Skip to main content

Death in Venice, the Royal Opera

Thomas Mann's novella Death in Venice is packed full of atmoshperic details of the characters surrounding Gustav von Aschenbach. David McVar's production of Britten's last opera brought these characters - leading and incidental alike - into vivid portrays on the Royal Opera stage. Vicki Mortimer's set gave the production a cinematic quality - stark sunshine on the beach, foggy canals and dingy Venetian corners. Mark Padmore's von Aschenbach was weighted without being stodgy. His diction was superb. His singing was nuanced. Gerald Finley amazingly morphed from one character to the next - so unless you knew in advance he played the Traveller, Old Gondolier, Hotel Manager, Elderly Fop, Hotel Barber et al, you wouldn't know that was sung by the same singer. Hats off to that.



Leo Dixon was Tadzio - his movements portrayed vividly both the youthfullness of the character and the allure that was key to his interaction with von Aschenbach. The rest of the dancing cast was great, thanks to Lynne Page's dynamic and fluid choreography. Richard Farnes's reading of the score was accurate (there were some tricky rhythms) with superb clarity, never getting in the way of Britten's lyrical phrases. It was a fantaistic performance all round.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Bruckner 7 and Haitink's last appearance at the BBC Proms

I was lucky to have gotten a ticket to see Bernard Haitink conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner 7th Symphony. No doubt it is a work that Haitink knows well - he did it without score. The movements were broad, had shape, and above all nuanced rather than bombastic. His mildmannered gestures were in starck contract to Andris Nelsons's rendition of Bruckner 8 (earlier in the season). It was a real treat to see this maestro still deliveirng the musical umph at 90. A memorable concert that was.


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.

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.