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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…
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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.

La damnation de Faust at Glyndebourne

Did Berlioz intend to have La damnation de Faust staged? Perhaps he did. But the score had everything in it. So it's interesting to see any staged performance of this fantastic work.

What worked? I thought Richard Jones's direction for recreating various imaginary scenes on an austere stage set worked pretty well, from the beer halls along the Rhine through to Marguerite's prison. Christopher Purves was a good, not-too-intrusive Méphistophélès. Allan Clayton attacked the challenging role of Faust with sensitivity. Robin Ticciati waved his stick and the super LPO complied.



What didn't work? Sixty-odd singers in the chorus didn't do the work justice. Berlioz intended a big chorus sound. The velvety Songe de Faust sounded thin, and the big drinking song climax was disappointing. When Mark Elder did Faust recently with the Hallé (Feb 2019), there were over 100 men, plus a big children's chorus - Berlioz would like to have 200-300 children in the final scene - the …

Billy Budd at the Royal Opera

This was a new production of Britten Billy Budd. It was last staged at the Royal Opera before the turn of the millennium.



Billy Budd was sung by Jacques Imbrailo who portrayed a playful and naive youth well. His voice was in character, though seemed a little tired towards the end. Toby Spence gave us a nuanced and at times helpless Captain Vere. Brindley Sherratt's portrayal of Claggart was subtle, and his verminous streak really came out in the confrontation with Budd. Donald was sung by a muscular Duncan Rock.

Michael Levine's three dimensional set did the job, though the nautical theme relied heavily on the  20th century Royal Navy uniform. Ivor Bolton's reading of Britten's rich score was good - I loved the drums coming from the boxes during the battle scene. Let's hope they bring this great work back sooner.

All My Sons at The Old Vic

Got an unexpected chance to see this Arthur Miller play at The Old Vic with a starry cast. The play is set on a simple but detailed stage. All action evolved around the backyard of this simple house.



The first half of the play was slow. I thought the clues about the events to come were either too subtle, or too hidden. Either way, it took a long time for the audience to begin to realise something darker and complex was to come. Still, it took a while to get there.

The second half, on the other hand, moved much more quickly with greater dramatic effect. The best was probably the clash between Bill Pullman (who played Joe Keller) and Colin Morgan (his son Chris Keller). Colin Morgan's about turn from a love-struck puppy to a vengeful grown up was powerfully delivered. Jenna Coleman (played Chris Keller's love interest Ann Deever) and Sally Field (played Kate Keller) drew out the more emotionally torturous plot.

Was the "price of the American Dreram" laid bare? Not sur…

Faust at the Royal Opera

This is a revival of Charles Edwards (design) / David McVicar (director) production of Gounod Faust. Visually, it is still exciting to watch with the ever changing stage sets of this fantasy. In this production, Erwin Schrott was Méphistophélès - who had style and poise as this devilish character. Michael Fabiano did a good job at portraying Faust - especially in the first act when he had to start off as an old man before turning into an energetic youngster. Irina Lungu had the right French voice type for Marguerite - somewhat vulnerable with sufficient warmth for the romantic scenes.

Dan Ettinger in the pit kept the pace going, and the chorus did magnificently in those big numbers.