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Bruckner 8, Andris Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Bruckner 8 Symphony was a gigantic piece of symphonic writing. What better to hear a mature and thoughtful Andris Nelsons conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra? The slow measured start gave rise to the hallmark relentlessness of the later Bruckner symphonies. Nelsons brought out the rising and falling phrases, and ensured the episodic chunks together form a coherent whole. The scherzo second movement was precise and at pace. Feierlich langsam (3rd movement) was subtle, mournful with a glimmer of light. The masculine sound for the brass section delivered a memorable finale
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Stephen Hough plays Memdelssohn, BBC Proms

The stars of this Prom were Stephen Hough and Queen Victoria's own richly gilded piano made by Érard (1856). Hough played Mendelssohn's piano concerto no 1 with poise and pace. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ádám Fischer provided well balanced accompaniment. Though one could hear Hough was battling with an instrument that lacked a resonant upper register. The Érard sounded like a large fortepiano with good middle and lower register voice, but to modern ears that are used to Steinway Model Ds it sounded somewhat dull. The encore (Chopin Nocturne No 2 in E Flat) suited the keyboard much more - with a mellow sound one could imagine a musical soireé in a drawing room at Buckingham Palace. An interesting concert, memorable for different reasons.

Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera

I went to hear and see Christian Gerhaher as Figaro in this revival production. He didn't disappoint - his singing delivered real nuance and understanding of the role.  Simon Keenlyside made a very good Count Almaviva. The surprise (and delight) was to hear Kangmin Justin Kim singing Cherubino (normally a trouser role) - his acting and agile voice was well suited to the role. Hope to see more of him in the future (may be as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier?)

John Eliot Gardiner's conducting was interesting. Sure we know and love Mozart's score. But somehow, the orchestra seemed very present throughout the four acts. If anything, it was too present (not loud, just present) - to the point of distracting.

Still, this David McVicar (revived by Thomas Guthrie) production was always a joy to see - simple yet clever.

Cendrillon at Glyndebourne

Danielle de Niese as Cendrillon was able to characterise the downtrodden country girl as well as the alluring star of the Prince's ball. And an extra star for her dashing back from Cardiff Singer of the World competition the night before. Kate Lindsey in the trouser role of the Prince was superb too - especially in the duet towards the end of the ball scene. Lionel Lhote as Pandolfe delivered his lovely aria with a rich and mature tone.



Fiona Shaw's production and Jon Bausor's design were magical. The clever use of semi-seethrough mirrors was so effective in portraying the fleeting nature of love between Cendrillon and the Prince. The gradual yet unmistakble appearance of the count-down clock was spine-tinkingly good.

Most people would be familiar with Massenet's better known operas such as Werther and Thais. Cendrillo, this lighthearted and farytale opera, is rarely staged. I hope this fantastic production will make many happy returns.

Tosca at the Royal Opera

The last time I saw Tosca, I was very disappointed. This is, again, a revival of the now tried-and-tested Jonathan Kent's production (revival director Andrew Sinclair). I was hoping to be entertained.

On the night I got the Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais - who was by-and-large right for the title role. There was enough drama and her voice hit all the right notes. Vissi d'arte was sensitively sung. Vittorio Grigòlo was his usual heroic self - at times his singing was a little shouty and lacking in finess. His fans loved him. Bless. Bryn Terfel brought Scarpia to live effortlessly. Unlike the other two leads, he was very much at ease with the role, with nothing to prove, and it was enjoyable to get absorbed into his character.

Alexander Joel's took a more symphonic approach to Puccini's score. There were movments when that approach worked with the drama. But there were times when the singers were being held for too long - thus losing the dramatic tension intended. Wa…

The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Royal Opera

The Diary of One Who Disappeared is a staged production (Muziektheater Transparant) of the song cycle by Janácek, with additional music by Annelies Van Parys. The Lindbury Theatre turned out to be the right size venue for this intimate production. Jan Versweyveld's set re-created a simple photographer's studio with subtle use of projections. The on stage movements were natural while recreating the love tension depicted in the songs.



Ed Lyon (man) and Marie Hamard (woman) delivered the song with sensitivity and the ocassional emotional outbursts (as with many Janácek's works). The linking music by Annelies Van Parys, while obviously modern, did work to turn this song cycle into an hour long piece of theatre.

Andrea Chénier at the Royal Opera

OK it's not Puccini, but Giordano's work telling of this Les Mis drama is still worthy of today's opera houses. Roberto Alagna sang a heroic, at times shouty, Andrea Chénier (Jonas Kaufmann last tackled the role with far greater sensitivity). Sondra Radvanovsky was a wonderful Maddalena di Coigny who carried the role well from innocent aristocratic girl to lovelorn madame in revolutionary France. Carlo Gérard, sung by Dimitri Platanias, sounded great.



David McVicar's production really worked, from the sumptuous chateau opening scene through to an urban prison. Daniel Oren did a good job to bring out this richly score and seldom performed work to life. Glad to have seen it again.