of 95-fold against a more general inflation rate of some 20-fold. The Royal Opera can point out that, when booking opened nearly a year in advance, all four of this autumn’s cycles sold out within days, but it makes you think.
On a final happier note, my enjoyment of this Ring was much enhanced by The Ring of the Nibelung, translated and edited with an introduction by John Deathridge (Penguin Classics), an exceptionally handsome new edition of the text, Englished and explicated by one of our finest Wagner scholars. Look no further for a Christmas present, either to give or to ask for. geoffrey wheatcroft
The Merry Widow Opera North at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, September 29 Given that November 15 marks the 40th anniversary of the company’s first production— Samson et Dalila—this was as close as we were likely to come to a celebration. Believe it or not, Opera North’s revival of Giles Havergal’s 2010 Merry Widow staging— overseen by Havergal himself, which guaranteed it would be up to snuff—was being billed as part of the Armistice centenary commemoration, ‘Before War and After’, having being written (just) inside the two decades on either side of the War, in 1905. Cost-cutting measures had trimmed the invited principals down to five, though members of the chorus filled in lesser roles admirably. Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s paraphrase of Leon and Stein’s libretto, in which Havergal had a hand, still found room for a dig at bankers, to predictable guffaws. Though it was sung in English, there were distracting side-titles, hardly excused by the plot complications. These gripes aside, it was warmly entertaining.
Leslie Travers was not allowed much leeway in his set, which used painted-cloth chandeliers and mobile, sketchily-clad art-deco ladies holding circular lamps—rather in the pose of a football trophy—to conjure both embassy and nightclub. His costumes, however, were tastily ethnic, with embroidered waistcoats and boxy caps. Stuart Hopps’s ■ Máire Flavin as Hanna Glawari with assorted admirers in Opera North’s ‘The Merry Widow’
Opera, December 2018