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Showing posts from 2011

Massenet - Cendrillon

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday December 11 2011
Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Laurent Pelly, Benoît De Leersnyder. Sets: Barbara de Limburg. Costumes: Laurent Pelly, Jean-Jacques Delmotte. Choreography: Laura Scozzi, Karine Girard. Lighting: Duane Schuler. Cendrillon: Rinat Shaham. Le Prince Charmant: Frédéric Antoun. Mme de la Haltière: Nora Gubisch. La Fée: Eglise Gutiérrez. Noémie: Ilse Eerens. Dorothée: Angélique Noldus. Pandolfe: Lionel Lhote. Le Doyen: Yves Saelens. Le Surintendant des plaisirs: Quirijn de Lang. Premier Ministre: Donal J. Byrne. Le Roi: Patrick Bolleire. Premier Esprit: Yuhmi Iwamoto. Deuxième Esprit: Charlotte Cromheeke. Troisième Esprit & Une Jeune Fille: Caroline Jestaedt. Quatrième Esprit & Une Jeune Fille: Amalia Avilan. Cinquième Esprit & Une Jeune Fille: Audrey Kessedjian. Sixième Esprit: Camille Merckx. Le Héraut: Pascal Macou. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

There are times when operas are like corporation buses: you wait ages f…

Verdi - La Forza del Destino

ONP Bastille, Tuesday November 29 2011

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Jean-Claude Auvray. Sets: Alain Chambon. Costumes; Maria-Chiara Donato. Lighting: Laurent Castaingt. Il Marchese di Calatrava: Mario Luperi. Donna Leonora: Violeta Urmana. Don Carlo di Vargas: Vladimir Stoyanov. Don Alvaro: Marcelo Alvarez. Preziosilla: Nadia Krasteva. Padre Guardiano: Kwangchul Youn. Fra Melitone: Nicola Alaimo. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National De Paris.

I don’t always read the reviews before going along to the opera, but this time I did and found them ominously full of faint praise. “Inoffensive” production (in these uncertain times in Paris, that’s seen as a good thing). “Well-made costumes… secondary roles well sung…” In the event, the production wasn’t so much inoffensive as inexistent; and while Alvarez was off sick on the first night, he was there yesterday, more of which later.

I suppose quoting yourself isn’t done, a good enough reason to do it. You may remember that, afte…

Enescu - Œdipe

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday November 6 2011
Conductor: Leo Hussain. Production: Alex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), Valentina Carrasco. Sets: Alfons Flores. Costumes: Lluc Castells. Lighting: Peter Van Praet. Œdipe: Dietrich Henschel. Tirésias: Jan-Hendrik Rootering. Créon: Robert Bork. Le Berger: John Graham-Hall. Le Grand-Prêtre: Jean Teitgen. Phorbas: Henk Neven. Le Veilleur: Frédéric Caton. Thésée: Nabil Suliman. Laios: Yves Saelens. Jocaste: Natascha Petrinsky. La Sphinge: Marie-Nicole Lemieux. Antigone: Ilse Eerens. Mérope: Catherine Keen. Une femme thébaine: Kinga Borowska. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

Œdipe is one of the supreme operatic masterpieces of all time, one of the pinnacles of 20th century opera, of the kind that, alongside Pelléas, Wozzeck, Lulu or Die Soldaten, can be ticked off on the fingers of our hands.” Harry Halbreich.

