What the critics say

Handel: Alcina at Hackney Round Chapel, October 2016

Conducted by Iain Ledingham, directed by Olivia Fuchs

Handel's Alcina - disco ball and singer with bowler hat

‘I can say without any hesitation, still less exaggeration, that this is the best staging and performance of a Handel opera I have seen… Clean lines, a consummate professional’s understanding of the voice and of vocal types, ample opportunities for display, with sometimes hair-raising coloratura: those qualities and more were all on offer from an exceptional cast.. Members of the chorus, whether individually or corporately, impressed greatly throughout. The orchestra, too, was on excellent form, certainly the finest I have heard in a Handel opera staging. Warm, stylish, never precious, it was conducted with deep understanding, lightly worn, of Handel’s protean demands by Iain Ledingham… Three cheers, then, once again to a Royal Academy Opera performance of the highest order.’

‘A wonderfully audacious production… From any point of view this is a highly commendable presentation from a talented group of musicians that would do London’s major opera houses proud.’

Reflecting on last night's @RoyalAcadMusic Alcina - three of the singers would not have disgraced Glyndebourne. Superb by any standards

‘The Royal Academy Opera seems to be in good form under the new leadership of Gareth Hancock… The general level was very high’
Brian Dickie blog

Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea at Shoreditch Town Hall, May 2016

Conducted by Jane Glover, directed by John Ramster

Cast for Poppea opera on stage

‘Emma Stannard’s Poppea very much knew where she was going, doing a number on panting Nero (Eve Daniell) from the off — egged on by Cupid, who along with fellow-deities observed the goings-on throughout. There was plenty to watch, from Nero's cross-dressing perv-up with Lucan, a couple of great rows between Seneca and Nero (and Seneca and Valletto), the antics of Drusilla (a very expert performance by Lorena Paz Nieto) and Arnalta (Helen Brackenbury: nice to hear the gorgeous lullaby properly sung)... This extremely slick show — brilliantly played by Jane Glover’s tiny band — moved fast, looked great in contemporary designs by Michelle Bradbury and Louis Carver, dramatically lit by Jake Wiltshire, and generated real frissons of dramatic power.’
Opera Now

‘As Nerone, Canadian Eve Daniell used her powerful soprano with skill, control and good judgement. Her voice is silkily rich, and as agile at the top as it is secure and full at the bottom… Emma Stannard was a veritable vixen as Poppea, viciously feline and ruthlessly egocentric. Her mezzo soprano is magnificently rich and full, and she knows how to control it… I was impressed by Claire Barnett-Jones’s Ottavia… Conducted by Jane Glover, in her last performance as the RA’s Director of Opera, members of the Academy’s Historical Performance department accompanied the cast, the instrumentalists moving stylishly and naturally through Monteverdi’s diverse forms and idioms… In his writings, Busenello praised Monteverdi as the man who brought music in general, and dramatic music in particular, to perfection — a musician whose art is immortal. Who, after this tremendous performance, would disagree?’
Opera Today

‘The symbolism, throughout the performance, was exceptionally high; a brutally effective exploration of power and tyranny. It certainly made the heavily-disclaimed Royal Opera’s Lucia seem prim in comparison. The cast were all of very high standard.’

‘It’s a lot to ask of young singers, and it was a treat to hear the singers of the Royal Academy at work, under conductor Jane Glover, Head of the Royal Academy Opera… Bravi, team!’

What they said: read our Storify summary

Rimsky-Korsakov: May Night at Ambika P3, March 2016

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Christopher Cowell

May Night

‘The first thing to note on opening night was the freshness of the chorus in Rimsky-Korsakov’s glittering treatments of Ukrainian folk songs. The second was the immense potential in mezzo-soprano Laura Zigmantaite’s feisty, brilliant Ganna, tenor Oliver Johnston’s lyrical, supple Levko, and Bozidar Smiljanic’s deftly sung and acted Headman. The third was the outstanding musicality of several orchestral players...’
The Times

