Turandot, Puccini, Royal Opera House, London

How ironic that the one Puccini opera left unfinished at his death should end (or so it was deemed by those responsible for the finishing touches) with what has become the greatest of his hits – “Nessun dorma”.

Humperdinck Hansel und Gretel, Royal Opera House, London

Poverty and hunger: it's not pretty.

<a href="http://edseckerson.livejournal.com/1707.html">Edward Seckerson: Self serving Self</a>

Will Self's pointless and oh, so tired swipe at the physical attributes of the main protagonists in the Royal Opera's sensational revival of Strauss' Elektra ("Heavyweights in the House" Evening Standard 25/11) was yet another instance of writer and editor spectacularly missing the point.

For You, Linbury Studio, London <br>Matilde di Shabran, Royal Opera House, London<br>I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Grand Theatre, Leeds

Michael Berkeley and Ian McEwan's new music drama is nasty, ghoulish and yet ineffectual

La Calisto, Royal Opera House, London

You don't have to be a classics scholar to work out what motivates the gods, mortals and mythological beasties of Cavalli's capricious romp. It's sex, of course. Or is it love? Or is it love masquerading as lust? Or vice versa? Confused? You will be. When the randy god Jove (Umberto Chiummo) takes the express lift to earth from his heavenly penthouse, he has his sights set on plucking the virginal nymph Calisto (Sally Matthews). But it's the disguise he chooses for the exercise that renders the goddess Diana not so much chaste as chased.

La Fanciulla del West, Royal Opera House, London

The original spaghetti western is back and cooked to perfection – al dente – by Antonio Pappano. This is the eighth revival of Piero Faggioni's rip-roaring production, and surely the most fabulously conducted yet. From its thumping CinemaScope-style opening – our first wide shot of Kenneth Adams's sensationally realistic settings – the sweep and swoon of Pappano's conducting is matched by his unerring ear for the opera's narrative detail. There are times – and this is one – when I think that Puccini's big-hearted homage to the Land of the Free is his most accomplished, resourceful and sonically beautiful orchestral score. It exudes the best kind of sentimentality, aching with nostalgia for the old West – and it took an Italian to write it.

Preview: Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House, London

Feisty soprano set to sparkle in Mozart classic

Ariadne Auf Naxos, Royal Opera House, London

It's still one of the most expensive scenic tricks the Royal Opera wheels out. In the opening moments of Christof Loy's staging of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, designer Herbert Murauer spirits us to the lobby of some glamorous art deco apartment building, but instead of taking the elevator to the lavish penthouse where our rich patron awaits, we all descend – or rather the entire set ascends – to reveal the dingy "backstage" below stairs.

Powder her Face, Royal Opera House: Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Powder Her Face has the dubious distinction of being the piece that brought fellatio to the operatic stage. The Duchess of Argyll's scandalous extra-marital tryst with "the headless man" – headless because the incriminating photograph was focused elsewhere – has added to the repertoire an aria that will never be lost in translation. It is the climax, so to speak, of a first act that long outstays its welcome and which makes one wonder what possible dramatic interest there can be in the saga of an idle, rich aristocrat growing old disgracefully.

Preview: Don Carlos, Royal Opera House, London

The stand-in takes over on centre stage

Album: Gluck, Alceste &ndash; Royal Opera House/Mackerras (Royal Opera House Heritage Series)

Recorded live in December 1981, when period instruments were still a novelty and Gluck's reputation as a dramatist had yet to be fully restored, this vintage performance of 'Alceste' has vitality and freshness.

Salome, Royal Opera House, London

There was a time when a body-double was used for Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils. Now it's a case of casting a soprano who has what it takes to remove that final veil. Or is it? In David McVicar's typically uncompromising new production, Nadja Michael's lissomly girlish Salome is wearing more at the end of her dance than at the start.

Preview: Orphee, Royal Opera House, London

Music that outsings the birds
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