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…

Britten - Gloriana

Teatro Real, Madrid, Saturday April 14 2018.

Conductor: Ivor Bolton. Production: David McVicar. Sets: Robert Jones. Costumes: Brigitte Reiffenstuel. Lighting: Adam Silverman. Choreographer: Colm Seery. Queen Elizabeth I: Anna Caterina Antonacci. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: Leonardo Capalbo. Frances, Countess of Essex: Paula Murrihy. Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy: Duncan Rock. Penelope, Lady Rich: Sophie Bevan. Sir Robert Cecil: Leigh Melrose. Sir Walter Raleigh: David Soar. Henry Cuffe: Benedict Nelson. A Lady-in-Waiting: Elena Copons. A Blind Ballad-Singer: James Creswell. The Recorder of Norwich: Scott Wilde. A Housewife: Itxaro Mentxaka. The Spirit of the Masque: Sam Furness. The Master of Ceremonies: Gerardo López. The City Crier: Àlex Sanmartí. Principal Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real. Pequeños Cantores de la Comunidad de Madrid.

In various ways, following the success of Bomarzo last year, flying to Madrid for a weekend for Gloriana was a bit of a gamble. In the opera…

Lezhneva, Fagioli in concert at the TCE

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday March 27 2018

Conductor: Andres Gabetta. Julia Lezhneva, soprano. Franco Fagioli, counter-tenor. Cappella Gabetta.
Vivaldi: Concerto for strings and continuo RV 156Porpora: Motet "In caelo stelle care"Ragazzi: Sonata for violin and orchestra Op.1 No.8Vivaldi: Nisi DominusPergolesi: Stabat Mater P77  "Most countertenors, Italians more than others, look like vegan consumptives on a bad day and sound - if you can hear them at all - like gas escaping from a (small) pipe," I wrote in 2013. Fortunately, it doesn't apply to all of them. Franco Fagioli is a case in point. I had noted, writing about a Giulio Cesare at the Champs Elysées in 2006, that "Franco Fagioli was the right kind of 'stage animal' counter-tenor to give us a petulant, if not always accurate, Tolomeo." Ten years later, I saw him as Cavalli's Eliogabalo at Garnier: "Franco Fagioli was most impressive in his rich and grainy, expressiv…

Berlioz - Benvenuto Cellini

ONP Bastille, Monday March 26 2018

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Terry Gilliam with Leah Hausman. Choreography: Leah Hausman. Sets: Terry Gilliam, Aaron Marsden. Costumes: Katrina Lindsay. Lighting: Paule Constable. Video: Finn Ross. Benvenuto Cellini: John Osborn. Giacomo Balducci: Maurizio Muraro. Fieramosca: Audun Iversen. Le Pape Clément VII: Marco Spotti. Francesco: Vincent Delhoume. Bernardino: Luc Bertin-Hugault. Pompeo: Rodolphe Briand. Cabaretier: Se-Jin Hwang. Teresa: Pretty Yende. Ascanio: Michèle Losier. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

People who go to the cinema will know better than I what Terry Gilliam's work looks like - his visual identity. I did once see Brazil on TV, or parts of it at any rate, and hated every second. From what I've read, however, it would seem this production of Benvenuto Cellini is more like his Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and certainly in some respects the visuals were reminiscent of the animated sectio…

Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana; Leoncavallo – Pagliacci

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday March 18 2018

Conductor: Evelino Pidó. Production: Damiano Michieletto. Sets: Paolo Fantin. Costumes: Carla Teti. Lighting: Alessandro Carletti.
Santuzza: Eva-Maria Westbroek. Lola: Josè Maria Lo Monaco. Turiddu: Teodor Ilincai. Alfio: Dimitri Platanias. Lucia: Elena Zilio
Nedda: Simona Mihai. Canio: Carlo Ventre. Tonio: Scott Hendricks. Peppe: Tansel Akzeybek. Silvio: Gabriele Nani. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

"Mon avis n'engage que moi," as the French say: my opinion is but my own. Come to think of it, it could be the motto of this blog. It's my view that, as well as a good production, these second-class works need vocal and orchestral glamour, southern swagger, whatever the Italian for Schmaltz is, to work. Damiano Michieletto's production is what the French call "efficace": it gets the job done and, as a bonus, comes with a sprinkling of ideas. People like it. But the music-making, unus…