STEPHEN BARLOW - OPERA DIRECTOR

A selection of reviews from recent productions


Don Giovanni    Opera Holland Park

There’s narcissism and there’s narcissism and in his terrific new staging of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Opera Holland Park director Stephen Barlow leaves us in no doubt as to who’s the fairest of them all. Barlow has opted for a late Victorian setting to best reflect the class and privilege which is at the heart of this turbulent 24 hours. The reckless dash of the narrative is unremitting ... dramatically this Don Giovanni is all of a piece. Barlow has a conspicuous talent: international opera houses should be knocking at his door.
Edward Seckerson, The Independent


Stephen Barlow's new production of Don Giovanni is sexy, dangerous and funny – as well as being very creepy, long before the ingenious hauntings begin...you'll love the production, whether you've never heard of Don Giovanni, or know the piece backwards.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian


A smart and sexy success…Stephen Barlow’s staging aims for darker, subtler notes. What makes this updating work is its authentic portrait of a society raddled by hypocrisy and repression…Barlow’s high concept damnation scene rams home the Don’s own status as the sacrificial victim of others’ smugness – and proves that one of the oldest theatrical tricks in the book is still one of the most spine-chilling.
Neil Fisher, The Times

Don Giovanni as Dorian Gray. It’s an idea which has such a snap of conceptual rightness that it almost takes your breath away and - thanks to clever director Stephen Barlow - here it’s worked out with devilish attention to detail. And the ending, after several witty directorial red-herrings, shows Giovanni’s descent into hell with electrifying force.
Warwick Thompson, Metro


Stephen Barlow’s thoughtful production makes sense of the Don’s excesses by placing him in Victorian England. Barlow depicts a prurient society where sexual repression is so powerful that once passions do break the surface they erupt with ferocity and ruthlessness...(the) psychologically thrilling encounter with the Stone Guest  crowns a particularly rich visual interpretation of Mozart’s opera. As with Holland Park’s Hansel and Gretel a year ago, it is Stephen Barlow’s inspired direction that will linger longest in the memory.
Mark Valencia, What's On Stage


Tosca    Opera Holland Park

This is the most brilliantly original production of Tosca to be seen in this country for decades...Barlow probes the dynamics of desire and power with lethal precision.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian


Faultlessly choreographed from the violent scuffle at the close of the "Te Deum" to the final, shocking image, Barlow's production is thoughtfully characterised and visually arresting...As compelling as the Opera North staging, bolder than both English National Opera's and the Royal Opera's, Holland Park's Tosca is a triumph.

Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday


Sensationally good…an invigoratingly fresh, frisson-filled Tosca…Stephen Barlow’s clever updating to 1968 shouldn’t work but it does thanks to Barlow’s unerring stagecraft
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times


With its Napoleonic story and historical Roman setting, how can you freshen up Tosca for a modern audience? How do you stage Tosca's final leap of death on a small stage? By a stroke of genius, that's how. In his thrilling and astonishing production, director Stephen Barlow has updated the story to 1968 and set it in front of the Roman church of Sant' Andrea della Valle.
Warwick Thompson, Metro


Stephen Barlow achieved the impossible with Tosca - he updated it to the 1960s and scored a triumph. This was an endlessly inventive production, witty and moving, and even the historical anomalies faded...... The detail was staggering, and witty and always apt.
Robert Thicknesse, Opera Now


Stephen Barlow's staging is wonderfully imaginative
Stephen Pettitt, Opera


One of the best productions Opera Holland Park has staged. This production shines a new light on a classic piece.
Michael Darvell, Classical Source


La Bohème     British Youth Opera

Stephen Barlow puts the Paris back in to La Bohème - that is, the Paris of 1963 and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, where breaking into song in the street seems not only permissible but very possibly compulsory. That allows Barlow the fairy dust of soaring beds and levitating cafe tables and an extra level of spice too. This Mimi is no shrinking violet: the light that's gone out in the stairwell is her cigarette, not her candle, and at the close of Act 1 she leads Rodolfo not to the Cafe Momus but straight into his bed. That's unexpected and revealing.
Neil Fisher, The Times


Director Stephen Barlow brought a touch of magic realism to La Bohème. This was a staging that celebrated the glorious fragility of first love. Designer Yannis Thavoris's delicate, exploded sketch of 1960s Paris saw silk flowers blossom and bedsteads and café tables float up into the air as Mimi and Rodolfo, and Musetta and Marcello fell in and out of love. The chorus direction was faultless, the lighting (David Howe) exquisite.
Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday


Hänsel und Gretel     Opera Holland Park

Packing the kids off to the woods for berries makes sense in Stephen Barlow's Second World War staging. Barlow's 1940s fantasy is the first to open with the wail of an all-clear siren and two little gas masks, and the first of the recent wave of Hänsel und Gretels to present this darkest of fairytales from a child's perspective…a very family-friendly show.
Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday


Stephen Barlow's wittily effective staging. A smashing show, Joana Seara's pint-sized Gretel and Catherine Hopper's strapping Hänsel are just the business.
Edward Seckerson, The Independent


Opera Holland Park's production of Hänsel und Gretel is stunning. In Stephen Barlow's excellent and charming production, the plot is seen through children's eyes. The dramatic portrayals are spot on. A dramatic and musical triumph.
Agnes Kory, Musical Criticism


Utter joy and pure fantasy…Opera Holland Park's production of Hänsel und Gretel makes an ideal addition to the repertoire of this company and is also a competitive addition to what has been a recent glut of productions in London. Superbly well acted.
Kevin Rogers, Classical Source



La Rondine      Metropolitan Opera & San Francisco Opera


Stephen Barlow, who has staged this production at the Royal Opera, has done excellent work with the Met’s cast and the chorus
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times


Nicolas Joel’s Art Deco production deftly staged by director Stephen Barlow
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle