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.