barber of Seville, October 3, 9, 15, 19, 24, 30, November 5, 11. English National Opera, The Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2, 020 7845 9300, www.eno.org

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