What the critics say

Dove: Flight, March 2018

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Martin Duncan

‘Dove’s comic opera took off like a rocket and stayed airborne throughout, with excellent ensemble work from the young cast and some truly distinctive solo performances. The Royal Academy Sinfonia shone under the baton of Gareth Hancock, adding lustre and sheen to this bravura show, directed by Martin Duncan and designed by Francis O’Connor.’
Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

‘Ilona Revolskaya hit the stratospheric top notes of the Flight Controller with ease; Marvic Monreal and Hannah Poulsom were touching in their soliloquies of loneliness; and Nicholas Mogg and Michael Mofidian displayed promising baritone and bass voices. The Refugee, stateless and marooned at the airport, was given an otherworldly aura by Patrick Terry. Dove’s music achieves tremendous emotional uplift thanks to the unstinting vigour of the Royal Academy Sinfonia under conductor Gareth Hancock. The RAM’s new theatre has taken off in style.’
Richard Fairman, Financial Times

‘Happily, the first show in the new theatre is a corker…a fizzing, funny staging by Martin Duncan that admirably balances the serious dimension — the plight of the trapped refugee — with passages of perfectly choreographed farce in which a cast of twentysomethings prove surprisingly adept at portraying various midlife crises. … An ebullient way to inaugurate a fine new venue.’
Richard Morrison, The Times

‘Royal Academy Opera fields two casts in this run and on opening night there wasn’t a weak link. Russian soprano Revolskaya soared above the stave with pinpoint accuracy and fearsome attack…. Soprano-spotters, keep an eye out for Revolskaya… the sky’s the limit.’ 
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack.com

‘The lively young cast was uniformly excellent in the way they created Martin Duncan's vision… Diction was good so that the surtitles were hardly needed especially as the new theatre's acoustics are excellent. In the pit, Gareth Hancock drew an engaging performance from the Royal Academy Sinfonia, they clearly enjoyed Jonathan Dove's instrumental textures and managed to imbue their performance with a sense of engagement and vibrancy.'
Planet Hugill

‘Countertenor Patrick Terry’s aria as to why he is trapped cuts to the heart and the entire cast is of a high singing and acting standard.’
Clare Colvin, Sunday Express

‘…the small but brilliant student show that opened the new theatre at the Royal Academy of Music came like a beacon on a dark night. The voices, orchestra, design and total package were a joy Directed with panache by Martin Duncan, masterfully conducted by Gareth Hancock, and had such a fine student cast it’s unfair to single anybody out – though Nicholas Mogg, Marvic Monreal and Michael Mofidian all struck me as being en route to serious careers.’
Michael White, Classical Music Magazine

Mozart: Don Giovanni, November 2017

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Christopher Cowell

‘On opening night, every singer emerged with credit, as did the orchestra under Gareth Hancock’s tactful but energetic direction. At first, Nicholas Mogg’s cleanly sung Giovanni seems too nice, but as the opera progresses, a darker character emerges, becoming diabolical, almost demented. Michael Mofidian plays Leporello as a charming dolt, but it’s the women who come out on top: Ilona Revolskaya flirty and flighty as Zerlina, Emilie Cavallo’s Elvira something more complex than a hysterical dupe, Carrie-Ann Williams’s Anna a woman on the edge. This is a student production for which absolutely no allowances need to be made.'
Nick Kimberley, Evening Standard

Offenbach: Orphée aux Enfers, February 2017

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Martin Duncan

'Folies Bergère does Greek gods” is how director Martin Duncan describes Offenbach's Orphée aux enfers. Gareth Hancock's taut conducting drew an energetic orchestral performance, the score bursting with melodies that threaten to become earworms for weeks. Alys Roberts played the flighty Eurydice with bags of humour and plenty of agility in her top notes, even if her tone was occasionally breathy. Mikhail Shepelenko's Orpheus sang expressively during the performance of his “concerto”… William Blake's top notes felt a little dry, but he sang Aristaeus' shepherd song with sincerity... Down in Hades, Alex Otterburn impressed as the put-upon John Styx, a classy baritone with a lovely quality to his voice. Dominic Bowe's Jupiter, sporting a glittery, golden beard, was sung in a firm baritone and he flung himself into the plot's absurdities with abandon, as did Alexander Aldren's Mercury, swallowing consonants but relishing the choreography in his brief number. Up on Mount Olympus, Ilona Revolskaya was the pick of the goddesses, her rich soprano and excellent French making one wish Offenbach had given her a larger role.  The Chorus enters into the spirit of the show wonderfully, especially in the S&M-inspired orgy leading to the famous Infernal Galop... it's camper than a row of tents, but I haven't had as much fun at a show for ages.'
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack.com

Weill: Die Dreigroschenoper, at Shoreditch Townhall, June 2017

Conducted by Gareth Hancock, directed by Walter Sutcliffe

‘The highlight of the evening came from Carrie-Ann Williams as Lucy in the “Kampf um Das Eigentum”, a sort of pastiche Wagnerian recitative in the “Hell hath no fury” mould. Williams has a huge voice and gave it her all, making a minor number into a real thrill. As Jenny, Ilona Revolskaya gave us a beautiful rendering of the lyrical Salomon-Song, sweet-voiced and delicately phrased. … Nika Gorič made a fresh-voiced, very pretty Polly. Hannah Poulsom was the edgiest of the ladies, clearly relishing her role as Mrs Peachum. The leading men acted their roles and delivered their sarcastic lines with verve. The strongest was Robert Garland as Peachum, neatly morphing between playing it straight as the hypocritical preacher, doing song-and-dance routines as a sort of music-hall comedian and being the voice of the angry Brecht preaching to the audience. Mikhail Shepelenko was a suave, nonchalant, alarmingly appealing Macheath; Michael Mofidian blustered haplessly as Brown. The several supporting roles all contributed, and all the cast were helped by well thought out, garish costumes which gave proceedings a definite scent of German expressionism. Chorus numbers were excellently delivered… There was plenty of decent playing, with trumpets and brass particularly strong… the cast shone.’
David Karlin, Bachtrack.com

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!’

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’




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

Spectator - brio