Hervé (Louis-Auguste-Florimond Ronger) - Mam’zelle Nitouche

Théâtre Marigny, Paris, Wednesday June 12 2019

Conductor: Christophe Grapperon. Production, sets, costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Denise de Flavigny, Mam’zelle Nitouche: Lara Neumann. Célestin, Floridor: Damien Bigourdan. La Supérieure, Corinne: Miss Knife. Le Vicomte Fernand de Champlâtreux: Samy Camps. Le Major, comte de Château-Gibus: Eddie Chignara. Loriot: Olivier Py. La Tourière, Sylvia: Sandrine Sutter. Le Directeur de théâtre: Antoine Philippot. Lydie: Clémentine Bourgoin. Gimblette: Ivanka Moizan. Gustave, officier: Pierre Lebon. Robert, officier: David Ghilardi. Les Frivolités Parisiennes.

The vocation of the Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de Musique Romantique Française is the rediscovery and international promotion of the French musical heritage of the long nineteenth century (1780-1920). Its interests range from chamber music to the orchestral, sacred and operatic repertories, not forgetting the lighter genres characteristic of the ‘esprit français’ of the nineteenth century (c…

Monteverdi - L'Orfeo

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday May 28 2019

Direction: Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro, assisted by continuo leader Thomas Dunford. Semi-staging: Mathilde Etienne. Costumes: Karine Godier, Sébastien Blondin. Orfeo: Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro. Euridice, Musica: Giulia Semenzato. Pastore: Mathias Vidal. Pastore: David Szigetvari. Apollo: Fulvio Bettini. Pastore, La Speranza: Eva Zaïcik. Proserpina: Mathilde Etienne. Plutone, Pastore: Frédéric Caton. La Messagiera: Lea Desandre. Pastore, Caronte: Jérôme Varnier. Ninfa: Maud Gnidzaz. I Gemelli.

My love affair with Monteverdi's Orfeo goes back a long way. I was acquainted with it from the radio before I went up to university. As an undergraduate, I was excited to be invited to play in a performance at the university's Senate House, and disappointed when I turned up with my instrument for the first rehearsal to be told by the surprised conductor - Stephen Barlow IIRC - that he hadn't expected and didn't need a double bass.


Rameau - Hippolyte et Aricie

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Sunday May 26 2019.

Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Aricie: Mélissa Petit. Hippolyte: Cyrille Dubois. Phèdre: Stéphanie D’Oustrac. Thésée: Edwin Crossley-Mercer. Pluton / Neptune: Wenwei Zhang. Diane: Hamida Kristoffersen. Œnone: Aurélia Legay. Première Parque: Nicholas Scott. Seconde Parque, Tisiphone: Spencer Lang. Troisième Parque: Alexander Kiechle. Une Prêtresse de Diane, Une Matelote, Une Chasseresse: Gemma Ní Bhriain. Orchestra La Scintilla Zurich. Chorus of the Zurich Opera.

The cast for this concert performance of Hippolyte comes fresh from staged performances in Zurich in a production that, from what I’ve seen online, looks very striking. Perhaps rehearsal time in Paris was too short for the singers to take possession of the narrow strip of stage left to them and fully adjust to the restricted theatrical potential of the concert: I expected more sustained dramatic thrust and tension. In the event, it was somehow intermittent, with moments that h…

Stravinsky - Firebird. Rimsky-Korsakov - Sheherazade

State Academic Bolshoi Theatre named after Alisher Navoi, Tashkent, Friday May 24 2019

Conductor: Bobomurod Khudaykulov. Choreography: Michel Fokine, recreated by Andris Liepa and Igor Pivorovich. Sets and Costumes: Léon Bakst, Aleksandr Golovin, Natalia Goncharova, recreated by Anatoly Nezhny, Elena Netsvetaeva. Orchestra, Soloists and Ballet of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre named after Alisher Navoi

Part of the legacy of Russian and later Soviet domination of Uzbekistan until the declaration of independence in 1991 is the possibility, on almost any evening, to see an opera or ballet at the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre in Tashkent. In May this year, for example, you could see Aleko, La Bohème, Aida, The Czar's Bride or Iolanta, or, if a ballet fan, La Bayadère, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote or the aptly-named Nutcracker, as well as concerts and other performances by local and visiting artistes. Tashkent, 6,000 km from western Europe but only 600 from China's …

Wagner - Tristan und Isolde

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday May 12 2019

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Ralf Pleger. Sets: Alexander Polzin. Costumes: Wojciech Dziedzic. Lighting: John Torres. Tristan: Bryan Register. König Marke: Franz-Josef Selig. Isolde: Ann Petersen. Kurwenal: Andrew Foster-Williams. Brangäne: Nora Gubisch. Melot/Ein Steuermann: Wiard Witholt. Ein Hirt/Ein junger Seemann: Ed Lyon. La Monnaie Orchestra and Men’s Chorus.

This will be a shortish write-up as I'm off today for two weeks in Central Asia.

La Monnaie's new Tristan can be summed up as an odd but genuine case of three sets in search of an opera. Alexander Polzin designed and built three impressive, monumental performance installations, not obviously related in any way to this particular plot but impressive, and with great potential. But in them, Ralf Pleger staged the degré zéro of opera directing, a pale imitation of Bob Wilson with everyone creeping round at a snail's pace, making putatively significant, symbolic ge…

Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

ONP Bastille, Thursday April 25 2019

Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets and costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Video: Denis Guéguin. Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov: Dmitry Ulyanov. Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov: John Daszak. Katerina Lvovna Izmailova: Aušrinė Stundytė. Sergei: Pavel Černoch. Aksinya: Sofija Petrovic. Tattered peasant: Wolfgang Ablinger‑Sperrhacke. Sonyetka: Oksana Volkova. Schoolmaster: Andrei Popov. Priest, Old Convict: Krzysztof Baczyk. Female convict: Marianne Croux. Police Chief: Sava Vemić. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

Over dinner with friends after Lady Macbeth the other night, we counted off on our fingers the various Warlikowski productions we'd seen over the years, between Paris, Brussels, London and Berlin. Quite a lot it turned out: Iphigénie en Tauride, Věc Makropoulos, King Roger, Parsifal, Macbeth, Médée, The Rake's Progress, Lulu, Don Giovanni, Bluebeard's Castle with la…

Händel - Semele, in concert

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Wednesday April 3 2019

Conductor: Harry Bicket. Semele: Brenda Rae. Ino/Juno: Elizabeth DeShong. Jupiter: Benjamin Hulett. Cadmus/Somnus: Soloman Howard. Athamas: Christopher Lowrey. Iris: Ailish Tynan. The English Concert. The Clarion Choir.

After this concert, I had a discussion online with a soprano who has twins about how pregnancy may affect a singer’s singing. There's no telling, it seems: it varies from singer to singer and sometimes actually helps. Brenda Rae was quite evidently pregnant, and I wondered whether her surprising and rather frustrating restraint as Semele was due to her condition or just to her holding back for stylistic reasons. She only really let rip in 'Myself I shall adore', which was loudly applauded, but sang the admittedly unreasonable 'No, no, I’ll take no less', which ought to crown a soprano’s evening, practically through gritted teeth and so to less applause.

Perhaps Harry Bicket was responsible (fo…