Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Amadeus at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre

Many of us have seen Peter Shaffer's Amadeus the film and got to know Salieri. But I guess few of us have seen the original staged version. So it was a delight to see this long awaited revival at National Theatre. Adam Gillen was an over-manic and energetic Amadeus - whether that amount of jumping up and down on stage was warranted was questionable. Lucian Msamati's rendition of Salieri was poised, pivoting from good to evil, compassionate to calculating - definitely the star of the show.



It was remarkable the production included players from South Bank Sinfonia - playing incidental and Mozart's music while moving around stage with the actors and sets. The professional singers treated the audience to arias such as Queen of the Night's Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen. It was altogether a creative and impactful performance.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Il trovatore at the Royal Opera

A revival of David Bösch’s new production for The Royal Opera. The entire cast was capable but there wasn't anything outstanding. Perhaps Gabor Bretz rendition of "Il balen del suo sorriso" was pretty good.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Les Contes d'Hoffmann, the Royal Opera

This 1980 production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann is surely becoming a classic in the Royal Opera's repertoire. Vittorio Grigòlo was amazing in the prologue as the delusional and drunken Hoffmann. And his transformation into the young impressionable lover throughout the three acts was every bit believable. Sonya Yoncheva's Antonia was probably the best of the three soprano roles (below).

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera

It was a delight to hear this early Puccini work. Sondra Radvanovsky's rendition of Manon was credible with conviction. Her dying scene in the last act was to die for. des Grieux (Aleksandrs Antonenko) as good too. Jonathan Kent's production was provocative as ever - especially in Act II with the audience gawking at Manon. As ever, Pappano's pacing of the work was crucial to bring the drama to life.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Nose, Royal Opera

The Nose. Was it an opera? A play? A drama with music? Not sure. It was a wierd story with a strange set. The best was when the cut-off noses doing can-can on stage. It was an entertaining work to see, I guess.



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Makropulos Case, San Francisco Opera

The Glyndebourne Festival Opera production was my benchmark of The Makropulos Case (that upside down piano marking time). This production at San Francisco Opera was certainly very well produced. The messy library and the real time clock made the production timeless. Nadja Michael as Emilia Marty was very good - her deep / mark mezzo done suggested her age (of 337) while the ring at the top added flamboyance. The rest of the male cast was adequate - considering Leoš Janáček was never kind to tenors.



The string section of the orchestra was struggling with both rhythm and pitch - all sounded a little scratchy for my liking. Mikhail Tatarnikov held it all together in the pit.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Così fan tutte at Royal Opera





Semyon Bychkov did an amazing job to giving the score flow, nuance and direction. The cast was mostly able to keep up - though not always: the ensemble fell apart once or twice. The set design (Ben Baur) was a little trying - is the drama really an act, stage within a stage? I wasn't convinced. None of the cast was outstanding in anyway.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Norma at Royal Opera



It has been a long long time since Norma was staged at Covent Garden. So I went with much anticipation. It didn't disappoint. The title role was sung by Sonya Yoncheva (who replaced Anna Nebtreko) and she was fabulous - would be interesting to see how she does at Les Conte later in the season. Pollione was sung by Joseph Calleja - I don't like his high frequency vibrato. But the couple otherwise did well.


Alfons Flores's set design was dramatic and intriguing, sufficiently religious without getting in the way. Though I wonder how soon th set will look dated.

Needless to say, Pappano was superb at delivering the drama and music.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Royal Opera



Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's production of Il barbiere di Siviglia has become a classic. In this revival, Ferrucio Furlanetto remained a fabulous Doctor Bartolo. Daniela Mack was a pretty good Rosina. Otherwise it's much the same as before.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Tannhäuser at Royal Opera

It still took me a while to get used to the set by Michael Levine - with that weird mock Royal Opera stage, and that bombed out derelict landscape. And no, I didn't like gun-holding singers. Jasmin Vardimon's choreography of the opening bacchanal scene was dynamic and creative.

Peter Seiffert (like Johan Botha before him in the previous production) looked out of place among the svelte and dynamic dancers. His voice was uneven - it had a good tenorial ring most of the time, but from time to time it was a little strained. Emma Bell's Elizabeth was earthy and noble. Sophie Koch's Venus was definitely alluring. The real star of the show was Christian Gerhaher's Wolfram von Eschinbach - delivering a robust and noble voice for the character, yet sang the songs like lieder (O du mein holder Abendstern). He outshone the rest of the cast, and the applause at the end confirmed it.




Hartmut Haenchen's choice of tempi were good - had momentum and not sentimental. The band (plus the extra brass) and chorus really gave the performance that umph. Fab.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Lucia di Lammermoor at Royal Opera

The version of Il dolce suono that sticks to my mind was sung by Plavalaguna in The Fifth Element.

I thought Diana Damrau was an amazing Lucia - her acting was fantastic and her voice was wonderful. Charles Castronovo's Edgardo was also pretty good. Their interplay Act One was top notch. Kwangchul Youn was outstanding as Raimondo with a true basso profundo voice. Diana Damrau sang Il dolce suono beautifully in the final act. Top marks musically.



As for the "split screen" stage design. Katie Mitchell's direction worked in the first two acts. The 'background' activities added visual interest and the tight stage gave that claustrophobic / intimate feel to the production. The last act didn't work: the 'killing' and 'miscarriage' scenes were really distracting to the singing that was taking place on the other side of the stage: one required intense concentration to hear the music. Was it necessary to 'fill in the gaps' (of the killing of Arturo)? I didn't think so - as those scenes deprived the audience of their own visual and emotional imaginations.

If this production were to be revised, a little nip and tuck to the direction could make a huge improvement for the audience. Let's see. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Boris Godunov at Royal Opera



Bryn Terfel gave an impressive performance of the title role - punchy delivery of the Russian text and quite animated acting. John Tomlison's drunken Varlaam was fun. David Butt Philip's Grigory Otrepiev was also excellent. The chorus raised to the challenge and tackled the numerous choruses with gusto - they almost sounded Russian. Pappano did a fantastic job at usual.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Akhnaten at English National Opera

When I last saw Akhnaten, I was a school boy. Yet this opera left a lasting impression - the opening arpeggios, the entwined melodic lines, the naked singers and the stark production (sand castles!). So I was much looking forward to seeing this new production thirty years on.



Anthony Roth Costanzo made a pensive and somewhat haunting Akhanaten with his vocal colours. The chorus was on form (despite recent troubles). The orchestra rocked from time to time and it was unfortunate that the ensemble fell apart at the destruction of Akhanaten's empire - though Karen Kamensek did a good job at holding everything to together. As for the production? I found the juggling a little too much - they worked fine at the beginning but it became a little repetitive, almost distracting. As for the stage set (Tom Pye), it was a little too close and introspective (perhaps that was the intention).

It was a delight to see Philip Glass coming on stage at the end - to receive an enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cleansed at National Theatre

Sarah Kane's Cleansed exposed the dark world of torture. If it was shock and awe, then the direction from Katie Mitchell did the job. The cast delivered an intense performance. I've even heard of other punters fainting during the play. The plot, however, I found very thin - making the torture scenes somewhat gratuitous.

Monday, 1 February 2016

L'étoile at the Royal Opera

I've never seen a Chabrier opera. One hears the odd aria on the radio or at recitals, but seldom sees his works staged now. So it was a real delight to go to the Royal Opera's first performance of L'étoile. The set (by Julia Hansen) was crazy and fun. The cast delivered bagfuls of humour and wit under the watchful eyes of Sir Mark Elder (who took part in some of the comic moments). Please bring it back soon.