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Niobe, Regina di Tebe at the (not there) Royal Opera

It took me a few days to think about my reaction to Niobe, Regina di Tebe that I saw last Friday. During the performance, I was impressed by the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble led by Thomas Hengelbrock which filled the void vacated by the touring Royal Opera. The original instruments and techniques created a sound that was quite distinct from the usual band. Raimund Bauer's stage set and lighting design was harmless. There was a lot of hype about Jacek Laszczkowski (who sang Anfione). He sang all the high notes and there were some moving passages too. Whether it's the kind of voice I enjoy is another matter. Véronique Gens was a convincing and naturalistic Niobe.

But the issue was my inability / reluctance to get into operas of that period. Whilst I went with an open mind, I came out feeling I had spent 3.5 hours listening to stuff that didn't move me - it was similar to my experience of Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain - well produced and sung but one that didn't engage me. May be there was a lack of intimacy (I don't think operas of that period were meant for a 2,500 seat Royal Opera House, more like the Linbury Studio). May be Anfione needed to be sung by a castrato. May be ... we needed alcohol and canapes during the performance.

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