Offenbach - Les Deux Aveugles. Hervé - Le Compositeur toqué

Studio Marigny, Paris, Sunday January 20 2019

Production, sets, costumes: Lola Kirchner. Lighting: Cyril Monteil. Giraffier, Séraphin: Flannan Obé. Patachon, Fignolet: Raphaël Brémard. Piano: Christophe Manien.

In case anyone doesn’t already know:

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 (chanson, opéra-comique, operetta). The Centre was inaugurated in 2009 and has its headquarters in a Venetian palazzo dating from 1695 which was specially restored for this purpose.
[From the Bru-Zane website]

Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed rediscovering some rare French operas through Bru Zane’s recordings, so I was glad to see they were planning a l…

Donizetti - Don Pasquale

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday December 23 2018

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production and costumes: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Chantal Thomas. Lighting: Duane Schuler. Don Pasquale: Pietro Spagnoli. Dottor Malatesta: Rodion Pogossov. Ernesto: Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani. Norina: Anne-Catherine Gillet. Un Notaro: Alessandro Abis. La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Like Beethoven advising Rossini but at my much less exalted level, I'd be quite happy if Donizetti had stuck to comic operas. Laurent Pelly's production of Don Pasquale, already seen in San Diego and Barcelona, was an unpretentiously and undemandingly good-humoured way to end the operatic year just before Christmas.

The set was simple: Don Pasquale's house in the middle of a square, with, to right and left, walls of doors, windows and shutters, all grey, and to the rear, nothing. The house rotated to reveal the Don's living room, bare but for his high, button-backed leather armchair and an elaborate central ceilin…



Verdi - Simon Boccanegra

ONP Bastille, Wednesday November 21 2018

Conductor: Fabio Luisi. Production: Calixto Bieito. Sets: Susanne Gschwender. Costumes: Ingo Krügler. Lighting: Michael Bauer. Video: Sarah Derendinger. Simon Boccanegra: Ludovic Tézier. Jacopo Fiesco: Mika Kares. Maria Boccanegra (Amelia Grimaldi): Maria Agresta. Gabriele Adorno: Francesco Demuro. Paolo Albani: Nicola Alaimo. Pietro: Mikhail Timoshenko. Un capitano dei balestrieri: Cyrille Lovighi. Un'ancella di Amelia: Virginia Leva-Poncet. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

The gist of most of the reviews I've seen of Paris's new Boccanegra has been "good singing, bad production", with headlines such as:
Sur une mer d'ennui (“on a sea of boredom”)Great voices suffer at the hands of merciless directorPanne sèche (“out of fuel”).Des voix superbes sauvent une mise en scène médiocre (“superb voices save a mediocre production”)En fond de cale (“in the bilge”) and my favourite, not that I personally found …

Prokofiev - War and Peace

WNO at Birmingham Hippodrome, Saturday November 17 2018

Conductor: Tomáš Hanus. Production: David Pountney. Sets: Robert Innes Hopkins. Costumes: Marie-Jeanne Lecca. Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth. Video: David Haneke. Andrei: Jonathan McGovern. Natasha: Lauren Michelle. Pierre: Mark Le Brocq. Princess Marie Akrossimova, Princess Marya, Aide de Camp de Murat, Mavra Kuzminichna: Leah-Marian Jones. Hélène, Prince Eugène’s Aide de Camp, Dunyasha: Jurgita Adamonytė. Anatole, First General, Kutuzov’s Aide de Camp, Bonnet, Barclay: Adrian Dwyer. Count Rostov, Tichon, Berthier, Ramballe, Beningsen: James Platt. Old Prince Bolkonsky: Jonathan May. Jacquot, Second General, General Belliard, Yermolov: Donald Thomson. Dolokhov, Denisov, Napoleon, Raevsky: David Stout. Balaga, Kutuzov, Davout: Simon Bailey. Sonya, Peronskaya, Kondratyevna: Samantha Price. Servant, Dr Métivier: Julian Boyce. Housemaid, Vasilisa: Carolyn Jackson. Valet, Gavrila, Matveyev: Laurence Cole. Joseph: George Newton-Fitzgerald. …

VPO under Gergiev in an all-Prokofiev programme

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday October 9 2018

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

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

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…