Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera



Saw a revival of Don Giovanni directed by Kasper Holten and set by Es Devlin. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo brought a dark tone to Leporello, while Mariusz Kwiecień was a handsome if slightly lost Don Giovanni. The entire cast had good, strong voices. Somehow, they all tended to look down, or look at Marc Minkowski in the pit. I wondered was it because Minkowski's cues were few and not forthcoming. Coincidentally, the ensemble had lots of rough edges and there seemed to be a lack of rapport between the cast and the audience.

Oh and I did not like the last scene: Mariusz Kwiecień sang about imaginary supper, wine and handshake - but he was effectively dangling from the first floor of the set. The complete lack of representation of the final interaction between Don Giovanni the Commendatore (fine dark singing from Sir Willard) made for an unsatisfying end. A new production please.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera



There is a lot to like about Lohengrin - big choruses, brassy sound, bit soprano roles, big tenor roles. So it is always a challenge to take this much-loved Wagner opera to the next level.

Jennifer Davis as Else von Brabant was excellent - her strong acting skills were matched by her vocal abilities and clear delivery of text (always important for Wagner). Christine Goerke gave us a gutsy and verminous Ortrud in sharp contrast to Davis. Thomas Mayer's Telramund started out bombastically in act one, but reduced to a suitably weak and introspective voice by the end of act two - which I think what the role demanded. Klaus Florian Vogt, the horn player turned tenor, gave us an otherworldly Lohengrin. The timbre of his voice sat "apart" from the rest of the cast - ethereal for quiet contemplative moments, heroic where needed. It's not a voice that you need to "like", but a voice that suited the role.

David Alden's direction took advantage of the three dimensional set by Paul Steinberg. There was always movement, and the set provided the essential juxtaposition points for the unfolding drama. Some may not like the overtly militaristic overtone, but the opera was after all set in a turbulent time of warring Germania!

Andris Nelsons, oh boy, didn't he give it all? His baton often raised above the pit to ensure the tenors delivered the essential chorus lines, or the strings maintained the melody. The expansive orchestra, clarionic brass and muscular chorus gave us many spine tinglingly good moments.

Definitely a Lohengrin that one will remember.