As has been widely reported, London is currently the place to be for large-scale contemporary opera – with major platforms for works by Birtwistle, Benjamin, Adams, Glass and van der Aa, there has been a lot for London opera-goers to get their teeth into in recent months. The latest “smash” hit is the UK stage première of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest, at the moment enjoying a sell-out run in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre. This wacky, rather surreal take on Oscar Wilde’s famous play takes the original’s “studied triviality” and adds a score full of plate-smashings, megaphones, and a bass Lady Bracknell in a pin-stripe suit. Ninfea found “something marvellous” about its impertinence in this impressive realisation from director Ramin Gray, conductor Tim Murray and Britten Sinfonia.

The Importance of Being Earnest © ROH / Stephen Cummiskey
The Importance of Being Earnest
© ROH / Stephen Cummiskey

But there’s been plenty going on outside London too – another important UK stage première, in fact, took place in Cardiff. I caught Welsh National Opera’s performance of the late Jonathan Havey’s Wagner Dream a fortnight ago, and loved this mysterious, otherworldly meditiation on Wagner’s final hours. Thomas Adès’ 1995 opera Powder Her Face, meanwhile, may not be quite as contemporary, but it was new to Philadelphia last week, and Gale was impressed, though not uplifted, by this “shiny triumph”. And up the road in New York, Gotham Chamber Opera have been taking Daniel Catán’s La hija de Rappaccini to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a marvellous setting for this enchanting opera. The New York Philharmonic also gave an impressive (bleak, though) concert rendition of Luigi Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero.


Adrian Eroed © Monika Rittershaus
Adrian Eroed
© Monika Rittershaus
There have also been some fresh trawls through opera’s past, most notably a new look at Rossini’s neglected Maometto secondo at Garsington, an opera which David found deserving of a permanent repertoire spot. It’s been a very strong season for Garsington, in fact, with a must-see Entführung aus dem Serail, complete with Russian plutocrat, making an impression on Roger. It’s also been a good fortnight for Wagner: the Holland Festival’s Meistersinger with The Netherlands Opera proved hugely entertaining, and part three of Opera North’s one-a-year Ring cycle was enthralling at its Leeds performance. There’s been much more besides, from San Francisco to Berlin – catch up with all our opera reviews here.

It’s been a slightly more sporadic fortnight than usual in the concert hall, as orchestral seasons have been drawing to a close (the BBC Philharmonic and John Storgårds’ Sibelius cycle in Manchester has been an enjoyable exception). We have, though, heard two Mahler Chamber Orchestra concerts in Sydney, and the Philharmonia and Vladimir Ashkenazy in their visit to Birmingham. Soloist in that concert was the violinist James Ehnes, who has had a busy time of it: the previous day, Katy heard him in Oxford in a concert to accompany the Ashmolean Museum’s remarkable new Stradivarius exhibition. Ehnes played on a total of three different instruments by the master crafstman, whetting the appetite yet further for the exhibition itself. New York highlights included a fifth birthday concert for (Le) Poisson Rouge with Jennifer Koh, and a concert of recent works by Steve Reich at the Guggenheim.

Tamara Rojo and Matthew Golding © David Jensen
Tamara Rojo and Matthew Golding
© David Jensen
Elsewhere, Swan Lake in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall drew the crowds, but didn’t fully convince Hanna, despite ENB’s strong cast led by Tamara Rojo and Matthew Golding. Caitlin was likewise unconvinced by a bizarrely slow Petrushka from David Robertson and the RSO Wien (she loved the Steven Mackey piece, though). Not that there weren’t plenty of exceptionally good performances too – Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican and young pianist Karim Said at the Southbank Centre spring to mind – and with so many summer festivals ahead, there are bound to be more to come.