Reviews

UCOpera being a truly unique enterprise, in London’s Bloomsbury Theatre, receives impressive national press coverage and has become something of a highlight in the music media, including BBC Radio 3, Opera and Opera Now magazines. Included below are some reviews from past productions:

Libuše by Smetana (2019)

★ ★ ★
In Cecilia Stinton’s sensitive, well-choreographed production, the 8th-century palace of Vysehrad is reimagined as a corporate headquarters.Anna Picard, The Times
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UCOpera under their excellent music director Charles Peebles do a terrific job of producing rarely seen operas, one every year, and as usual the students formed a wonderful chorus and orchestra.Mark Ronan
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The musicians, however, handled [the score] with apparent ease and relish, and greatly deserved the rapturous applause with which they were met at the final curtain.Sophie Parker, Savage
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UCOpera is consistent in proving how impressive student theatre can be. Although the leads and conductor are professionals, Libuše was directed, produced, designed and choreographed by current students.Jennifer Osei-Mensah, Pi Media
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This was a flawed but capable and, certainly in vocal terms, distinguished rendering of an opera that is unlikely to receive further staging in the UK any time soon.Richard Whitehouse, Arcana
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There was something touching about a Czech composer celebrating his national myths (however preposterous) with such pride, and seeing the result performed with such warmth.Richard Bratby, Spectator
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Polyeucte by Gounod (2018)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A memorable evening of great ambition and the kind of gutsy, wholehearted fulfilment UCO produces year after yearRobert Thicknesse, Opera Now
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This was a gutsy performance of a surprisingly compact and pacey work.Yehuda Shapiro, Opera
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In this excellent staging by director Thomas Guthrie the extraneous theatrics are abandoned and human relationships come to the forefront.Mark Ronan
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Aroldo by Verdi (2017)

★ ★ ★
“This well-choreographed modern dress production of Verdi’s 1857 reworking of Stiffelio makes its neglect seem doubly strange” – Anna Picard, The Times
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★ ★ ★ ★
“The a cappella singing [...] demonstrated the talent of the chorus, then the drama kicked off, and there was no let up until the very last scene.” – Sarah Blake, Pi Media
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UC Opera does a fantastic job, year after year, under its music director Charles Peebles, who produced playing of compelling verve from the orchestraMark Ronan
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La Favorite by Donizetti (2016)

★ ★ ★
“A brave and pioneering organisation based at University College London with a remarkable track record for reviving the neglected and obscure” – Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
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★ ★ ★
“[The UCLU Symphony Orchestra and Chorus] was ably conducted by Charles Peebles, whose choice of tempi was invariably spot on and ensured that his singers were not overwhelmed.” – Dominic Lowe, Bachtrack
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Amadis de Gaule by J.C. Bach (2015)

This production’s simple, muted staging effectively evokedcontemporary urban dereliction and the sundry on-stage executions and abandoned corpses were a grim nod to images of current conflictsAndrew Pink
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The Snowmaiden by Rimsky-Korsakov (2014)

★ ★ ★ ★
“There is something rather heart-warming about hearing a chorus of largely untrained voices singing with such genuine enjoyment and the singers threw themselves into the choreography with abandon.” – Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack
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“The singing and movement of the student chorus, sometimes to music in unusual time signatures, was a joy, and they carried off this ancient tale… to great effect” – Mark Ronan
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I Lombardi by Verdi (2013)

★ ★ ★
“The explicit sex and violence promised in the pre-show hype came out rather tame (although I'm sure the members of the UCLU Pole Fitness Society enjoyed their moment in the limelight).” – David Karlin, Bachtrack
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Acante et Céphise by Rameau (2012)

The general reaction to Acante et Cephise has been overwhelmingly positive, which was apparent from the rapturous applause at the curtain call.Zehrah Heesan
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Charles Peebles in the orchestra pit produced fine music from the orchestra after a wobbly start in the overture, and he gave huge rhythmic bounce to the dance interludes.Mark Ronan
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The Three Pintos by Weber/Mahler (2011)

“Congratulations to UCL Opera and their music director Charles Peebles for putting it on.” – Mark Ronan
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Genoveva by Schumann (2010)

Its weak libretto has left it without a safe niche in the operatic repertoire, but the music is good and was well conducted here by Charles Peebles.Mark Ronan
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Macbeth by Ernest Bloch (2009)

“One cannot over-emphasize the quality of the whole enterprise; this was unquestionably a more exciting event than many costly opera revivals in the major opera houses” Serena Henwick, Musical Pointers

Fiesque by Edouard Lalo (2008)

★ ★ ★ ★
“Now University College Opera presents the opera's first UK production, revealing it as a work of some stature.” – The Guardian

“Emma Rivlin's production delivers both the crowd scenes and the personal confrontations with success, with the student chorus clearly enjoying the moments of insurrection. The two male leads - David Curry's Fiesque and Robert Davies's Verrina - provide exciting singing and a clear sense of engagement. Fiesque may not have much of a past but, on this showing, it has a future..” The Guardian

“Emma Rivlin’s staging makes the most of it, skilfully directing the excellent UCLU (University College London Union) chorus in their big crowd scenes.”  Camden New Journal

Camacho’s Wedding by Mendelssohn (2007)

“The entire company carries it off brilliantly, while conductor Charles Peebles gives it musical energy and precision from the pit.”  George Hall, The Stage

“There is unquestionably a need for a company such as this on London’s operatic scene; they continue to fly the flag for works which would not otherwise be performed, and are almost unique in offering these obscure works in staged performance rather than in concert.” Ruth Elleson, Opera Today

Whittington by Offenbach (2005)

“Best of all was the student chorus: Offenbach gives them plenty to do and their lusty response to the challenge gave the performance its fizz.” Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

“It has no music faculty but each year UCL puts together an opera (professional leads, amateur chorus and orchestra) whose ambition is repaid with a performance beyond spirited.” Robert Thicknesse, The Times

“They certainly relaunched this corker of a score with panache” George Hall, The Observer

Vanda by Dvořak (2004)

“All credit, then, to University College Opera for presenting the British premiere of Vanda, and making a huge success of it… The jewel in the University College Opera's crown is its student chorus" Andrew Clark, Financial Times

“The sheer energy and commitment of the UCO orchestra, robustly directed by Charles Peebles, and the valour of student cameos such as Josie Eccles’s witch Homena and Hal Brindley’s Herald well rewarded a packed house.” Hilary Finch, The Times

“It was Charles Peebles and the University College orchestra and large chorus which made this well-driven, virtually uncut UK premiere so memorable… This dedicated ensemble showed musicianship in abundance.” Rodney Bennett, Opera Now