Skip to main content

Welser-Möst conducts Der Rosenkavalier with the Zurich Opera House at the Royal Festival Hall

The last time I saw Franz Welser-Möst he was conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir while I was on stage (being a member of the aforementioned choir) belting out Verdi Requiem. That was 1996. He was then a young and energetic conductor at the helm of an orchestra that knew what it liked and what it didn't. All that reminded me of today's Vladimir Jurowski.

Fast forward 12 years and last night I saw a not-so-young Welser-Möst on the rostrum of the refurbished Royal Festival Hall directing the Zurich Opera House in Der Rosenkavalier. He has still maintained his style - energetic with a rich repertoire of gestures that informed the responsive orchestral players of his intentions. I thought they made a good match.

The performance of this famous Strauss opera was in general good. Nina Stemme as the Marchallin gave the role  a strong stage presence; Michelle Breedt a nimble Octavian while Laura Aikin a convincing Sophie. There were many beautiful passages - starting from the overture and the opening duet in Act I, the presentation of the Rose in Act II. Baron Ochs and his mischievous behaviour didn't lend themselves to a concert performance and consequently the second half of Act II dragged on somewhat. The famous trio towards the end of Act III probably sounded good from where Welser-Möst was standing; but farther out in the auditorium the sound of the orchestra was quite over-powering and lots of the finer details were lost. I wonder whether the South Bank gave them enough time for sound adjustment and balancing (when Mark Elder conducted the LPO in an Elgar concert earlier this season, he took a good 30 minutes out of a rehearsal to get used to the new acoustic quality of the Hall).

All in all, it was a good evening "at the opera". No doubt Welser-Möst will do interesting if not great things when he picks up his directorship at the Vienna State Opera.


Popular posts from this blog

Joyce DiDonato sings Berlioz at BBC Proms

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique started this BBC Proms concert with Le corsaire - it was tightly played and a sonorous sound. I wonder whether this was due to the whole orchestra standing up while playing had anything to do with it. It sounded good.

Joyce DiDonato first sang La mort de Cléopâtre - her performance was mesmerising due to her dramatic delivery of text and the wonderful lines. Sir John was ever sensitive to the flow of the music. Dido’s death scene was short, yet no less powerful with DiDonata's breadth of emotions. Some may moan about her over dramatic delivery at the expense of pitch accuracy - but that's just nitpicking.

The second half of the concert was Harold in Italy - a whimsical and eclectic piece that's interesting to listen to - but I wonder whether this should have been played in the 1st half of the concert.

Poème symphonique, British Museum

Now how often does one get to hear Ligeti's "joke" Poème symphonique? It came about recently at the British Library. Or rather, it was performed in the old British Library reading room. 100 metronomes arranged neatly on a platform, lit, and poised to commence. After a short introduction, a small team of museum staff flicked the metronomes and the performance started. It was a cacophony of sound echoed by the reading room's unique acoustic. It's strangely mesmerizing and hypnotic. From time to time, some metronomes came together into unison, and then dissipated. It had an organic quality to it. If one ever wondered, it took about 25 minutes until the last remaining metronome on Largo came to a stop. It was fun!

From the House of the Dead, the Royal Opera

Janáček's From the House of the Dead was not going to be an "easy listening" piece. The drama was intense and claustrophobic - perhaps that's intentional. Unlike Káťa Kabanová or Jenůfa where there was a greater story arc, The House was more choppy - including two plays within the opera. All in all a very intense evening.