Maskarade, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

It is difficult to see why Bregenz or Covent Garden thought that staging Maskarade would be a good wheeze. Neilsen may be a respected symphonist, but, as comic operas go, this is the anti-Ariadne. Its first hour is spent in anticipation of the titular masquerade, its second outside the theatre in which it is to happen, its third, somewhat belatedly, in the masquerade itself. The characters are commedia archetypes of young, old, noble, and servant-class lovers. The music is fleetingly pretty, with odd flashes of scoring more imaginative than the melodies to which they are applied. The libretto, meanwhile, has more cheesy rhymes than the Leicestershire Cheese and Limerick Society's bi-annual charity rhymathon.

In fairness to Pountney - who squeezed Douglas Bader and the Marquis de Sade into his tireless translation - and conductor Michael Schonwandt, a pig has never seen so lavish a poke. With designs by Johan Engels (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), and Wolfgang Göbbel (lighting), Maskarade is a spectacular. Ordinarily, I might balk at a ballet involving Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Madonna. As it was, I was glad of the diversion. Among the cast, Adrian Thompson is outstanding as Arv, while juvenile leads Gail Pearson (Pernille), Kyle Ketelsen (Henrik), Emma Bell (Leonora), and Michael Schade (Leander) sing their under-written roles more sweetly than they deserve to be sung.

To 13 October, 020 7304 4000