Skip to main content

Last night I went to see this Royal Opera and Royal Ballet co-production of The Tsarina's Slippers. The fairytale story is just the perfect ticket for Christmas: Ukrainian Christmas, witches, devils, Court at St Petersburg, drunken teacher, etc. Mikhail Mokrov's set design and Francesca Zambello's direction was fun and effective. To maintain a certain degree of innocence,  lots of the special effects were played by the Devil's entourage, nymphs, and just simple acting rather than by backstage machinery. 

As a relatively unknown work (certainly outside of Russia), the Royal Opera enlisted a cast of largely Russian singers. Olga Guryakova was Oxana with a big voice to fill the auditorium; Vsevolod Grivnov was a lyrical Vakula. Larissa Diadkova and Maxim Mikhailov were the Witch/Solokha and the Devil respectively - who really made the fairytale work. The corp of the Royal Ballet fitted well in all the dance sequences - especially the nymphs by the lake and the court dances.

Musically, it was a bit like Onegin and Nutcracker thrown together with a heavy Ukrainian influence. At times, Tchaikovsky's handy work was only detectable in the orchestration. So some of today's audiences may need a bit of time to get used to this unknown work: it certainly deserves more outings.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Porgy and Bess, English National Opera

I quite forgot the first number in Porgy and Bess is Summertime! Beautifully sung by Nicole Cabell as Bess. On a whole, the chorus number was better sung than the solo numbers - where the diction was generally inadequate. The set (Michael Yeargan) was three-dimensional and worked really well with the many scenes in this work. John Wilson was in his elements in the pit and the orchestra responded with a rhythmic boisterous sound - the best part of the evening.

Les Huguenots, Opéra Bastille

I don't know why so few Meyerbeer operas are staged in London. In order to see his grandest grand opera, I traveled to Paris to see Les Huguenots staged at Opéra Bastille.



The star of the show was Lisette Oropesa who sang Marguerite de Valois - she got the warm yet regal tone for the role, her delivery of the emotions was fantastic. Yosep Kang, a late replacement for Bryan Hymel, was passable. His rendition of Raoul de Nangis could do with a few more rehearsals. And his voice strained a little at the higher register (there was one gasp in the audience when we all thought he was going to crack!) His love interest Valentine, sung by Ermonela Jaho, was good - a more youthful if pensive voice.

The male chorus was a little agricultural in act 1 - untidy and lacking in focus. Luckily, the men were saved by the women (again) when the ladies of the court sang lusciously while frolicking along a real stream.

Where was the BALLET???

The set design had modern lines and shades - a Parisien c…

Hagen Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Yes, the legendary Hagen Quartet playing at the Wigmore Hall.

The Schubert String Quartet in G minor sounded rough, with problematic intonation from the first violin. The whole piece sounded like a play through. Not a good start. The playing of the Webern pieces (Five Movements / Six Bagatelles) could not be more different. They got through the grittiness and bleakness of these concise pieces with precision and poise.

The second half of the concert was Haydn String Quartet in Bb (Op 55 N 3). The playing was warm, coherent with the kind of interplay between the quartet members that one would expect. Good tempi choice. This warmth was naturally conveyed through brilliant acoustic of the hall.