Dalrymple’s second piece in this month’s New English Review is this enjoyable and quite down-to-Earth review of a performance of La Traviata:
For some reason, which is, perhaps, not difficult to fathom, directors of operas these days feel the need to make their mark by innovative productions, for example by setting Così fan tutte on the Moon, or The Flying Dutchman on Lake Titicaca, or The Barber of Seville in Nazi Germany. But of course they particularly like settings in the present, preferably in rather down-at-heel or dispiriting environs, to remind us that the opera, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, is of the deepest (which means radical) contemporary political significance, and was intended as such. And their view of the present, to judge by the scenery and costumes, is a somewhat dismal one, for elegance or refinement of appearance or behaviour is rigorously excluded. In Victorian times, one was supposed not to frighten the horses; these days one mustn’t frighten the proles.