Thursday, 3 December 2015

Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci at the Royal Opera

I have sung bits of Cavalleria Rusticana before, but never seen it, nor Pagliacci. The set and the production was really clever, weaving these two operas in quite ingenious ways. Eva-Maria Westbroek was a larger than life Santuzza. Perhaps Alfio could benefit from a bigger voice. Aleksandrs Antonenko gave it all as Canio (in Pagliacci). The chorus was great. Needless to say, Pappano milked every musical moment.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Morgen und Abend at the Royal Opera

Superb patience on my part to have sat through Morgen und Abend - a contemplative and introspective work by Georg Friedrich Haas. I think if one was in the mood, then one would find the work poignant and insightful. I wasn't. So I got very little out of it. Sigh.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera

Cultural nourishment was what I craved, and I got plenty of it at Ariadne auf Naxos. 



Karita Mattila made a good Ariadne - her darker timbre worked most of the time. Jane Archibald was a flamboyant Zerbinetta - hitting all the high notes at the right places. Robert Dean Smith was an admirable Bacchus and he did beautifully along side Mattila. I thought Lothar Königs was a little unsteady at the beginning, but everything soon fell into place - especially the second half of the last act was superbly done.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Orphée et Eurydice at the Royal Opera

I thought the on stage English Baroque Soloists played superbly (even though their platform moved up and down throughout the performance). 



Juan Diego Flórez was on form, though I was not sure about Lucy Crowe as Eurydice - a little detached. Sir John Eliot Gardiner's reading and direction made the work come to life. Could someone explain the dancing to me please?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Mahler Symphony No 1, San Francisco Symphony

The Schoenberg 'Theme and Variations Op. 43b' opened this San Francisco Symphony concert under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). It was a very tonal Schoenberg with a rich tapestry of sound, though we detected a bit of stiffness in the orchestra - not sure why. This was followed by Henry Cowell 'Piano Concerto' - its Proms debut. Well, the soloist Jeremy Denk did a lot of thumping and elbowing to the Model D on stage - interesting to have heard it. Denk then played a short encore 'Piano Sonata No2, 3rd Mov.' by Charles Ives (contemporary of Cowell) with much subtlety and finesse - arguably the best piece in the first half of the concert.

Then it was Mahler Symphony No 1. MTT conducted without score and somehow the whole band was transformed. The mysteriousness of the opening movement, the slightly decadent dances in the middle movements, through to the visceral 'young' Mahlerian sound world of the last movement were all beautifully played. The brass section was fantastic - not a single split note from the horns. The star was MTT - he let the strings indulge a little with their portamenti, the brass to swagger, and the music suspend in the right places. Definitely one of the best live Mahler 1 performances I have ever heard.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Mahler Symphony No 6, Boston Symphony Orchestra

The concert started with Brett Dean 'Dramatis personae. An interesting work, with film music quality at the beginning, intrigues in the middle with splendid playing by Håkan Hardenberger on the trumpet, but the final movement was too populist for my liking (did we hear some Charles Ives?) A bit of stick waving from Andris Nelsons throughout.



Not so much frantic waving from Nelsons in the Mahler 6. The reading of the score was good, dynamics observed and the whole band played with accuracy. But the performance lacked emotional qualities and space. There was a certain detachment in the playing. It lacked intimacy. The tragedy just wasn't there.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Foulds and Messiaen at BBC Proms

Foulds Three Mantras was a thick wash of sound - a lot like a film score (think a marching Imperial Roman army). OK I Guess. Messiaen - Turangalila Symphony. That was epic. The orchestral colours still sound modern to our 21st century ears. Steven Osbourne's hands flew across the keyboard while Valérie Hartmann-Claverie conjured up some weird 'Doctor Who' sound from the ondes martenot. BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena did the complex score justice. Loved the last movement - oozing with joy.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

L’heure espagnole / L’enfant et les sortilèges at Glyndebourne

As expected, Danielle de Niese was great as Concepción in L'heure. she was wonderfully witty and playful. The whole cast worked really well together. L'enfant was very well put together. The outsized furniture added that fantasy quality to it. All the creatures were fun and added something to the story.
Robin Ticciati really did Ravel's score justice - and the LPO responded beautifully.



Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO



Robert Murray was probably a bit too mature as the 21-year old Frederic, Claudia Boyle made a fine Mabel. The male chorus was definitely tighter and punchier than the girly chorus which sounded a bit untidy. The delivery of words was passable in the spoken passages, but often inaudible when sung. David Parry's waving of the stick in the pit was ok - kept the gig together. Alison Chitty's design was a bit too village-hall for my liking.

