Prokofiev - Betrothal in a Monastery

Opéra Comique, Paris, Thursday February 3, 2011

Conductor: Tugan Sokhiev. Production: Martin Duncan. Sets and costumes: Alison Chitty. Lighting: Paul Pyant. Choreography: Ben Wright. Don Jerome: Brian Galliford. Ferdinand: Garry Magee. Louisa: Anastasia Kalagina. The Duenna: Larissa Diadkova. Don Antonio: Daniil Shtoda. Clara d’Almanza: Anna Kiknadze. Mendoza: Mikhail Kolelishvili. Don Carlos: Yuri Vorobiev. Padre Augustin: Eduard Tsanga. Father Elustaf/ 1st Masker: Vasily Efimov. Father Chartreuse/ 2nd Masker: Marek Kalbus. Father Benedictine/ 3rd Masker: Mischa Schelomianski. Lauretta: Eleonora Vindau. Orchestra and chorus of the Capitole de Toulouse.

It’s been a long time since I trundled out my threadbare line that opera-going is a triumph of hope over experience. I just browsed back through my reports to see when I last had a really fantastic evening at the opera and lo and behold, it was almost exactly a year ago in the same house, the Salle Favart, for The Fairy Queen. But I also see that my write-ups are getting longer and longer, so this time I’ll try to keep it short.

What was so good?

Fantastic opera: good comic text and a great Prokofiev score: colourful, inventive, sardonic, witty, lyrical, magical… If you don’t know it, buy it. Even on CD it’s one of the all-time great comic operas. In the house, it goes off like a barrel of fireworks.

Great conducting and playing: Orchestre du Capitole on peak form, full, rich, sound yet detailed and accurate, great drive but great delicacy when needed. The quartet was fabulous, a magic moment, everything seemed suspended.

Simple production but wonderful comic acting: budget sets of gantries with spots and metal structures hung with doors, windows, chairs, ladders… All grey but lit up in vibrant colours: green and blue, red and orange and pink… The characters perhaps hinting at Chagall (Mendoza especially, with his long, stiff beard), in 1920 costumes; the angular ballets (and projections) definitely recalling constructivism (and as usual, pretty superfluous). The singers acted up a storm, down to every facial gesture and jaunty move and looked as though they were enjoying every minute, as we did. Chorus gaily cross-dressed: tall, beefy men in flapper dresses, dapper little women in tails, some with clown faces.

Brian Galliford: simply amazing, totally in charge, running the show, conducting the little on-stage trio (what a clarinettist!) and playing the glosckenspiel himself at the end. Larissa Diadkova: what is there to say? Absolutely Russian sound, great timbre, great actress, having a ball. Mikhail Kolelishvili: where do they find these young guys? What a bass, and again, what an actor!

Anastasia Kalagina: another absolutely Russian voice type, this time the kind that sings the Queen in The Golden Cockerel: sweet and silvery. Irresistibly pretty and coquettish. Anna Kiknadze: a very sound young mezzo, gave us a truly moving convent aria.

Garry Magee very charming personality but perhaps getting over a cold; Daniil Shtoda a small voice but all the notes were there so the “big tune” was lovely. Vasily Efimov as a tall, very drunk monk, very remarkable - clarion high notes: one to look out for in future.

Everyone loving it, on stage and off and, we noted, no straining to hear the singers as we had to for Les Mamelles in the same place couple of weeks back, or at Garnier for Cesare. Natural, unmannered, generous and communicative.

So, about once a year it’s worth the trouble and expense. I wonder if there’ll be a DVD of this? It would be scandalous not to have a permanent record of Galliford’s masterly contribution alone, and then there’s all the rest…


  1. "Irresistibly pretty and coquettish" is excellent compliment!


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