‘The Royal Academy of Music staged Mayskaya noch’ (May Night), excellent in almost every respect, in the week before Boris opened, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world… The plot might strike modern audiences as silly, but Rimsky’s score is a gem, and the R.A.M. did it proud under the confident baton of its new music director, Gareth Hancock. There wasn’t a weak link among the singers, all of whom deserve to be singled out’
The Sunday Times

‘Act 3 really did cast a spell on the concrete cavern of Ambika P3. Not only is Rimsky-Korsakov in his magical element with a chorus of Rusalskas and arcane rituals, but its opening number, Levko’s gorgeous lullaby, here gave the tenor Oliver Johnston his big moment; he handled the entire high-lying role with flair, his sound both tightly focused and juicy. As his mezzo love interest, Ganna, Laura Zigmantaite combined treasurably firm, gleaming tone with a sense of girlish lyricism, and as his father, the pompous, bumbling Headman, Bozidar Smiljanic gave another of his fully realised performances... If these three characters form the core of the action, the supporting roles are richly characterized... Throughout the show the chorus was as impressive for its movement as for its singing... Gareth Hancock, who takes over from Jane Glover as Head of Opera later this year, took musical charge and sent the audience out into a dank March evening suitably bewitched.’
Opera magazine

‘The superb singing made the musical treasures gleam... The young cast were superb, producing performances which would have not been out of place, indeed would have been admired, on many a professional stage... Levko’s Act 3 romance — entirely without mawkishness — was heart-melting. His was a tremendous performance... The members of the Royal Academy Chorus were in strong voice, and maintained an impressive level of focus, acting persuasively... Under the baton of Gareth Hancock, who assumes the role of Director of Opera in July this year, the Royal Academy Sinfonia swept through the folk-coloured score with brio and style... I have no doubt that we will be hearing from many of these young singers again in the near future.’
Opera Today

‘...it was encouraging to sense a real ensemble at work in an organisation that inevitably has a regular through-put of individuals. Mikhail Shepelenko was a highly lyrical Levko, the Headman’s son, with an airy, fluid tenor timbre... Ganna, his eventual betrothed, was effectively portrayed by Emma Stannard, a mezzo with plenty of deep colour to her voice. Timothy Murphy, a splendid Bartolo in Figaro last time, reconfirmed his excellence in buffo roles with a vocally resourceful and characterful assumption of the Headman, a man whose authority and control of events seem under constant attack. Phil Wilcox had fun with the drunken peasant Kalenik and Claire Barnett-Jones likewise as the Headman’s put-upon, live-in ‘sister-in-law’ – excellent vocal control both, without letting the comic antics compromise the gusto of their singing. Both Martins Smaukstelis as the Distiller and Henry Neill as the Clerk despatched their roles with aplomb and Lorena Paz Nieto’s contribution as Pannochka, the water sprite saved from her witch step-mother by Levko, made for a heartfelt third act, where Rimsky’s music finally comes into its own with some of his most evocative, magical orchestration and harmonic chromaticism. The chorus, whether playing villagers or Rusalkas, was accomplished throughout, and the Royal Academy Sinfonia, under the incoming director of opera Gareth Hancock, brought professional elan to the composer’s ever-inventive orchestral writing’

‘This was a performance which you came out of with a smile on your face. Cowell's production and the enthusiasm of his young performers brought out the sheer teeming life and joy of this piece’
Planet Hugill

‘As ever, a Royal Academy production offers a showcase for young singers, and once again, they performed very well indeed... As so often, I was left in no doubt that we shall hear more from many of these excellent young artists. This was, of course, a wonderful opportunity for them, but equally for us’

What they all said: read our Storify summary

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro at Hackney Empire, October/November 2015

Conducted by Jane Glover, directed by Janet Suzman

Figaro at Hackney

‘Janet Suzman’s Marriage of Figaro for Royal Academy Opera is full of divine and sexy detail… unusual clarity in the ensembles… divine details from the student orchestra’
The Spectator

