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Showing posts from May, 2007

Strauss - Salome

Salle Pleyel, Paris, Tuesday May 29 2007

Concert version

Conductor: Marc Albrecht. Salome: Janice Baird. Herod Antipas: Chris Merritt. Herodias: Anja Silja. Iochanaan: Alan Titus. Narraboth: Wookyung Kim. Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg.

Last night's Salome at the magnificently glamourised Salle Pleyel (what a sinister old hole it used to be) turned out, in the end, to be a very fine concert. I originally bought seats to hear Nina Stemme. She was replaced by Janice Baird, Alan Titus stepped in as John and Wookyung Kim took over from Rainer Trost (what was the matter with them all?). Also, I was warned (a) that Janice Baird, whom I actually also wanted to hear for the first time, had an edgy, wobbly voice and (b) that the Strasbourg band was capable of the worst horrors in Wagner and Strauss. I expected little of Chris Merritt after his recent catastrophic showing in La Juive, and wondered - much as I love her - how many notes Anja Silja would now have left.

Well...

First of all,…

Bizet - Carmen

Châtelet, Paris, Thursday May 17 2007

Conductor: Marc Minkowski. Production from the Staatsoper unter den Linden, Berlin: Martin Kusej, restaged by Elena Tzavara. Carmen: Sylvie Brunet. Don José: Nikolai Schukoff. Escamillo: Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Micaëla: Genia Kühmeier. Le Dancaïre: Alain Gabriel. Le Remendado: François Piolino. Zuniga: François Lis. Moralès: Boris Grappe. Frasquita: Gaële Le Roi. Mercédès: Nora Sourouzian. Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble. Chorus of the Musiciens du Louvre. Sotto Voce and Maîtrise de Paris children's choruses.
Bizet's Don José

Quite often these days directors are criticised for taking "stage business" to mean busy staging, afraid that audiences with a supposedly short, TV-influenced attention span will switch off if nothing much happens during an aria. Martin Kusej's Carmen must be one of the fidgiest productions I've ever seen.

The thing even managed to open with two "ideas". First, a red scarf fell from the flies (…

Janacek - Vec Makropulos

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ONP Bastille, Tuesday May 8, Monday May 14 2007

Conductor: Tomas Hanus. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets and costumes Malgorzata Szczesniak. Emilia Marty: Angela Denoke. Albert Gregor: Charles Workman. Jaroslav Prus: Vincent Le Texier. Vítek: David Kuebler. Krista: Karine Deshayes. Janek : Ales Briscein. Kolenaty: Paul Gay. Hauk-Sendorf: Ryland Davies. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.
Having seen this show once, we decided to go back and see it again for two reasons: first, it was such a good production that we wanted to take a (literally) closer look at the details; second, the performance on May 8 was musically ropier than I expected after reading rave reviews (chaotic orchestra with several wrong entries, some cracked notes on stage...) and we wanted to see if we'd just hit an off night.

Musically, May 14 was an improvement: the orchestra, though still occasionally unruly, was better-disciplined and the singers were on better form. In any case, this is p…

Stravinsky – The Rake’s Progress

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday May 6 2007

Conductor: Kazushi Ono. Production: Robert Lepage, with Ex Machina, Quebec. Anne Trulove: Laura Claycomb. Tom Rakewell: Andrew Kennedy. Nick Shadow: William Shimell. Mother Goose: Julianne Young. Baba the Turk: Dagmar Peckova. Trulove: Darren Jeffery. Sellem: Donal Byrne. Keeper of the Madhouse: Shadi Torbey. Orchestr and chorus of La Monnaie.

Unusually, the Financial Times published a reader’s rebuttal of its reviewer’s complaints that the singers in Brussels’ new production of The Rake’s Progress were often faint and that the production might have been more original and better-handled. Well, I was there yesterday, and I can see the critic’s point.

For a start, to keep things perfectly objective, my neighbour, not herself an FT reader, spontaneously opined at the interval that Andrew Kennedy “might really be not bad at all, but I can’t hear him.” She also spontaneously compared this production to Robert Carsen’s Paris Candide – which also took ear…

Monteverdi and others - Era La notte

"Opéra de Chambre"Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Friday May 4 2007Pietro Antonio Giramo: La PazzaClaudio Monteverdi: Lamento d’AriannaBarbara Strozzi: Lagrime mieClaudio Monteverdi: Il Combattimento di Tancredi e ClorindaProduction: Juliette Deschamps. Costumes: Christian Lacroix. Anna Caterina Antonacci. Soloists of the Cercle de l’Harmonie under Julien Chauvin.

A single sentence found on the web sums up this rather intense evening: “Era la notte presents four highly emotional, seventeenth-century Italian works, sung with commanding theatricality by Anna Caterina Antonacci.” Presented as a “chamber opera”, the performance is really a staged recital of works composed between 1620 and 1650, united by period but also by the the theme of destructive, mostly amorous, passion.

The production is simple. The stage is nearly bare, with just a strip of water at the apron changing colour, from blue to blood red, depending on variations in the “old master” style lighting that follow …