So he’s a fan. Also in the programme notes for this new Brussels production, as well as in La Monnaie’s subscriber magazine, the conductor…

Berg - Lulu

BNP Bastille - Monday October 24 2011
Conductor: Michael Schonwandt. Production: Willy Decker. Sets & costumes: Wolfgang Gussman. Lighting: Hans Toelsede. Lulu: Laura Aikin. Gräfin Geschwitz: Jennifer Larmore. Eine Theatergarderobiere, Ein Gymnasiast, Ein Groom: Andrea Hill. Der Maler, Der Neger: Marlin Miller. Dr Schön, Jack: Wolfgang Schöne. Alwa: Kurt Streit. Der Tierbändiger, Ein Athlet: Scott Wilde. Schigolch: Franz Grundheber. Der Prinz, Der Kammerdiener, Der Marquis: Robert Wörle. Der Theaterdirektor, Der Bankier: Victor Von Halem. Eine Fünfzehnjährige: Julie Mathevet. Ihre Mutter: Marie-Thérèse Keller. Die Kunstgewerblerin: Marianne Crebassa. Der Journalist: Damien Pass. Ein Diener: Ugo Rabec. Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

Willy Decker’s production of Lulu, now over ten years old, has established itself as something of a modern classic in the Bastille repertoire. It is all that Martinoty’s recent Faust, in stark contrast, is not. It is intelligent, …

Gounod - Faust

ONP Bastille, Wednesday October 19, 2011
Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Jean-Louis Martinoty. Sets: Johan Engels. Costumes: Yan Tax. Lighting: Fabrice Kebour. Faust: Roberto Alagna. Méphistophélès: Paul Gay. Valentin: Tassis Christoyannis. Wagner: Alexandre Duhamel. Marguerite: Inva Mula. Siebel: Angélique Noldus. Dame Marthe: Marie-Ange Todorovitch. “Faust II”: Rémy Corazza.  Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

“Mr. Martinoty's solution is wretched excess: an immense library-cum-mad-science lab with a giant crucifix looming above, an older actor lip-synching Mr. Alagna's aged Faust, Mr. Alagna popping out of a space-age sphere in a gold T-shirt after the devilish deal, a huge chorus in a costume mashup that includes Enlightenment academics, Foreign Legionnaires, Second Empire soldiers, beauty contestants in bathing suits, peasant girls in Dutch bonnets, a humongous skeleton in a flurry of rainbow streamers, and carnival maskers part African-part Enso…

Cherubini - Médée

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday September 11 2011
Conductor: Christophe Rousset. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets and costumes: Malgorzata Szczesniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Médée: Nadja Michael. Jason: Kurt Streit. Néris: Christianne Stotijn. Créon: Vincent Le Texier. Dircé: Hendrickje Van Kerckhove. Première servante: Gaëlle Arquez. Deuxième servante: Anne-Fleur Inizian. Orchestra: Les Talens Lyriques. Chorus of La Monnaie.

I’m always glad to have a production by Kzrystof Warlikowski, so of course – and especially as we didn’t get it the first time round, in 2008 - I was glad to see his staging of Médée pop up on my Sunday matinee schedule in Brussels this year.

Noting, simply enough, that divorce and child custody are perfectly modern themes and may well, in an extreme case, end in tragedy, Warlikowski reconstructs Médée as a contemporary, postmodern patchwork in which the 18th century musical numbers are just one element among others in a nearly-new work. The themes are marria…

Offenbach - Les Brigands

Opéra Comique, Paris, Monday June 27 2011
Conductor: François-Xavier Roth. Production: Macha Makeïeff and Jérôme Deschamps.Costumes: Macha Makeïeff. Lighting: Marie-Christine Soma. Falsacappa: Eric Huchet. Fragoletto: Julie Boulianne. Fiorella: Daphné Touchais. Pietro: Franck Leguérinel. Le Comte de Gloria Cassis: Philippe Talbot. Le Baron de Campo Tasso: Francis Dudziak. Le Prince (Duc de Mantoue): Martial Defontaine. Le Chef des carabiniers: Fernand Bernadi. Antonio: caissier du prince: Loïc Félix. Carmagnola: Léonard Pezzino. Domino: Thomas Morris. Barbavano: Antoine Garcin. Pipo: Jean-Marc Martinez. Adolphe de Valladolid, un page: Marc Molomot. Princesse de Grenade: Michèle Lagrange. Zerlina, La Duchesse: Christine Rigaud. Le Précepteur: Ronan Debois. Chorus of the Toulon Opera. Orchestre Les Siècles.