★★★★ – The Times

‘With Mozartian specialist Jane Glover conducting the excellent Royal Academy Sinfonia, the crisp staging and youthful singers generate excitement. In a double-cast production, Henry Neill’s Count Almaviva is superb as a cigar-smoking, brilliantined cad. Emily Garland’s Countess is beautifully realised, too, as she disconsolately puffs at a cigarillo while pondering where her marriage has gone wrong. Her exquisite singing of the aria Dove sono drew prolonged applause ★★★★’
Sunday Express

‘It says something of the quality of tutoring and mentoring at the Academy that such rounded, fully developed characterisations and vocal maturity are present in singers in their 20s… Suzman’s direction of character was always astute and detailed and was vividly projected by the young, talented cast. With the Royal Academy’s finest instrumentalists in the pit – some beautiful wind playing in particular – and the experience of one of our most esteemed Mozartians at the helm – Jane Glover, the Academy’s director of opera – the musical rewards, too, were both searching and serene’ ★★★★’

‘This was one of the best Figaros I have seen, certainly one of the best for quite some time. I really did not have a single cause for complaint... beg, borrow, or steal a ticket’

‘I missed the Royal Academy of Music’s recent Nozze di Figaro at Hackney Empire, directed by Janet Suzman and conducted by Jane Glover. “I could not have been happier had I just been at Glyndebourne on a good night,” a scourge of my acquaintance wrote to me, ticking me off for not being there. (This is a friend who, for the past half century, has had more nights at Glyndebourne, as well as New York, Vienna, Berlin, London and beyond, than anyone I know. He wasn’t speaking lightly.)’
Fiona Maddocks in The Observer

‘The bright young students there have one or two things to show supposedly older and wiser figures in the opera world’
Sean Rafferty on BBC Radio 3 In Tune

What they all said: read our Storify summary

Walton / Berkeley double bill, May 2015

William Walton: The Bear
Lennox Berkeley: A Dinner Engagement
Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Daisy Evans

Scene from A Dinner Engagement

‘Bozidar Smiljanic, a superb Nick Shadow in March, once again grabbed attention with his tonal and verbal immediacy… With the Academy Sinfonia encompassing moods from manic grotesquerie to budding romance, Gareth Hancock did not miss a trick in his handling of these two often mercurial soundtracks’
Opera, July 2015

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress, March 2015

Conducted by Jane Glover, directed by John Ramster

Read our Storify summary

‘a handsome and touching new production... the piece glowed with energy and intensity... a tremendous student endeavour’
The Observer

‘A good showcase for the students and an entertaining evening for the audience’

‘Royal Academy’s Rake’s Progress wins hands down in the war against idle pleasures’
The Spectator


Puccini Double Bill, November 2014

Conducted by Peter Robinson, directed by William Kerley















Read our Storify summary

‘Haobin Wang was one of the many delights in the Royal Academy of Music’s production of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.’

‘The Royal Academy of Music’s end-of-term opera can always be looked forward to because it never disappoints: the repertoire is enterprising, the musical performance is invariably on a high level, and the productions are almost always sane and unpretentious: qualities that can’t be relied upon in more prestigious houses. This term’s production(s) were no exception... I was swept away by the brio of this brilliant performance.’
The Spectator

‘What makes a good education for young opera singers? Gianni Schicchi, Puccini’s one-act comedy of false grief, first love, familial greed and a faked last will and testament, is all about ensemble work... You need discipline, energy and teamwork to make this piece fly, all of which was evident in William Kerley’s Royal Academy Opera production... The choreography is smart, the singing characterful and healthily produced. The cast is ideally balanced from Angharad Lyddon’s charismatic Zita to Alys Roberts’s cheeky Gherardina and the playing is exuberant under conductor Peter Robinson.’
The Times (subscription required)

‘There was much more fun to be had at the Royal Academy of Music last week when opera students romped through Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. This amusing tale of avarice and duplicity was made hilarious by a dream combination of William Kerley’s tight direction, Jason Southgate’s witty, primary-coloured design and oodles of eager young talent.’
The Observer

‘Done to this standard, Gianni Schicchi turns into a fabulous piece of operatic entertainment. Hats off to Royal Academy Opera.’

