Clemency, Royal Opera House, London

Less is more: in James MacMillan's music, every note counts. And never more so than in Clemency, the Scottish composer's brand-new chamber opera, which packs questions powerful, emotional, philosophical and religious into just 45 minutes. With his regular librettist Michael Symmons Roberts and the director Katie Mitchell, MacMillan has created a terrifically intense, focused and inspired musical work on a thought-provoking parable, updated to the present day.

Guns, girls and God in a tale for our times

The Royal Opera's first staging of The Tsar's Bride invites chilling comparisons with today's Russia, says Jessica Duchen

The Magic Flute, Royal Opera House

After the epic inanities of Mike Figgis’s cinematic take on ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ at the Coliseum - whose only saving grace was a trio of superb voices - it was sweet relief to encounter David McVicar’s ‘Magic Flute’ at Covent Garden. McVicar may have his own way of going over the top, but in this classic production, now in its third revival, he doesn’t put a foot wrong.

David Lister: More tours are the answer – not a Manchester base

So the arts cuts have claimed their first victim. The Royal Opera House's grandiose plan to open a northern outpost in Manchester bites the dust. It goes to show that the cuts, worrying as they are, can also be an opportunity for sound common sense.

Verdi Rigoletto, Royal Opera House

The passing of La Stupenda, Dame Joan Sutherland, cast a long dark shadow over the evening and maybe it was that which gave this revival of Verdi’s Rigoletto (Gilda was one of many roles she famously sang at Covent Garden) an added frisson of commitment and excitement.

Bizet Les Pecheurs de Perles, Royal Opera House

The mis en scène of some operas really is best left to the imagination.

Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin, Bolshoi Opera/ Royal Opera House

Dmitri Tcherniakov’s revelatory staging of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin unfolds in rich Chekovian detail and with such an acute behavioural eye that at times one feels more of a participant than an observer.

La Boh&egrave;me, Royal Opera House, London<br/>Melvyn Tan, Wigmore Hall, London

This dusty, busty dowager is only propped up by tradition

La boheme, Royal Opera House, London

This was to have been Piotr Beczala's night – his chance to show off his vibrant top notes and ardent timbre as the romantic lead, Rodolfo, in Puccini's La bohème. But a severe cold, causing him to sound more fuzzy than focused and dulling the gleam of his upper register, forced him to withdraw after a couple of acts.

Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, Royal Opera House, London

John Schlesinger’s venerable 1984 staging of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier slips ever more ungraciously into the realms of regional pantomime.

Opera sheds new light on Tchaikovsky's gay lifestyle

Tchaikovsky is thought of as a gloomy fatalist, but a rarely staged humorous opera and a book about his gay lifestyle will make us think again

Arne Artaxerxes, Royal Opera in the Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Only in 18th century opera could a man/woman fitted up by his own father for a murder he did not commit be at one and the same time mourned and disowned by his father, sister, best friend, and lover.

The Truth About Love, Royal Opera House, London

Four talented Jette Parker Young Artists, three song cycles, one very familiar canvas – life, love, loss. The devisor and director of this somewhat overcooked confection, Jose Dario Innella, subtitled it “Dramatic ruminations over Schumann, Britten, and Ebel song cycles” and therein lay the problem: too much rumination. Directed to within an inch of its life, the title – The Truth About Love - is drawn from the most familiar of Britten’s Cabaret Songs whose stanzas are scattered like discarded one-liners throughout the evening.

Wagner Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House, London

After his starkly minimalist Lulu one might have anticipated that director Christof Loy would deliver a Tristan und Isolde of unforgiving austerity.

Don Carlo, Royal Opera House, London

The heat generated by this scorching revival of Verdi's Don Carlo had little to do with burning heretics or indeed any aspect of Nicholas Hytner's lucid if rather passive staging, but rather the conducting of Semyon Bychkov whose drive and patience ensured that both the urgency and weight of history defining this great score were magnificently served.

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