To La Monnaie this evening to see Luigi Cherubini’s Médée (1797). It is a very dark and powerful piece of theatre (from Euripedes’ original tragedy): Médée, a madly passionate lover, who in her blind pursuit of Jason has betrayed her people, committed fratricide and butchered her brother’s body, is thwarted by her former lover, who denies her access to their children as he tries to start a new life with Dircé. Médée poisons Dircé and descends, in her madness, to infanticide, ultimately destroying what she most loves. Under the skillful, passionate baton of Christophe Rousset on this occasion, the orchestra and choir are, as always at La Monnaie, of a very high standard. Cherubini’s enjoyable score has some wonderful passages and is cleverly constructed. Krzysztof Warlikowski’s mise en scène, though much-fêted, left us a little cold. We have grown tired of such ubiquitous gimmicks as cigarettes (signifying vulgarity?), sunglasses (inscrutability?), burning paper (burning bridges, murderous intent?), singers getting undressed down to their underwear and re-dressed (vulnerability, voyeurism, change?), and gratuitous vulgarity (Médée inappropriately seeking Créon’s groin) and were the echoes of Bladerunner in the red-and-black colours of Néris’s hair and the flickering neon lights deliberate? But what makes this production a must-see is Nadja Michael’s stupendous performance in the title role. Mutating from Amy Whitehouse through blond bombshell to madwoman crop (one part of the mise en scène that does work), she gives a truly electric performance. From her first, sinister appearance on stage to her defiantly lonely appearance at the bitter end she radiates sultry passion and dangerously pent-up energy, stalking around the stage like a coiled spring. And to her great acting she adds great singing. The other singers gave strong supporting performances – Vincent Le Texier’s Créon in particular radiated controlled power. But the evening was Michael’s. The role is famed for its difficulty but she has risen brilliantly to the challenge. Catch it if you can.