‘A standout performance by Laura Zigmantaite (Zita), but also plenty to enjoy besides’
Opera Now

‘The ensemble performance was terrific’
Opera magazine


Britten: The Rape of Lucretia, June 2014

Conducted by Steuart Bedford, directed by John Ramster

Read our Storify summary

‘A bewildering, fascinating work, The Rape of Lucretia shone with conviction and beauty in this spirited rendition by the Royal Academy of Music, where strong soloists, great design and superb orchestral playing gave us an evening to remember... the overall quality and conviction of this production was jaw-dropping... A veritable onslaught of talent: and a profoundly thought-provoking evening.’

‘These pages are often used to bemoan the loss of company spirit on London's opera scene. No such complaints would be justified from visitors to performances at the Royal Academy of Music over the past three terms. All the singers in this Rape of Lucretia had appeared in the double-cast Cendrillon staged there last November, so it was fascinating to witness these young performers in a vastly different aesthetic context – and to sense their evolution over the six months between the two productions... Taking charge of the score was no less a Britten luminary than Steuart Bedford, and the Royal Academy Sinfonia marvellously conjured up the piece’s atmosphere.’
Opera magazine

Handel: Ariodante, March 2014

Conducted by Jane Glover, directed by Paul Curran

Read our Storify summary

‘Anna Harvey’s performance here is remarkable: not just delivering great arias such as Dopo notte and Scherza infida with clarity, energy and feeling, but also catching the macho swagger and subsequent hopelessness of a guy who thinks he is being handed the world on a plate, then has it dashed from his hand. Just as impressive is Angharad Lyddon — brilliantly credible as the shiny-suited, duplicitous Polinesso. Rosalind Coad... attacks Ginevra’s coloratura with verve and precision, and Rhiannon Llewellyn gives a subtle, delightfully sung performance as the easily swayed Dalinda.’
The Times (subscription required)

‘A musically focused new production of Ariodante at the Royal Academy of Music hits the spot’
The Spectator

‘The cast was stunning. There was real maturity in these young voices, with strength and control and astonishing technique all round. They were helped by Jane Glover’s sensitive conducting, which whipped an initially uncertain orchestra into shape to give a stylish and genuine commentary on the action.’
Opera Now

‘With Jane Glover (the Academy's director of opera) in charge of the Academy Baroque Orchestra, this was a stylish, absorbing and ultimately joyful evening.’
Opera magazine

Massenet: Cendrillon, November 2013

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Christopher Cowell, designed by Bridget Kimak

‘The Royal Academy is sticking its neck out in mounting the opera (which follows Covent Garden’s star-spangled production in 2011). The gamble is worth it for the voices giving it their considerable all. Leading the first cast, Cathy-Di Zhang is beautifully affecting as Cinders, or Lucette as she is in this version. Zhang’s silvery tone is shiveringly transporting, her phrasing natural and graceful, and so is her musicality — here is a soprano unafraid to let you focus in as she scales back for a rapt pianissimo. I liked the gutsiness of many of the others, too.’
The Times: 4 stars (subscription required)

‘a staging superior in wit, invention and emotional impact to Lauren Pelly’s 2011 Covent Garden extravaganza... In her best moments as Lucette (Cendrillon), the soprano Cathy-Di Zhang, a presence of natural grace and reticence, combined pathos with singing of pearly beauty... the ensemble singing was remarkable for depth of sound, precision and vocal clarity... the orchestra sounding like a real theatre band’.
Opera magazine

Purcell / Maxwell Davies double bill May 2013

Dido and Aeneas: conducted by Iain Ledigham, directed by John Ramster
The Lighthouse: conducted by Lionel Friend, directed by John Ramster

