Henson Keys

Henson Keys (AKA "actfive") is a Chicago-based actor and director who fell in love with opera while working for the Met Ticket Service in NYC in the early 80's. An Equity actor since 1974, he has performed in over 130 roles in New York and regional repertory including 46 productions of Shakespeare. From 1999-2015 he was Chair of Acting Programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, having previously led programs at Ohio University and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He also writes opera CD/DVD reviews for Opera News.


Between the dragon and his wrath Between the dragon and his wrath

Aribert Reimann’s 1978 opera Lear, based of course on Shakespeare’s titanic tragedy King Lear, is a major achievement in modern operatic scoring.

on May 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM
A monster, without being a myth A monster, without being a myth

Before this recording arrived in my mailbox, I: ( a) didn’t know there was an operatic version of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, one of my favorite plays; and (b) was unfamiliar with the works of composer Gerald Berry.  After several hearings, I’m still not convinced that there is an operatic version of Earnest.…

on April 01, 2015 at 7:30 AM
Magic “Flute” Magic “Flute”

A confession:  I have a real love/ hate relationship with Mozart’s Die Zauberflote.

on March 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM
Coming out Coming out

Christian Thielemann’s spirited, precise conducting and the superb, sumptuous playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden are the finest features of this strongly cast performance of Strauss’s Arabella.

on March 02, 2015 at 10:00 AM
Let’s make it regal Let’s make it regal

Having heard a bit of the opening night broadcast and read some decidedly mixed reviews, I was totally unprepared for the remarkable performance of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena that I attended on December 15 at Chicago Lyric Opera.

on December 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM
When I have sung my songs When I have sung my songs

Soprano Renée Fleming is certainly making the role of the Countess in Richard Strauss’s final opera Capriccio the focus of her late-career years.

on September 26, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Final chapter Final chapter

None of my previous Elektra experiences prepared me for this stunning, overwhelming performance from the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.

on September 05, 2014 at 9:37 PM
Fatal attraction Fatal attraction

Benjamin Britten’s final opera Death in Venice, based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, is given a lush and quite beautiful production from stage director Deborah Warner for the English National Opera.

on May 14, 2014 at 10:07 AM
A tsar is torn A tsar is torn

In Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, all the Russian people starve and suffer, but none has suffering like the mental agonies of Tsar Boris.

on May 04, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!

George Benjamin’s 2012 opera Written on Skin received great acclaim at its opening at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and the Royal Opera quickly mounted it in March 2013.

on April 25, 2014 at 8:30 AM
On the beach On the beach

The sea, the sky, the wind, the storms that are so frequently depicted in the music of Benjamin Britten are brilliantly illuminated in the new DVD of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach, a collaboration between Aldeburgh Music, film director Margaret Williams, and stage director Tim Albery.

on April 12, 2014 at 11:46 PM
Submerged Submerged

As part of the celebration of the three-year long restoration of the Theatre Royal de Liege (and, from what we can see in this DVD it is a glorious restoration indeed), the Opera Royal de Wallonie went all the way to find as Belgian an operatic experience as was possible.

on April 03, 2014 at 10:42 AM
Lake, placid Lake, placid

Having recently reviewed Glass’s The Perfect American on this site and participated in spirited discussions about the film Saving Mr. Banks, it is perhaps not surprising that Walt Disney should spring to my mind as I watched the Unitel Classica video of Die Zauberflote from the floating stage of the Bregenzer Festspiele.

on January 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM
When owls attack When owls attack

Philip Glass’s 25th opera The Perfect American was originally commissioned for New York City Opera during the aborted regime of Gerard Mortier.

on January 06, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Game theory Game theory

I first became aware of the work of Austrian film director Michael Haneke a few years back when I followed a tip from a friend and rented the well-reviewed The White Ribbon.

on January 01, 2014 at 3:51 PM
Lots of Gluck Lots of Gluck

De Nederlandse Opera’s remarkable 2011 feat of premiering productions of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide and Iphigénie en Tauride on the same day and virtually the same set has been issued on a 2-DVD set by Opus Arte.

on April 16, 2013 at 10:53 AM
The girl next door The girl next door

On first hearing, Paul Dukas’ 1907 opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue (Ariane and Bluebeard) sounds like the love child of a three-way between Wagner, Strauss, and Debussy.

on March 18, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Parting shot Parting shot

Somewhere around the early 80’s, stage directors realized that the odious theatre practice of “audience involvement” was over.

on February 01, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Isle, cry tomorrow Isle, cry tomorrow

I completely missed The Enchanted Island during the Met’s 2011-12 season, both in the house and in the HD presentation.  Even on Sirius, I had only heard snippets of the performance.

on January 05, 2013 at 1:34 PM
Bear in mind Bear in mind

Before there was a Stefan Herheim Boheme (which I reviewed a couple of weeks back for this site), there was a Herheim Eugene Onegin, recorded in June 2011 at De Nederlanse Opera.

on December 06, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Didon’t Didon’t

The theatrical expression “You can’t tell the players without a program” was never more apt than when applied to Opus Arte’s release of Cavalli’s La Didone.

on November 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The blood of a poet The blood of a poet

Death and its terrible aftermath hang like a pestilent fog over director Stefan Herheim’s fascinating and chilling production of Puccini’s La Bohème for Den Norske Opera.

on October 30, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Schoolboy crush Schoolboy crush

Handel’s 1711 opera Rinaldo was the first Italian opera ever written specifically for the London stage.

on October 07, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Six flags over Verona Six flags over Verona

Those of you who have longed to see a theme-park production of Gounod’s simple, romantic opera Romeo et Juliette, rejoice!

on August 28, 2012 at 8:20 AM
Page 3 of 512345