Beethoven, Bruch and Mussorgsky in Brussels

Bozar, Brussels, Sunday September 2 2018

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Piano: Katia and Marielle Labèque. Orchestre Symphonique de La Monnaie.
Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, Op. 62Bruch: Concerto for Two Pianos, Op. 88aMussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition. [Encore - Glass: Four Movements for Two Pianos, IV]

The Sunday matinée subscription I have had for over 25 years in Brussels is a set menu: you pays your money and you gets no choice. And as La Monnaie usually offers interesting seasons and good productions with very decent teams of singers, that's fine.

I was surprised, though, not to say a bit miffed, to find my first "opera" of the season would be an orchestral concert. It wasn't a programme that would have caught my eye in Paris, even if Cleveland or Dresden were coming to play it, let alone La Monnaie's pit band. But I supposed the house needed to save money after the presumably costly plastic-tent fiasco a couple of years back. Making the best of a what…

Verdi - Il Trovatore

ONP Bastille, Wednesday July 4 2018

Conductor: Maurizio Benini. Production: Àlex Ollé. Sets: Alfons Flores. Costumes: Lluc Castells. Lighting: Urs Schönebaum. Il Conte di Luna: Željko Lučić. Leonora: Sondra Radvanovsky. Azucena: Anita Rachvelishvili. Manrico: Marcelo Alvarez. Ferrando: Mika Kares. Ines: Élodie Hache. Ruiz: Yu Shao. Un vecchio Zingaro: Lucio Prete. Un Messo: Luca Sannai. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

I’d seen this production in 2016 and quite liked it at the time, the lighting especially, but the main reason for buying tickets again this season was to see and hear Anita Rachvilishvili as Azucena. It turned out she was not the only treat.

The four principal voices were very distinct. Željko Lučić’s singing style is quite odd and unexpected in Verdi. It’s gruff-sounding, not at all lyrical and with a tendency sometimes to bark, sometimes to bray. Yet quite effective if you’re playing Luna as relatively old, disgruntled and rough.

Anita Rachvelishvil…

Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov (1869)

ONP Bastille, Monday July 2 2018

Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski. Production: Ivo van Hove. Boris Godunov: Ildar Abdrazakov. Fyodor: Evdokia Malevskaya. Xenia: Ruzan Mantashyan. Nurse: Alexandra Durseneva. Prince Shuysky: Maxim Paster. Andrey Shchelkalov, Clerk of the Duma: Boris Pinkhasovich. Pimen: Ain Anger. Grigoryi Otrepiev: Dmitry Golovnin. Varlaam: Evgeny Nikitin. Missail: Peter Bronder. Innkeeper: Elena Manistina. The Yuródivïy (Innocent): Vasily Efimov. Mityukha: Mikhail Timoshenko. Police Officer: Maxim Mikhailov. A boyar, voice in the crowd: Luca Sannai. Sets and lighting: Jan Versweyveld. Costumes: An D’Huys. Video: Tal Yarden. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine / Paris Opera Children’s Choir. 

The ever-excellent ConcertoNet headlined its review of this new production of Boris at the Bastille “Un tsar et un chef” (a Czar and a conductor, only it doesn’t sound as good in English) and I can understand why. Ildar Abdrazakov and Vladim…

Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle/The Miraculous Mandarin

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday June 24 2018

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production and Costumes: Christophe Coppens. Sets: Christophe Coppens and I.S.M.Architecten. Lighting: Peter Van Praet. Video: Jean-Baptiste Pacucci, Simon Van Rompay. Prologue: Gabor Vass. A Kékszakállú Herceg: Ante Jerkunica. Judit: Nora Gubisch. La Monnaie Orchestra and Chorus.

A good-looking but somehow not, ultimately, very exciting Bartok double-bill in Brussels last Sunday. To me it came across more as a carefully-crafted "designer" production than a fully theatrical one.

The last time I was at La Monnaie was at the end of April, so not so long ago, for Lohengrin. "Act three involved a kind of Celebrity Squares or noughts-and-crosses set-up: three floors of three square spaces, making nine boxes in all, with steel stairs between." I did wonder, this Sunday, if they'd recycled the same structure for the Bartok, to save money. It would have made sense - especially as La Monnaie must have …

Ravel: L'Heure espagnole; Puccini: Gianni Schicchi

ONP Bastille, Tuesday May 22 2108

L'Heure espagnole
Conductor: Maxime Pascal. Production: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Florence Evrard, Caroline Ginet. Lighting: Joël Adam. Concepcion: Clémentine Margaine. Gonzalve: Stanislas de Barbeyrac. Torquemada: Philippe Talbot. Ramiro: Jean-Luc Ballestra. Don Inigo Gomez: Nicolas Courjal.

Gianni Schicchi
Conductor: Maxime Pascal. Production: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Florence Evrard, Caroline Ginet. Lighting: Joël Adam. Gianni Schicchi: Artur Ruciński. Lauretta: Elsa Dreisig. Zita: Rebecca De Pont Davies. Rinuccio: Frédéric Antoun. Gherardo: Philippe Talbot. Nella: Emmanuelle de Negri. Betto: Nicolas Courjal. Simone: Maurizio Muraro. Marco: Jean-Luc Ballestra. La Ciesca: Isabelle Druet. Maestro Spinelloccio: Pietro Di Bianco. Amantio di Nicolao: Tomasz Kumiega. Pinellino: Mateusz Hoedt. Guccio: Piotr Kumon. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.

I was told, by someone who's usually right, that Stéphane Lissner explained he replaced K. Warlikowski&#…

Wagner - Parsifal

ONP Bastille, Sunday May 20 2018.

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Richard Jones. Sets and costumes: ULTZ. Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin. Amfortas: Peter Mattei. Titurel: Reinhard Hagen. Gurnemanz: Günther Groissböck. Klingsor: Evgeny Nikitin. Kundry: Anja Kampe. Parsifal: Andreas Schager. Zwei Gralsritter: Gianluca Zampieri, Luke Stoker. Vier Knappen: Alisa Jordheim, Megan Marino, Michael Smallwood, Franz Gürtelschmied. Klingsors Zaubermädchen: Anna Siminska, Katharina Melnikova, Samantha Gossard, Tamara Banjesevic, Marie‑Luise Dressen, Anna Palimina. Eine Altstimme aus der Höhe: Daniela Entcheva. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine, Children’s Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

A practising Catholic once told me I was a "païen né" - a born pagan. I'm sorry to say that no amount of gruesome, guilt-infested, sado-masochistic mumbo-jumbo is likely to ensure my salvation. I find it mostly tedious and sometimes frankly n…

Wagner - Lohengrin

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday April 29 2018.

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Olivier Py. Sets and costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Lighting: Bertrand Killy. Heinrich der Vogler: Gabor Bretz. Lohengrin: Eric Cutler. Elsa von Brabant: Ingela Brimberg. Friedrich von Telramund: Andrew Foster-Williams. Ortrud: Elena Pankratova. Heerrufer: Werner Van Mechelen. Vier Brabantische Edle: Zeno Popescu, Willem Van Der Heyden, Kurt Gysen, Bertrand Duby. Edelknaben: Raphaële Green, Isabelle Jacques, Virginie Léonard, Lisa Willems. La Monnaie Orchestra and Chorus. 

As a persistent opera-goer, however loudly you applaud Bieito or Warlikowski and however assiduously you seek out new works, you get used to being dismissed as a hidebound fuddy-duddy. And some directors also give the impression they think you're thick and need things spelling out. In the case of Olivier Py, this is often literally the case: his chalk bills must be huge, so often do his characters scrawl things on the walls then th…