Bryn Terfel

  • Review

First Night of the Proms review

This year’s Proms opened with a rousing rendition of the Marseillaise from the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo: the day after the Nice atrocity, no gesture could have better underlined solidarity with our traumatised concitoyens. From that it was a graceful segue into Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture, with strings and woodwind in coruscating form. Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky cantata gave the combined choruses of the BBCSO and BBCNOW their head, with a refined intervention from Olga Borodina in the ‘Field of the Dead’ section; this Russian mezzo’s artistry allowed her to weave exquisite arabesques around the choral theme.

Observations: All hail Sir John Tomlinson, opera's king of bass

Help! – is there a bass-baritone in the house? When one of these rare beasts falls sick, as has just happened at Covent Garden, the search for a replacement becomes a nail-biter, particularly when the role is as demanding as that of King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. It just so happened that the perfect replacement was indeed in the house, just singing another role on other nights. Step forward Sir John Tomlinson, the Wotan of many critics' dreams – "magnificent", "towering", and "majestic" being the commonest epithets – and therefore the dream King Marke too. His magnificent etc performance as the Grand Inquisitor in Covent Garden's current Don Carlos will, from 29 September onwards, be complemented by this tormented royal victim.

Isles of light: Croatia's Dalmatian coast

Setting a course around Croatia's lesser-known islands, John Walsh makes a voyage of discovery – encountering beautiful surroundings, sheer luxury and overassertive locals

A rookie at the Ring cycle

Valery Gergiev's Mariinsky production of Wagner's epic at the Royal Opera House didn't excite all of the critics, but 'Ring' newcomer Ivan Fallon left the auditorium after 18 hours hooked on this classic

The Flying Dutchman, Royal Opera House, London

You knew from the palpable fizz of those open fifths in tremolando violins and the cut and thrust of the horns that conductor Marc Albrecht was very much at the helm of Wagner's Flying Dutchman and that he'd started exactly as he meant to go on. Add to that the flying Welshman, Bryn Terfel, weighing anchor in a performance of thrilling intensity more than matched on this occasion by a soprano, Anja Kampe, who simply knows no fear; throw in the Royal Opera Chorus on blistering form and a stage director, Tim Albery, for whom less is always more, and you have one of those rare evenings in the opera house that has you sitting so far forward in your seat that every muscle in your body is aching by close of play.