99 problems but a pitch ain't one: opera's harshest critics

What critics said about some of world's best known operas

Macbeth / credit: Franco Lannino _Studio Camera

A look back at some of the mean things that were once said about our favourite operas

As the EIF prepares for a deluge of classic operas, we wonder how Verdi, Mozart, Puccini and Monteverdi were received by those nasty critics way back when.

Giuseppe Verdi

Opera: Macbeth
Year of debut:1847
What the critics said: 'The young Italian maestro is more deeply imbued than we could have imagined with the spirit of Shakespeare,' The Observer, 1847.
In his own words: 'This tragedy is one of the greatest creations of the human spirit … if we can't make something great out of it, let us at least try to do something out of the ordinary.'
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 18 & 19 Aug, 7.15pm, 20 Aug, 5pm, £20–£95.

Giacomo Puccini

What critics said about some of world's best known operas

credit: Pedro Arany
Opera: La bohème
Year of debut: 1896
What the critics said: 'After four or five performances I never wanted to hear Bohème again. In spite of its neatness, I became sickened by the cheapness and emptiness of the music,' Benjamin Britten, 1951.
In his own words: Puccini insisted that his success came from putting 'great sorrows in little souls'.
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 25, 27 Aug, 7.15pm, 26 Aug, 3pm, 8pm, £20–£95.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

What critics said about some of world's best known operas

credit: Müpa Budapest_Zsuzsanna Pető
Opera: Don Giovanni
Year of debut: 1787
What the critics said: 'Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like,' Prager Oberpostamtszeitung newspaper, 1787.
In his own words: 'Some of the notes fell under the desk, but the overture went capitally on the whole': opening night was slightly chaotic given that Mozart was still tweaking hours before the audience took their seats.
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 9, 11 & 12 Aug, 7pm, £20–£95.

Claudio Monteverdi

What critics said about some of world's best known operas

Opera: L'Orfeo / Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria / L'incoronazione di Poppea
Year of debut: 1607 / 1640 / 1642
What the critics said: 'Both poet and musician have depicted the inclinations of the heart so skilfully that it could not have been done better,' the Mantuan court theologian and poet Cherubino Ferrari on L'Orfeo, 1607.
In his own words: 'The end of all good music is to affect the soul.'
Usher Hall, Lothian Road, 14 & 15, 17 Aug, 7pm, £13–£47.

La bohème

Opera’s greatest, most heartbreaking love story. La bohème is a sumptuous, visually magnificent new production direct from the Teatro Regio, Turin – the opera house that gave the opera its very first staging, back in 1896. It is conducted by Music Director Gianandrea Noseda and directed by Àlex Ollé. Amid the towering…

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Fri 25 Aug

£20 / 0131 473 2000

Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Sat 26 Aug

£20 / 0131 473 2000

Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Sun 27 Aug

£20 / 0131 473 2000

Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Macbeth

A major new production of Verdi’s dark operatic thriller, given by the International Festival’s 2017 resident company Teatro Regio of Turin, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda and directed by Emma Dante. The opera was the very first to be performed at the inaugural International Festival in 1947. A coven of witches…

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Sat 19 Aug

£20 / 0131 473 2000

70th Anniversary Celebrations. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Sun 20 Aug

£20 / 0131 473 2000

70th Anniversary Celebrations. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Don Giovanni

Following his acclaimed reimagining of The Marriage of Figaro at the 2015 International Festival, pioneering Hungarian musician Iván Fischer both conducts and directs his daring personal vision of Mozart’s masterpiece. He presents the world of the opera as seen through the eyes of the Don – a dangerous, erotic place…

L'Orfeo

Period performance pioneer Sir John Eliot Gardiner is revered worldwide, not just for his searching scholarly insights into early music, but also for the astonishing intensity and freshness of his compelling performances. The sensuous music of Monteverdi has been a pillar of Gardiner’s music-making since the 1960s. He…

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