A little G&S goes a long way. Don't think I will be rushing back to see another G&S at ENO soon.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

It was my first time seeing Donizetti's Poliuto - also UK's professional premier of the work.



Michael Fabiano, with his chesty tenor voice, made a convincingly torn (emotionally, religiously) Poliuto. Ana María Martínez's portrayal of Paolina was excellent. The voices of these two lead roles matched very well. The LPO played exceedingly well under the baton of Enrique Mazzola. The set, however, was a little disappointing. I guess the designer Julia Hansen didn't want to dwell too much on Armenian history. Still, everything felt a little static, devoid of historical and cultural references.

Monday, 8 June 2015

As You Like It, Globe Theatre

Not been to the Globe for a while. And not seen As You Like It for a long time. The performance was ok - most (not all) of the words were clear. I think the actors spoke too fast. In particular, "Seven Ages of Man" was a little lost through poor delivery. Also, bit of accent disparity occurred - one of the actors had a strong West Country accent which jarred with everyone else's.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonie de Paris

Usually one goes to a concert hall to hear a concert. But this time, I went to the new Philharmonie de Paris to hear the hall.


The first work was Bruch Violin Concerto (soloist was Renaud Capuçon, Paavo Järvi conducted Orchestre de Paris). The hall delivered Capuçon's playing with clarity and precision, but the orchestral sound was smothered in the too-generous acoustic. One couldn't really hear the interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. The encore solo pieces came across well.

The second work was Mahler 5. The percussion sound lacked punch and the brass was smothered in the opening movement.  The solo cello in the adagietto came across well. In general, the big moments were oddly underpowered and the subtle playing was lost in the acoustic.

Verdict? Disappointing. It is a brand new hall built in the 21st century and to have such poor acoustic quality is unforgiveable. I hope the management will adjust the sound panels and add other devices to make improvements - sooner rather than later. Another disappointing thing was the unfinished building work - scaffolding here, exposed beams there. Come on - get it sorted!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Król Roger, Royal Opera



The Polish barihunk Mariusz Kwiecień sang the title role on the first performance of Król Roger at the Royal Opera. Kwiecień's portrayal of Król Roger was subtle and involved (might have helped with him having a head cold as Kasper Holten came and told us after the interval). Pappano did full justice to Szymanowski's lush score.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Three Lions, St James Theatre



A sitcom of what happened when a royalty, a prime minister and a footballer got together to do something out of their comfort zone, with added 'distractions'. A funny evening with LOL moments. But don't expect anything profound.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Between Worlds, ENO



Definitely not your everyday opera. Tansy Davies's Between Worlds chronicled individual lives at the moment of 9/11 in New York. The music provided the momentum. The sung dialogues were apt, poignant and urgent. The bare-bone stage was creatively used to portray the events of the day. Between Worlds got across some of the intimate emotions the affected individuals experienced on the day.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, ENO



The best part of the show was Emma Thompson as Mrs Lovett - she could dance, she could sing and she delivered comedy. Bryn Terfel was a little dark as Sweeney, but somehow it suited him. The semi-staging was good - with the orchestra on stage meant one could hear so much more. Pretty good I thought.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Closer, Donmar Warehouse



A wonderful cast (Nancy Carroll, Oliver Chris, Rachel Redford and Rufus Sewell) delivering powerful lines. The character projection from Nancy Carroll and Rachel Redford was particularly strong. Took me a while to get the hang of the story line.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera



The house was decked with too many gimmicks. Otherwise it was an OK Mahagonny. Not convinced by Anne Sofie von Otter as Leocadia Begbick. The amplification of the dialogue was annoying to begin with, but got better. Glad to have seen it, but not rushing back any time soon.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO



A good performance of the Mastersingers. A slow start in the first act, but otherwise it was good. Not too convinced by the village fete judging of shoes and bread ... Big sound from everyone - just as well.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Der fliegende Holländer at Royal Opera

Egils Silins was a fantastic replacement for Bryn Terfel as Dutchman - he was a little more rugged, more pensive, more torn. And Adrianne Pieczonka was a superb Senta. The chorus was punchy - and I'd say the men won. Ed Lyon as Steersman added a little fizz on stage. But the real joy of the evening was Andris Nelsons in the pit - he got the orchestra to play slower, played the details, layered the sound and took risks to accommodate the drama happening on stage. Yes the ensemble rocked a little from time to time, but the price was well worth the high definition immersive experience.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Andrea Chénier at Royal Opera

A very grand opera indeed. David McVicar put much realism in this production of Andrea Chénier - all the details of a turbulent time in Paris. Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek were a perfect match - exquite voices with superb acting. And Pappano gave his very best in the pit. Let's hope we don't have to wait for another 30 years again.