‘Starkly contrasting tunes, taking their inspiration from traditional Scottish folk songs, showed the three men to their full vocal ability – and each was incredibly impressive in their own way. The ranges of the roles were simply unbelievable and all three shone in their chest and falsetto registers. Although not always beautiful, the singing was striking, at times unnerving, and completely compelling...if this was anything to go by, we will be seeing some of these young stars on the bigger stages very soon.’
Bachtrack (4 stars)

‘The performance of The Lighthouse this evening was the Royal Academy of Music Opera at its best. The small cast, of just three men, was remarkably accomplished in every department and made the most of this extremely disturbing but effective One Acter. So hats off to Iain Milne, Samuel Queen and Andri Björn Róbertsson, and the distinguished and authoritative Lionel Friend in the pit, for bringing this piece off so well.’
Brian Dickie blog

‘All three singers made an overwhelming impact, and when the 13-piece ensemble got into its considerable stride, the musicians and Lionel Friend did full justice to Maxwell Davies’s extraordinarily imagined, stream-of-consciousness score, now a 33-year-old classic.’
Classical Source

‘The performance of The Lighthouse was spectacularly good, at least a match for the recent English Touring Opera production, and arguably still more theatrically gripping... The knife-edge balance between fatalism and human agency on stage was replicated, indeed engendered, in the pit. Quite outstanding!’
Seen and Heard

‘...a masterly account of Peter Maxwell Davies‘s The Lighthouse... An exemplary account... The orchestra was magnificent... and so were the performances of the three characters... all gave performances that would have graced any production in the world. The music, a characteristic product of Davies’s middle years, mixes passionate lyricism and raucous nihilism to powerful effect, and once again I wish that the R.A.M.’s operatic efforts could be preserved on film.’
The Spectator

‘A headlong, mesmerising take on Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse, with Lionel Friend getting some astonishing sounds out of the band. This was all atmosphere, created equally by Jake Wiltshire's lighting. The jaunty violence and paranoia of the piece were really effectively brought to live in three totally confident, big performances by singers Iain Milne, Samuel Queen and Andri Björn Róbertsson. Here was real music theatre, wound as tight as a spring, full of terrifying musical and dramatic strength’
Opera Now

Ravel: L’enfant et les sortilèges, April 2013

Conducted by Stéphane Denève
At the Barbican Hall with BBC Symphony Orchestra; broadcast on BBC Radio 3

‘excellent live cast of students from the Royal Academy of Music’
The Times: 4 stars (subscription required)

‘...the choral singing was vibrant’
The Guardian: 4 stars

‘The cast of young singers drawn from the Royal Academy of Music rose to the occasion’
Financial Times

‘...more than just the icing on the cake was the collective and individual presence of students from the Royal Academy of Music for Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges... The uniformly fine soloists seemed to know Colette’s enchanting French text from the inside, led by Rozanna Madylus’s impetuous and touching Child. Better still, I wonder if Ravel’s choruses have ever been more glowingly and subtly served than by the ensemble from which the individual singers stepped out. The animals’ final fugal salute to a ‘good boy’ could only leave us drifting out of the hall speechless, hands pointing to hearts. Perfection.’
The Arts Desk: 5 stars

‘Four little fables and a cautionary tale made for a glowing Gallic evening, exquisitely delivered by what might be termed ‘pro-am’ forces. Not that the nineteen-strong clutch of the Royal Academy of Music’s finest could possibly be termed amateur except in the purest sense of the word, for they delivered the solo and chorus roles in L’Enfant et les sortilèges like the assured professionals most, perhaps all, of them are set to become... The singing offered unalloyed pleasure through a succession of idiomatic and beautifully judged contributions.’
Classical Source

‘A good number of my finest and enjoyable operatic experiences in London over the past few years have come courtesy of our conservatoires rather than our big houses. Royal Academy Opera seems to be on an especial high at the moment... There is absolutely no need for condescension when treating with these young singers... Anyway, the singers did Ravel proud. From such an extensive cast, it might seem hyperbole to say that there was not a weak link, but there really was not... It was a pleasure, moreover, to hear light, convincingly ‘French’ voices, with a fine command of language and idiom.’
Seen and Heard

