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Albert Herring‚ Opera North
Financial Times (May 2013)


'Each character comes alive without exaggeration or caricature. The veteran Josephine Barstow is the suitably regal Lady Billows'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
Guardian (May 2013)


'...there is the visceral thrill of such uncommon proximity to Josephine Barstow‚ whose censorious Lady Billows could best be described as the parish version of her landmark performance in Opera North’s production of Gloriana – the virgin queen reincarnated in twinset and pearls'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
Opera Britannia.com (May 2013)


'In fact‚ I doubt whether the blending of voices and matching of vocal and physical characteristics in this handpicked cast could have possibly been bettered. The sole survivor from Opera North’s 2002 production is the inimitable Dame Josephine Barstow as Lady Billows...The role of Lady B is a big sing with a high tessitura up to top As and B flats (lots of them). And sing Dame Josephine emphatically does - with incredible agility and colouring of words; her unmistakeable voice is in wondrous form‚ long may she continue...I loved the expression on Barstow’s face and the sheer sense of revulsion with which she infused the words "Sodom and Gomorrah" to describe the state of moral turpitude into which her beloved village of Loxford had descended - alone worth the price of a ticket!'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
The Arts Desk.com (May 2013)


'...the audience get close to the great Dame Josephine Barstow‚ who as Lady Billows will be a draw for many. She’s still marvellous – you fear early on that her larger-than-life theatrics will cast a shadow over a hard-working supporting cast‚ but she wisely keeps things just enough in check...you can’t imagine this piece being better performed'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
The Times (May 2013)


'...if Havergal’s show lacks visual splendour it has buckets of energy and zestful acting. No surprise there‚ with the stage full of characterful veterans: Josephine Barstow’s despairing Lady Billows‚ detecting moral decay all around...'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
The York Press (May 2013)


'...with Josephine Barstow as Lady Billows‚ the grande dame of Loxford village‚ there is always the danger that the rest of the cast will be acted off the stage. But this lively and engrossing new production by Giles Havergal is cast from strength...Barstow is the epitome of an ensemble player...Kept exactly in the Edwardian period Britten intended‚ this comes very close to being the Albert Herring of one’s dreams‚ its teamwork exemplary. It should not be missed'

Albert Herring‚ Opera North
Yorkshire Evening Post (May 2013)


'The cast overall is the finest we have seen in UK productions over the past thirty years...Josephine Barstow presenting a formidable Lady Billows'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Independent on Sunday (November 2011)


'...a great singing actress...Rarely does the Countess dominate Tchaikovsky’s opera so decisively. Less the addled former beauty than a great seductress in bitter revolt at the ignominy of decay‚ there’s a touch of cabaret in Barstow’s singing. The air from Grétry’s Richard Coeur-de-Lion is delivered pianississimo. Every glance is steeped in ennui‚ every sip of champagne an expression of contempt towards the gauche boobies that surround her. The orchestra‚ under Richard Farnes‚ which starts with a great sigh of anguish‚ ignites when she is centre-stage'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Opera Britannia.com (November 2011)


'Josephine Barstow’s performance as the ‘Queen of Spades’ had a dramatic intensity and vividness which by far outshone the rest of the cast. Whether scowling at her servants‚ scolding them for their prattling‚ or vamping it up as the Countess’ ghost in Act III‚ Barstow drew the eye and the ear time and again...Stealing the limelight at every turn‚ Barstow snapped and scowled convincingly‚ her utter disdain for everything and everyone around her palpable. Much of her delivery was parlando‚ her voice brittle and uneven. Yet she was utterly mesmeric in her portrayal. In Act II‚ when she sings a Grétry aria (from Richard Coeur-de-lion)‚ Barstow scales down her voice to a spellbinding pianissimo which gripped the audience into silence'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Opera Britannia.com (November 2011)


'The Countess‚ played by Dame Josephine Barstow‚ was brilliantly portrayed. For Downton Abbey fans think an imperious Maggie Smith. In Act II scene 2 she is confronted by Herman in her bedroom as he seeks the secret of the three cards. It was unsettling and unnerving as the two characters were so haunted‚ the Countess by her past and Herman by his obsessions'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Seen & Heard International (November 2011)


'...the sheer charisma of Dame Josephine Barstow as the Countess... When Barstow’s Countess was on stage‚ as a live and kicking drinking madam or‚ most significantly‚ as she died of shock at Harman’s intrusion to her bedroom‚ and then‚ magnificently‚ as she returned as a ghost‚ she dominated proceedings'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North - Barbican
Classical Source.com (November 2011)


'Barstow sang her Grétry aria‚ ‘Je crains de lui parler la nuit’ (borrowed by Tchaikovsky from the opera Richard Coeur-de-lion) with esurient flamboyance and then luxuriated in the barely-audible reprise. The scenery may have been raw MDF but that didn’t stop Barstow from chewing it up'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North - Barbican
Express (November 2011)


'It is left to Dame Josephine barstow to steal the evening witha bravura display of anguished arrogance as the Countess'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North - Barbican
Seen & Heard International (November 2011)


'...the sheer charisma of Dame Josephine Barstow as the Countess and the dramatic balance was adrift somewhat. When Barstow’s Countess was on stage‚ as a live and kicking drinking madam or‚ most significantly‚ as she died of shock at Harman’s intrusion to her bedroom‚ and then‚ magnificently‚ as she returned as a ghost‚ lacking in requisite spookiness though that scene was‚ she dominated proceedings'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North - Barbican
The Arts Desk.com (November 2011)


'Dame Josephine Barstow’s Countess‚ the possessor of the three cards‚ was a radically rethought interpretation which pulled the tussle between age and beauty into thrilling focus'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Financial Times (October 2011)