Passing in 24 hours from one end of the French romantic spectrum to the other, I found myself mixing them up as I prepared to write and, for a brief moment, thinking dead chickens fe…

Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday June 26 2011.
Conductor: Marc Minkowski. Production: Olivier Py. Sets and costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Lighting: Bertrand Killy. Marguerite de Valois: Marlis Petersen. Valentine: Mireille Delunsch. Urbain: Yulia Lezhneva. Raoul de Nangis: Eric Cutler. Comte de Saint-Bris: Philippe Rouillon. Comte de Nevers: Jean-François Lapointe. De Retz: Arnaud Rouillon. Marcel: Jérôme Varnier. Cossé: Xavier Rouillon. Tavannes: Avi Klemberg. Thoré: Marc Labonnette. Méru: Frédéric Caton. Dame d’honneur: Camille Merckx. Une coryphée: Tineke Van Ingelgem. Deux bohémiennes: Camille Merckx, Tineke Van Ingelgem. Orchestra and chorus of La Monnaie.

La Monnaie decided to end the season with a grand gesture, pulling out all the stops to stage Les Huguenots for the first time since the 1930s, with as strong cast as it could muster under a famous conductor, directed by a famous producer and so, as they say in French, “creating an event,” with people searching the web for spare tic…

Mozart: Solemn Vespers for a Confessor; C Minor Mass.

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Friday June 24 2011.
Conductor: Jérémie Rhorer. Sally Matthews, soprano. Ann Hallenberg, mezzo-soprano. Rainer Trost, tenor. Nahuel di Pierro, bass. Le Cercle de l'Harmonie. Choeur Les Eléments.

I thought I’d better dash off a brief account of last night’s Mozart concert today, as tomorrow I have five hours of Meyerbeer in Brussels and may find myself with a lot more to write about. The magnificent C Minor Mass, so magnificent even I have a recording of it, was preceded by the smaller-scale and less magnificent Solemn Vespers, though they do contain one smash hit for the soprano.

I was, for once (and by accident; if I’d paid more attention I would have chosen seats elsewhere), on the front row. This naturally brings you a bit too close for comfort to the people on stage - at such close range they are all too human: you can see the un-hemmed trousers, the hairy nostrils, the state of their shoes (in baroque orchestras, usually terrible) the odd so…

Lully - Atys

Opéra Comique, Paris, Monday May 16 2011
Conductor: William Christie. Production: Jean-Marie Villégier. Sets: Carlo Tommasi. Costumes: Patrice Cauchetier. Choreography: Francine Lancelot, Béatrice Massin. Lighting: Patrick Méeüs. Atys: Bernard Richter. Cybèle: Stéphanie d’Oustrac. Sangaride: Emmanuelle de Negri. Célénus: Nicolas Rivenq. Idas: Marc Mauillon. Doris: Sophie Daneman. Mélisse: Jaël Azzaretti. Le Sommeil: Paul Agnew. Morphée: Cyril Auvity. Le temps ; le fleuve Sangar: Bernard Deletré. Maître de la cérémonie / Alecton: Jean Charles di Zazzo. L’impresario: Olivier Collin. Flore: Elodie Fonnard. Iris: Rachel Redmond. Melpomène: Anna Reinhold. Zéphir: Francisco Fernández-Rueda. Zéphir: Reinoud Van Mechelen. Phobétor: Callum Thorpe. Compagnie Fêtes Galantes. Gil Isoart, dancer at the Opéra National de Paris. Chorus and Orchestra: Les Arts Florissants.

First staged 25 years ago, this production of Atys, never forgotten, has achieved legendary status in France. In the early eighti…

Tribute to Farinelli

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Monday May 9 2011
Conductor: Christophe Rousset. Ann Hallenberg, mezzo soprano. Les Talens Lyriques.