‘...impressively precise in their diction (the guttural ‘r‘ was preferred) and touchingly intense in their communication. All 19 were students from the Royal Academy of Music. It seems invidious to name just a few, but the metaphorical spotlight inevitably fell on Rozanna Malylus as the Child, projecting a complex vocal colour that was not obviously gamine, and on Jennifer France, a fizzing Fire with a proper trill. Sonia Grane was a thistledown Princess, there were piquant haute-contre utterances from Ross Scanlon (Teapot) and Bradley Smith (Arithmetic), and shamed exasperation from Samuel Pantcheff as the Clock.’
Opera magazine

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, March 2013

Conducted by Jane Glover; directed by John Ramster; Adrian Linford, designer

‘At first, the Royal Academy of Music’s Eugene Onegin looked set to be solidly traditional, but John Ramster’s fluent production came up with a few eyebrow raisers... It was a treat to have singers of roughly the same age as Pushkin and Tchaikovsky’s quartet of lovers. Tereza Gevorgyan’s radiant Tatyana delivered a powerful sexual awakening in the letter scene, and the contrast with her sister Olga was sharply observed and charmingly sung by Fiona Mackay. Stephen Aviss was a heart-stopping Lensky, and he delivered a searing soliloquy. Ross Ramgobin’s attractive baritone suited Onegin’s insecure worldliness... Jane Glover conducted with a clear idea of the opera’s lyric, conversational flow, and the big dance scenes were superbly staged.’
Sunday Telegraph: 4 stars

‘...any fears that a nineteenth-century opera might be biting off more than the R.A.M. could chew were firmly banished... Jane Glover ably shaped the musical action throughout, displaying flexibility and not inconsiderable passion, without neglecting the needs of her young singers... Not least of the difficulties for the singers would have been the task of singing in Russian. (Thank goodness it was not translated!) They must all have been very well coached – Glover credited Ludmilla Andrew both for coaching and transliteration – since the results ranged from good to excellent...’
Seen and Heard International

‘These performances at the Royal Academy‘s Jack Lyons Theatre are close to my favourite way to see opera. You get world class conductors and directors, a high quality orchestra in an intimate performance space where you can see every face and hear every note. You also get to hear singing talent that you know is going to go places in future. Eugene Onegin is a wonderful opera, and this performance didn‘t disappoint.’

‘the three leads were strongly cast... Lensky was thrillingly sung and acted by Samuel Furness. His poetic effusiveness didn’t miss a trick in terms of a romantic self-absorption, and he was suitably heartbreaking in the soliloquy. He was also well matched by Gareth John’s Onegin, especially in their viscerally staged set-to at the party. John looked suitably Byronic, aristocratic and arrogant, and he used his rich baritone magnificently. Best of all, in an already considerable performance, was the skill with which he showed that façade crumbling in the Ball Scene... Glover conducted with an exemplary sense of pace and obvious sympathy with the score, and the smallish orchestra produced some rich playing.’
Opera magazine

‘This year’s best shows by far have been at the Royal Academy of Music, courtesy of a strong musical team and particularly the efforts of drama lecturer and regular director John Ramster, whose absence from bigger stages is scandalous. Ramster’s intelligent and sensitive Eugene Onegin was the best all-round production of this lovely piece anywhere in the country for years... Jane Glover’s shaping and pacing of the score was very impressive, and the once-upon-a-time poetry of the piece was heart-achingly well caught... Tereza Gevorgyan was a faun-like Tatyana, full of an impetuous urgency inspired by her books and romantic nature – sweet, unguarded, and blossoming into a facsimile of womanhood in her letter scene. It was a tremendously impressive performance, sung with purity, ardour and strength, and all about the frantic urgency of love at 16... One of the national companies should sign Ramster up to to re-create this production: so alert to the spirit of Tchaikovsky; so subtle and self-effacing. It will stick in the memory for a long time.’
Opera Now

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‘I was swept away by the brio of this brilliant performance’

Spectator - brio