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Showing posts from October, 2013

Wozzeck at the Royal Opera

I think Wozzeck is far too sophisticated for me. I have now seen it a couple of times, and have still found it hard to understand. One comes away feeling slightly empty (is that the intended effect?) Nonetheless, Karita Mattila was fab as Marie, and Simon Keenlyside was a very involved actor on stage. Rick Fisher's lighting was particularly atmospheric.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Poulenc and Prokofiev at the Royal Festival Hall

Poulenc's piano concertos are fun to watch and listen to. Last night, Alexandre Tharaud played his piano concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. There was not question of his command of the keyboard - fingers gliding elegantly up and down, and always dancing with the orchestra (musically speaking). Yannick Nézet-Séguin ensured there was much harmony on stage and maintained a brisk tempo for this fun work.

This was followed by Prokofiev Symphony No. 7 - a short work with rich colours and rhythmic brilliance.

The concert concludes with Poulenc Stabat Mater (as I was on stage singing it).

Les Vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera

I went to the first performance (ever) of Les Vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera: so there was much anticipation as you can imagine.

As grand operas went, it was pretty grand. A tall and deep set (designed by Philipp Fürhofer) that made the Covent Garden stage even bigger. The proportions were generous. And there were enough mirrors and faux gilding to enhance the "grandness" of the set.

Michael Volle as Guy de Montfort brought out the complex character and emotions of the character. Procida, sang by Erwin Schrott, was no less interesting - with his funny boots and dress, he was an effective antagonist. Lianna Haroutounian, who sang Helene, could have been better if she didn't have so many intonation problems. Bryan Hymel who sung Henri was superb: rich tone, believable emotions, and acting as well!

Antonio Pappano, as ever, gave this score full justice - bringing out those tender and nuanced moments. And the chorus was superb too - singing with that big Verdian ring…

Die Fledermaus at the English National Opera

Strauss's Die Fledermaus conjures up images of opulence, glitz, and champagne! Oh no, Christopher Alden's production of Die Fledermaus at the English National Opera only delivered one of these. The "idea" was to explore the contradiction, decadence and Freudian background of the work. The brain had to work very hard to try to understand what's going on stage - was there something to be "understood"?

So opulence was replaced by austere wall papers and a dull stair case, glitz turned into omni-sexual high camp. There was champagne all right. The singing was fine. Tom Randle's von Eisenstein was credible. Julia Sporsén's Roaslinde had enough drama. Even Edgaras Montvidas had enough high camp in his tenorial rings to add a bit of humour. Andrew Shore's Frank was tolerably funny. Jan Pohl (as Frosch) was trying to be funny with his native German accent.

I think this was a case of "trying too hard".

Le Nozze di Figaro at Royal Opera

It isn't everyday that Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts at Covent Garden. While I have seen David McVicar's production of Figaro many times, I was quite looking forward to hearing how Gardiner does Mozart.

Well there was no disappointment. The tempi were brisk. The strings were tight and precise without vibrato. The whole work really flowed well. Then there was Christopher Maltman singing the role of Count Almaviva - with poise, drama and presence. Luca Pisaroni and Lucy Crowe played the tight team of Figaro and Susanna. All the soloists really took on Gardiner's flowing brisk touch and delivered a stunning performance of this work.

Elektra at the Royal Opera

It's the one after Salome and before Der Rosenkavalier. Elektra, for me, has always been an opera that one experiences, rather than enjoys. It's dark, yet melodic in places. There is not much character development, yet the drama moves forward.

From the sound of the first bar (and sitting close to the percussion department meant I could feel it too), it's a whirlwind of emotions. Christine Goerke was a bold yet dark Elektra with a commanding stage presence. Adrianne Pieczonka had a nice sheen on her voice which suited her role as Chrysothemis. Charles Edwards' production of Elektra remained a striking one.

The energetic Andris Nelsons maintained momentum and drive, and the somewhat exaggerated dynamics really made Strauss's score come alive. The audience held its breath until the last bar ... when all could breath easy again. Fantastic.