'Sometimes a single performer can turn an otherwise unexceptional evening into a memorable one. Such is the case with Josephine Barstow in Opera North’s staging of The Queen of Spades. Tchaikovsky’s opera has had a good run in the UK these past two decades‚ but no recent interpreter of the Countess has explored this pivotal role to such rich effect. Now in her seventies‚ Barstow seems a throwback to a different century in her outsize performance of the decrepit old aristocrat. What distinguished her was her acting‚ her stage presence‚ her use of words to add depth to a role – qualities she now focuses on a character that‚ in her hands‚ spans age and agelessness‚ vanity and vulnerability‚ the domineering and the revolting. With an array of wigs that make her glamorous one moment‚ geriatric the next‚ she draws the audience into the Act Two bedroom scene with a blend of half-voices and whispers – telling us that Barstow‚ like the Countess‚ is as keen as ever to stay in the game'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Guardian (October 2011)


'Barstow‚ famous for her Elizabeth I in Gloriana‚ showed she can still dominate a stage. Her imperious "Stop that prattling"‚ directed at her gossiping womenfolk‚ made the entire audience bristle to attention'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Independent (October 2011)


'And then there was Dame Josephine Barstow as the aged Countess. She has lost none of her stage magnetism. She veered between sentimental recollections and imperious irritability‚ and in the bedroom scene her quiet singing was utterly magical. This scene‚ in which Herman tries to extract from her the secret of her winning three cards‚ is one of the great scenes in all opera‚ and it did not disappoint.'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Opera Britannia.com (October 2011)


'The Countess‚ played by Dame Josephine Barstow‚ was brilliantly portrayed'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Stage (October 2011)


'...a standout. Dame Josephine Barstow’s Countess seizes every opportunity in sight. Instead of the usual vision of a helpless old lady‚ Barstow presents a figure still holding onto her glamour - svelte and alluring‚ she judges every gesture with immaculate artistry'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
Telegraph (October 2011)


'What dominates the concept is Josephine Barstow’s strikingly powerful incarnation of the Countess. Now over 70‚ but still with voice and figure intact‚ Barstow presents the character as a glamorous‚ tempestuous diva‚ more Gloria Swanson than Edith Evans and still craving the drug of male admiration. In the final scene‚ she appears as a ghostly platinum blonde vamp and makes it clear that she regards Herman not so much as her murderer as her sexual conquest'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
The Arts Desk.com (October 2011)


'Best of all is Dame Josephine Barstow’s turn as the countess. She’s still effortlessly charismatic‚ her voice largely intact as she enters her eighth decade. Even when she’s tucked away at the side of Act II’s crowded ballroom scene‚ you can’t help staring at her. And to see her near the end of the same act minus wig and ball gown is a chilling moment. The voice dies down to a whisper‚ and the audience is silent'

The Queen of Spades‚ Opera North
The Stage (October 2011)


'This leaves the show in the hands of the secondary roles‚ one of them a standout. Dame Josephine Barstow’s Countess seizes every opportunity in sight. Instead of the usual vision of a helpless old lady‚ Barstow presents a figure still holding onto her glamour - svelte and alluring‚ she judges every gesture with immaculate artistry.'

Cavalleria rusticana‚ Gran Teatre del Liceu‚ Barcelona
El Pais (April 2011)


'A muy buen nivel todos los personajes secundarios‚ incluida Dame Josephine Barstow‚ que‚ a sus 70 años cumplidos‚ le dio más prestancia y carácter que voz a su personaje de Mamma Lucia'

The Carmelites‚ English National Opera
Music OMH (October 2005)


'The equally marvelous Josephine Barstow returns to the part of Mother Marie of the Incarnation‚ the assistant Prioress...her character really shows its complexity‚ and she is still a marvel to watch on stage.'

The Carmelites‚ English national Opera
Stage Online (October 2005)


'Dame Josephine Barstow once again graces the London stage with her flawless portrayal of Mother Marie'

The Carmelites‚ English National Opera
Telegraph (October 2005)


'There were vivid performances from...Josephine Barstow as a potent Mere Marie.'

Janácek‚ Chandos
International Record Review (July 2004)


'Dame Josephine Barstows Kostelnicka is one of the finest recorded accounts of the role‚ in any language‚ and her sung English diction is generally a model of clarity as well. Her confession near the end of the opera is unforgettable‚ as is the spine-chilling malevolence with which she sings in the great closing scene of Act 2.'

Janácek‚ Chandos
Sunday Times (July 2004)


'She sounds in good form for a soprano approaching her 63rd birthday‚ deeply moving in her plea to Peter Wedds feckless Steva and terrifying in her emotional collapse at the close of Act II. Fans of the veteran soprano will be glad to have this performance preserved on disc.'

Janácek‚ Chandos
Telegraph (July 2004)


'Josephine Barstow is on refreshingly firm vocal ground in a classic interpretation of the Kostelnicka.'

Gloriana‚ Opera North
The Times (January 1997)


'Barstow returns to the role three years on with undimmed splendour. Whether flaunting her regality in the public court scenes‚ displaying her more womanly emotions in response to Essexs lute song‚ or attracting sympathy in the latter stages as the hunched‚ balding figure in her private chamber‚ she rivets the attention. This is a tour de force of theatricality- aided by Phyllida Lloyds immensely perceptive and resourceful staging- as much as of vocalisation‚ although Barstow is never less than magnificent in that department too. Commanding and precise‚ her tone and diction are as regal as her demeanour; even when stripped of her regalia‚ you know this is no ordinary woman whose chamber has been burst into. With Barstow at the centre it (the production) touches greatness.'