Thursday, 21 October 2010

At the Night Shift

Well, it's not often I leave home to go to a gig after dinner. My friend's band Silvermoths was playing at The Night Shift at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night. This was the "warm up" session at 9pm - where they played a few numbers including some of their compositions. The QEH was packed with a very engaged if chatty audience.

SilverMoth-IMG_4804
Then at 10pm, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with Rosemary Joshua played an hour of Carelli, Handel and Vivaldi. I was at first intrigued and subsequently enjoyed this format - a late start so you are not dashing from work and trying to chow down dinner in a hurry. Drinks are permitted throughout - so you can be nursing a pint of beer or swirling a glass of merlot while listenting to Corelli. The presenter (Alistair Appleton) added a relaxed atmosphere and provided a dialogue between the audience and the on stage performers. Of course, the OAE played the music wonderfully. After the concert, there was a DJ cueuing some tracks until the wee hours. All in all, it was an unsual yet strangely satisfying night out.


Friday, 15 October 2010

A dark Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Rigoletto at the Royal Opera

The latest revival of David McVicar's production of Rigoletto at the Royal Opera continued to be a fantastic grand opera. As I have commented on this here before I shall not repeat myself. What amazed me was that Dmitri Hvorostovsky sang the title role. He was, to me, for a long time the ideal Onegin - tall, relatively handsome, slightly wooden and a warm baritonal voice. To see him as Rigoletto just demonstrated how much he has developed - both vocally (a darker voice) and stage-craft (more movement and character). There was a real "twisted" tone in his voice for Rigoletto to be convincing. I would love to see him as Iago or Mephistopheles.




Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Faust at the ENO

By and large this production of Gounod Faust was very good. The stage set transferred well from the Metropolitan Opera to the London Coliseum. As expected, Des McAnuff's direction was very good - the scene transitions, the spatial dynamics of the characters and the movements. Toby Spence was great as Faust. Iain Paterson was a strong Mephistopheles - with enough presence and bounce in the character. The oitment in all this was that the chorus kept falling behind and nearly fell apart in the well known Soldiers' Chorus. Edward Gardner was very clear with his beat - so it's really up to the choristers to watch the baton!




Niobe, Regina di Tebe at the (not there) Royal Opera

It took me a few days to think about my reaction to Niobe, Regina di Tebe that I saw last Friday. During the performance, I was impressed by the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble led by Thomas Hengelbrock which filled the void vacated by the touring Royal Opera. The original instruments and techniques created a sound that was quite distinct from the usual band. Raimund Bauer's stage set and lighting design was harmless. There was a lot of hype about Jacek Laszczkowski (who sang Anfione). He sang all the high notes and there were some moving passages too. Whether it's the kind of voice I enjoy is another matter. Véronique Gens was a convincing and naturalistic Niobe.

But the issue was my inability / reluctance to get into operas of that period. Whilst I went with an open mind, I came out feeling I had spent 3.5 hours listening to stuff that didn't move me - it was similar to my experience of Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain - well produced and sung but one that didn't engage me. May be there was a lack of intimacy (I don't think operas of that period were meant for a 2,500 seat Royal Opera House, more like the Linbury Studio). May be Anfione needed to be sung by a castrato. May be ... we needed alcohol and canapes during the performance.