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Purcell Recital - Christophe Rousset, Ann Hallenberg

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Salle des concerts, Cité de la Musique, Paris, Tuesday September 29 2020Ann Hallenberg, mezzo-soprano. Atsushi Sakai, viola da gamba. Karl Nyhlin, lute. Christophe Rousset, harpsichord (Vincent Tibaut, Toulouse, 1691, facsimile by Émile Jobin).If music be the food of loveCelia has a thousand charmsO solitude, my sweetest choiceSuite n° 2 in G minor (Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande)Bess of BedlamAh Belinda!Fly swift, ye hoursI came, I saw and was undone (The Thraldom)Suite n° 7 in D minor (Allemande, Courante, Hornpipe)From Rosie Bowr'sThe fatal hour comes on apaceSweeter than rosesMusic for a whileEncores: Thrice happy loversFairest Isle My first musical event since the Covid-9-related lockdown (and I have no more on the horizon as yet) was also, so I gathered from her Facebook page, Ann Hallenberg's: a recital of Purcell songs with a lute, a viola da gamba, and Christophe Rousset at the harpsichord.
This intimate concert was originally planned to take place in a more int…

Mozart - Così fan tutte

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday March 8 2020

Conductor: Antonello Manacorda. Production and costumes: Jean-Philippe Clarac, Olivier Deloeuil (> Le Lab). Sets: Rick Martin. Lighting: Christophe Pitoiset. Video: Jean-Baptiste Beïs, Timothée Buisson. Fiordiligi: Lenneke Ruiten. Dorabella: Ginger Costa-Jackson. Guglielmo: Iurii Samoilov. Ferrando: Juan Francisco Gatell. Despina: Caterina Di Tonno. Don Alfonso: Riccardo Novaro. La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

So, as I was saying last week... The idea at La Monnaie is to present the Mozart-Da Ponte operas as three episodes of a single work, in a single set and with the same cast, setting it in present-day Brussels and attempting at least to raise contemporary sexual and gender issues. As La Monnaie's programme is issued in French and Flemish, I thought it might be useful to translate a selection of phrases from an interview with the directors.

'What interests us as we work on the repertory is to give it a contemporary dimen…

Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday March 1 2020

Conductor: Antonello Manacorda. Production and Costumes: Jean-Philippe Clarac, Olivier Deloeuil (> Le Lab). Sets: Rick Martin. Lighting: Christophe Pitoiset. Video: Jean-Baptiste Beïs, Timothée Buisson. Il Conte di Almaviva: Björn Bürger. La Contessa di Almaviva: Simona Šaturová. Susanna: Sophia Burgos. Figaro: Alessio Arduini. Cherubino: Ginger Costa-Jackson. Marcellina: Rinat Shaham. Bartolo: Alexander Roslavets. Don Basilio, Don Curzio: Yves Saelens. Barbarina: Caterina di Tonno. Antonio: Riccardo Novaro. La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

'The “great Italian three” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte reimagined as a single coherent trilogy: that is the challenge La Monnaie has taken on this season with the Clarac-Delœuil > le lab creative arts team and conductors Antonello Manacorda and Ben Glassberg. In their version, Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte, and Don Giovanni all unfold in the same apartme…

Strauss - Die Frau ohne Schatten, in concert

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Monday February 17 2020

Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Dyer's Wife: Lise Lindstrom. Nurse: Michaela Schuster. Empress: Elza van den Heever. Emperor: Stephen Gould. Barak, Dyer: Michael Volle. Voice of a Falcon: Katrien Baerts. Apparition of a Youth: Bror Magnus Tødenes. Hunchback: Andreas Conrad. One-Eyed Man: Michael Wilmering. Messenger of Keikobad: Thomas Oliemans. One-Armed Man: Nathan Berg. Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest. Rotterdam Symphony Chorus. Maîtrise de Radio France. 

A late friend of mine, who hated opera with a single exception, Carmen, wondered why composers he liked (Strauss was one) did them. He concluded that once they'd nailed overtures, concerti, quartets, symphonies and symphonic poems, they turned to opera to meet their need for even bigger, more complex challenges to their skills. (It was the same friend who told me the string parts of Daphne were 'needlessly difficult.') Die Frau ohne Schatten is surely one of the …

Händel - Agrippina

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Teatro de la Maestranza, Seville, Thursday February 13 2020

Conductor: Enrico Onofri. Production: Mariame Clément with Marcos Darbyshire. Sets and costumes: Julia Hansen. Lighting: Bernd Purkrabek. Videos: fettFim. Claudio: Matthew Brook. Agrippina: Ann Hallenberg. Nerone: Renata Pokupic. Poppea: Alicia Amo. Ottone: Xavier Sabata. Pallante: Joao Fernandes. Narciso: Antonio Giovannini. Lesbo: Valeriano Lanchas. Giunone: Serena Perez. Orquesta Barroca de Sevilla.

I already saw Mariame Clément's production of Agrippina, revived in Seville by Marcos Darbyshire, in Ghent in 2012, so I don't need to describe it in detail again here. It seemed to me somehow fresher-looking in Seville and I wondered if the sets had been rebuilt or repainted since, but apparently not. Maybe, someone close to the production suggested, it just looked better on the more spacious stage.

I also found I'd forgotten how full it was, from beginning to end, of well-timed comic detail - useful, as a young sta…

Rubinstein - Demon

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Grand Théâtre, Bordeaux, Sunday February 9 2020

Conductor: Paul Daniel. Production: Dmitry Bertman. Sets: Hartmut Schörghofer. Lighting: Thomas C. Hase. Demon: Nicolas Cavallier. Tamara: Evegniya Muraveva. Prince Sinodal: Alexey Dolgov. Angel: Ray Chenez. Prince Gudal: Alexandros Stavrakakis. Nurse: Svetlana Lifar. Prince Sinodal’s Servant: Luc Bertin-Hugault. Messenger: Paul Gaugler. Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. Choruses of the Opéra National de Bordeaux and Opéra de Limoges.

The recent strikes over pension reform meant I missed three operas I was supposed to see over the Christmas and New Year period: two because the Paris Opera was shut (with losses of over 16 million euros, leading to cuts in the 2020-2021 season) and a third - Warlikowski's production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann in Brussels - because no trains were running. I didn't expect to see anything else until Agrippina in Seville - where I'm now sitting writing this post - but a sick friend kindly gav…

Rameau - Platée (in concert)

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Monday December 2 2019.

Conductor: Alexis Kossenko. Platée: Anders J. Dahlin. Amour, La Folie: Chantal Santon-Jeffery. Jupiter: Thomas Dolié. Thalie, Clarine, Junon: Hasnaa Bennani. Un satyre, Cithéron: Arnaud Richard. Thespis, Mercure: Nicholas Scott. Momus: Victor Sicard. Les Ambassadeurs orchestra and chorus.

With its lively and rather cruel comedy, Platée seems a daring, even rash sort of choice for a concert performance, even with some comical stage business. Monday night's performance wasn't wholly successful, for various reasons, though the absence of sets and costumes did make it possible to focus on the many marvels and musical jokes of Rameau's astonishing score - one of his very best.

Rameau calls for a special and often elusive kind of declamatory oomph and éclat that only some of the cast could deliver in full. Best-cast, to me, was Thomas Dolié, a perfect Rameau baritone, mordant, supple and eloquent. Chantal Santon-Jeffery m…