Works by Broschi, Johann-Christian Bach, Porpora, Giacomelli, Hasse and Leo

To avoid a single, solemn ceremony, we were told in a speech at the start of this concert, when celebrating their twentieth anniversary, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques have chosen to tour a beautifully crafted concert of 18th-century gems, including a generous (the unfortunate singer might well say gruelling) selection of arias composed for Farinelli, who – because of the film - played an important part in the group’s performing history. I’m not usually a great recital fan, either on disc or in concert, as I find a whole evening of arias a bit like eating a box of chocolates in one sitting. But in this case, having, for one reason or another, recently been mightily impressed by clips of Swedish mezzo Ann Hallenberg on YouTube (after recently being mightily unimpress…

Verdi - Nabucco

[In concert]

La Monnaie (Cirque Royal), Brussels, Saturday April 30 2011
Conductor: Julian Reynolds. Nabucco: Carlo Guelfi. Ismaele: Zoran Todorovich. Zaccaria: Carlo Colombara. Abigaille: Marianne Cornetti. Fenena: Catherine Keen. Il Gran Sacerdote: Kurt Gysen. Abdallo: Xavier Rouillon. Anna: Olga Kindler. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

La Monnaie no doubt had its reasons for scheduling Nabucco in concert, not staged; I haven’t taken the time to see if they were stated anywhere. But I don’t think it was a wise decision. Nabucco is far from being Verdi’s greatest work, whatever political resonance and advertising fame that dreary chorus may have acquired (OK, shoot me down in flames). Performing it in concert exposes the score and the singers and removes the support and distraction of the on-stage drama a work like this needs. I suspect, therefore, that last Saturday’s cast would have come across better in sets and costumes.

Checking back, I see we’ve had several of the soloists …

Weber - Le Freischütz

Opéra Comique, Paris, Friday April 15 2011
Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Production: Dan Jemmett. Sets: Dick Bird. Costumes: Sylvie Martin-Hyszka. Lighting: Arnaud Jung. Agathe: Sophie Karthäuser. Max: Andrew Kennedy. Annette: Virginie Pochon. Gaspard: Gidon Saks. Kouno: Matthew Brook. L’Ermite: Luc Bertin-Hugault. Kilian: Samuel Evans. Ottokar: Robert Davies. Samiel: Christian Pelissier. The Monteverdi Choir. Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

There are fashions in music and opera, and though we all know it well from recordings, Freischütz has become a rarity in the theatre these days, perhaps because of the supernatural elements in the plot. In over thirty years of opera-going, I had previously seen it just once, in an amusing, over-the-top Okotoberfest kind of production at the Châtelet. The Opéra Comique, which gets better and better, has brought it back in a still rarer form, the French version prepared by Berlioz, with recitatives and a ballet (Invitation to the Dance

Toshio Hosokawa - Hanjo

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday April 10 2011
Conductor: Koen Kessels. Production: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Sets and lighting: Jan Joris Lamers. Costumes: Tim Van Steenbergen. Hanako: Ingela Bohlin. Jitsuko Honda: Frederika Brillembourg. Yoshio: William Dazeley. La Monnaie chamber orchestra.

It was interesting to have Hanjo so soon after Akhmatova. As I mentioned when writing up the latter, there has been little praise for Mantovani’s score, though I found it serviceable enough. Hosokawa's music is really something else: often (not always: there are plenty of drums, of different sizes, for times of drama) delicate and diaphanous, refined, subtle…sometimes infinitely quiet, quieter than any music we usually hear. So poor old Akhmatova seemed positively rustic and clodhopping in comparison. There’s little more musical “action” in Hanjo than in, say, L’Amour de Loin (though I must say at times it reminded me of Turn of the Screw or Death in Venice, only more modern and with a still li…

2011-2012 Season

It looks like my 2011-2012 season will be as follows. I may also buy a few extras (i.e. not in the subscription series) at the ONP, and there will probably be trips abroad I don't yet know about.

