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VPO under Gergiev in an all-Prokofiev programme

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday October 9 2018

Conductor: Valery Gergiev. Pianist: Denis Matsuev. Wiener Philharmoniker

Prokofiev:
Romeo and Juliet:
Montagues and CapuletsJuliet as a Young GirlMasksRomeo at the Tomb of JulietConcerto pour piano n° 2 op. 16Symphony n° 6 op. 111 This concert with the VPO under Gergiev had a markedly different temperature (or perhaps the word is temperament) from the one last week with the Philharmonia under Salonen. While both were virtuoso performances, naturally, Salonen’s was relatively cool and restrained and the Philharmonia’s sound overall was what I called “matter of fact”, while Gergiev’s thermometer went frequently up to red hot and occasionally - as in the angular (“constructivist”, the programme notes suggested) 6th symphony - white and, just as I said Salonen was not, paroxystic. Yet Gergiev can also do meltingly tender when the work calls for it. As I remarked later to an old lady living in the States, it’s amazing what one man can …

Michael Jarrell - Bérénice

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ONP Garnier, Monday October 8 2018

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Claus Guth. Sets: Christian Schmidt. Costumes: Christian Schmidt, Linda Redlin. Lighting: Fabrice Kebour. Video: rocafilm. Titus: Bo Skovhus. Bérénice: Barbara Hannigan. Antiochus: Ivan Ludlow. Paulin: Alastair Miles. Arsace: Julien Behr. Phénice: Rina Schenfeld. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.

I’ve often joked, with friends who also sat through it dying for a chance to escape, that Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin set my personal gold standard in buttock-aching operatic boredom. You can’t really compare Saariaho’s score with Michael Jarrell’s. It would be like comparing chalk and cheese or silk brocade (Saariaho) and sackcloth: they have nothing much in common other than that they are, each in its own way, more atmospheric than action-packed. Jarrell’s is uncompromisingly bleak: long, dark chords or clusters punctuated with outbursts of brass or percussion. The singing, mainly recitative, sometimes vi…

Wagner, Schönberg and Bruckner at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées

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Théatre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Friday October 5 2018

Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen. Philharmonia Orchestra.
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Prelude and LiebestodSchönberg: Verklärte NachtBruckner: Symphony N°7 'Giving Wagner's Tristan, Bruckner, then Schönberg's Transfigured Night, in concert, is one way of staking out a certain history of atonality using three works. (...) The chord that opens this opera plunges the listener into tonal uncertainty verging on neurosis. (...) This masterstroke by Wagner would feed the post-romanticism of Bruckner and Mahler, then that of the first Schönberg, Zemlinsky, Korngold and Richard Strauss, the last romantic, astray in the age of radical modernity.' (Translated from the notes on the theatre's website.)

As I stood up to leave for dinner after enthusiastic applause I remarked to my neighbour, of Bruckner's 7th as conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, "That was super-interesting." At the same moment, I overheard a lady …

Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots

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ONP Bastille, Monday October 1 2018

Conductor: Michele Mariotti. Production: Andreas Kriegenburg. Sets: Harald B. Thor. Costumes: Tanja Hofmann. Lighting: Andreas Grüter. Choreography: Zenta Haerter. Marguerite de Valois: Lisette Oropesa. Raoul de Nangis: Yosep Kang. Valentine: Ermonela Jaho. Urbain: Karine Deshayes. Marcel: Nicolas Testé. Le Comte de Saint-Bris: Paul Gay. La dame d’honneur, une bohémienne: Julie Robard‑Gendre. Cossé, un étudiant catholique: François Rougier. Le Comte de Nevers: Florian Sempey. Tavannes, premier moine: Cyrille Dubois. Méru, deuxième moine: Michal Partyka. Thoré, Maurevert: Patrick Bolleire. Retz, troisième moine: Tomislav Lavoie. Coryphée, une jeune fille catholique, une bohémienne: Élodie Hache. Bois-Rosé, valet: Philippe Do. Un archer du guet: Olivier Ayault. Quatre seigneurs: John Bernard, Cyrille Lovighi, Bernard Arrieta, Fabio Bellenghi. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

My mother was always careful, when I was a lad, not to dre…

Mozart - Die Zauberflöte

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday September 30 2018

Conductor: Ben Glassberg. Production, sets, costumes, lighting: Romeo Castellucci. Choreography: Cindy Van Acker. Algorithmic architecture: Michael Hansmeyer. Artistic collaboration: Silvia Costa. Added dialogues: Claudia Castellucci. Sarastro: Gabor Bretz. Tamino: Ed Lyon. Sprecher: Dietrich Henschel. Königin der Nacht: Sabine Devieilhe. Pamina: Sophie Karthäuser. Erste Dame: Tineke Van Ingelgem. Zweite Dame: Angélique Noldus. Dritte Dame; Esther Kuiper. Papageno: Georg Nigl. Papagena: Elena Galitskaya. Monostatos, ein Mohr: Elmar Gilbertsson. Erster Priester / Zweiter geharnischter Mann: Guillaume Antoine. Zweiter Priester / Erster geharnischter Mann: Yves Saelens. Drei Knaben: Sofia Royo Csoka, Tobias Van Haeperen, Elfie Salauddin Crémer. La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, MM Academy & La Monnaie's Children's and Youth Chorus.

As it happens, I was quite amused just this last week by a cartoon in VIZ lampooning what …

Beethoven, Bruch and Mussorgsky in Brussels

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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

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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…