Raw emotion: a world of slow-burn musical beauty

29 November 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse



Royal Opera House, London

Opera never got more operatic than this. And I don’t mean histrionic, tear-jerking, extravagant, melodramatic or full of dragons: those are just culinary add-ons. I mean the unmediated power of music, far from any regular kind of “theatre” – though it must be enacted on a stage – and with no concession to naturalism. And this being Italian early-nineteenth-century opera, music means the human voice at its most fabulously artificial, supported by an orchestra at pains to stay in the background. So you’d better find decent singers – and Covent Garden has rounded up the magical Joyce DiDonato and a pretty useful supporting cast.

The heroine is the Assyrian queen reputedly responsible for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as well as for killing her husband. After the murder, their son was spirited away and is presumed dead.

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