Médée - MonnaieFaust - BastilleŒdipe - MonnaieLa Forza del Destino - BastilleCendrillon - MonnaieAmadis de Gaule - FavartManon - BastilleSalome - MonnaieLa Cerisaie - GarnierEgisto - FavartDido and Aeneas - FavartLa Muette de Portici - FavartCav/Pag - BastilleOtello - MonnaieRe Orso - FavartLes Pêcheurs de Perles - FavartHippolyte et Aricie - GarnierIl Trovatore - MonnaieArabella - Bastille

Ann Hallenberg sings Scherza Infida

I've never posted a link before but in this case...

Ann Hallenberg - Scherza Infida

And more...

Ann Hallenberg - more Ariodante

And more...

Ann Hallenberg - still more

Mantovani - Akhmatova

ONP Bastille, Thursday March 31 2011
Conductor: Pascal Rophé. Production: Nicolas Joel. Sets and costumes: Wolfgang Gussmann. Lighting: Hans Toelstede. Anna Akhmatova: Janina Baechle. Lev Goumilev: Attila Kiss-B. Nicolaï Pounine: Lionel Peintre. Lydia Tchoukovskaïa: Varduhi Abrahamyan. Faina Ranevskaïa: Valérie Condoluci. Le Représentant de L’Union des écrivains: Christophe Dumaux. Un Sculpteur, Un Universitaire anglais: Fabrice Dalis. Un agent: Ugo Rabec. Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

The professionals haven't given a warm welcome to Bruno Mantovani's new opera Akhmatova. French daily Le Figaro talks of a "pall of boredom" over the Bastille; Le Monde writes of the score's "thunderous vacuity" while the Financial Times says it's "gratuitously aggressive"; and Diapason is far from alone in labelling the libretto "banal." While the peerless FT's integrity is unquestionable, I must say I wonder if there are…

Wagner - Siegfried

ONP Bastille, Tuesday March 22 2011
Conductor : Philippe Jordan. Production : Günter Krämer. Sets : Jürgen Bäckmann. Costumes : Falk Bauer. Lighting : Diego Leetz. Siegfried : Torsten Kerl. Mime : Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke. Der Wanderer : Juha Uusitalo. Alberich : Peter Sidhom. Fafner : Stephen Milling. Erda : Qiu Lin Zhang. Waldvogel : Elena Tsallagova. Brünnhilde : Katarina Dalayman. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.

Günter Krämer’s version of the Ring is turning out, to me, to be a bit perplexing. The conceptual thread is clear enough (assuming I’ve got it right): vignettes from German (or maybe just Western) history and culture. But visually speaking, you never quite know what the curtain will rise on: apart from one or two repeat elements (“Germania” in Gothic letters, the “Kokkis” inclined mirror over the stage, the terrifying “Valhalla” staircase) I haven’t yet grasped much visual/stylistic consistency in the staging.

Still, the first act was excellent entertainment. …

Mozart - La Finta Giardiniera

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday March 20 2011
Conductor: John Nelson. Production: Karl-Ernst Herrmann, Ursel Herrmann. Sets, costumes and lighting. Don Anchise, podestà di Lagonero: Jeffrey Francis. La Marchesa Violante Onesti (Sandrina): Sandrine Piau. Il Contino Belfiore: Jeremy Ovenden. Arminda: Henriette Bonde-Hansen. Il cavaliere Ramiro: Stella Doufexis. Serpetta: Katerina Knežíková. Roberto (Nardo): Adam Plachetka. ...: Mireille Mossé. Orchestra of la Monnaie.

I don’t deny for a moment that Mozart was one of the greatest composers of all time, but he composed in a period that doesn’t appeal to me much. So the idea of young Mozart (I won’t actually say “second-rate” for fear of getting shouted down) in a 20-year old production had me, once again, fearing the worst. It turned out, however, that the Hermanns had completely revamped their staging: it was fresh as a daisy and outstandingly good, all that an outstanding production should be: intelligent, handsome, rich in detail and rehea…