Showing posts from 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Something outstanding from 2012 to see in 2013.

(The words "Something outstanding" are actually a link, in case you didn't notice!). From Arias for Marietta Marcolini on Naïve.

Ballets de Noverre: Renaud et Armide / Médée et Jason

Opéra Comique, Paris, Saturday December 22 2012
"Ballets d'action" by Jean-Georges Noverre, music by Jean-Joseph Rodolphe. Created in Versailles and Milan in 1775.

Conductor: Hervé Niquet. Choreography: Marie-Geneviève Massé. Production: Vincent Tavernier. Sets: Antoine Fontaine. Costumes: Olivier Bériot. Lighting: Hervé Gary. Armide: Sabine Novel. Renaud: Noah Hellwig. La Chevalier danois: Olivier Collin. Ubalde: Bruno Benne. Médée: Sarah Berreby. Jason: Adrian Navarro. Céüse: Émilie Brégougnon. Créon: Daniel Housset. L'Éventail baroque dance company. Le Concert Spirituel.

Jean-Georges Noverre was a choreographer whose work, according to the Opéra Comique’s website, “by emancipating dance from opera, at last enabled the art of movement to tell its own stories […] With these action ballets, the ‘Shakespeare of the dance’ as the actor Garrick called him" (his success was international) "set the seeds for the full flowering of romantic ballet”. In other words,…

Blow - Venus & Adonis (preceded by Begin the Song)

Opéra Comique, Paris, Thursday December 13 2012

Conductor: Bertrand Cuiller. Production: Louise Moaty. Choreography: Françoise Denieau. Sets: Adeline Caron. Costumes: Alain Blanchot. Lighting: Christophe Naillet. Adonis: Marc Mauillon. Venus: Céline Scheen. Cupid: Romain Delalande. Chorus & Orchestra of Les Musiciens du Paradis. Caen Children’s Chorus.

I had never listened to Venus and Adonis. In my usual blind prejudice, I supposed it was pale Purcell. Turns out it's a very fine, varied score and a work which combines, in that typical English way, delicately underplayed tragedy and gentle humour. Here it was above all beautifully played by Les Musiciens du Paradis, who are new to me, presumably at a fairly low pitch as the overall sound was mellow and the singers I read were countertenors (supposing the source was correct) sounded, here, like plain tenors - at least two of them very good, by the way. Céline Scheen stood out for her creamy soprano voice (and, my neighbour insis…

Cherubini - Médée

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Wednesday 12 December 2012

Conductor: Christophe Rousset. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets & Costumes: Malgorzata Szczesniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Video design: Denis Guéguin. Médée: Nadja Michael. Jason: John Tessier. Dircé: Elodie Kimmel. Créon: Vincent Le Texier. Néris: Varduhi Abrahamyan. Servante 1: Ekaterina Isachenko. Servante 2: Anne-Fleur Inizan. Les Talens Lyriques. Chorus of Radio France.

Pourquoi tant de haine ? (part 2)

This is a production I already wrote about when I saw it in 2011 in Brussels, so I don't need to go into much extra detail here. In Brussels it was not booed; at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, it was both booed and heckled (to be specific, the booing started during "Oh Carol" at the end of act two), perhaps because the Champs Elysées audience often contains a fair contingent of conservative bourgeois from the leafy western suburbs, more used to more conventional productions of Mozart.

They have …

Bizet - Carmen

ONP Bastille, Monday December 10 2012
Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Yves Beaunesne. Sets: Damien Caille-Perret. Costumes: Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz. Lighting: Joël Hourbeigt. Don José: Khachatur Badalyan. Escamillo: Ludovic Tézier. Le Dancaïre: Edwin Crossley-Mercer. Le Remendado: François Piolino. Zuniga: François Lis. Morales: Alexandre Duhamel. Carmen: Anna Caterina Antonacci. Micaela: Genia Kühmeier. Frasquita: Olivia Doray. Mercedes: Louise Callinan. Lillas Pastia: Philippe Faure. Un Guide: Frédéric Cuif. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Hauts de Seine and Paris Opera Children’s Choruses.

Pourquoi tant de haine ?

It’s easy to see why La Monnaie’s new Traviata got booed. It’s harder to see what it is about Paris’s new (blow-job-free) Carmen that raises people’s hackles. It certainly doesn’t raise many questions, bombard you with ideas or wow you with in-depth characterisations, but it turns out to be a fairly well-managed, conventional show. We’ve had wo…

Verdi - La Traviata

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday December 9 2012
Conductor: Ádám Fischer. Production: Andrea Breth. Sets: Décors: Martin Zehetgruber. Costumes: Moidele Bickel. Lighting: Alexander Koppelmann. Violetta Valéry: Simona Šaturová. Flora Bervoix: Salomé Haller. Annina: Carole Wilson. Alfredo Germont: Sébastien Guèze. Giorgio Germont: Scott Hendricks. Gastone: Dietmar Kerschbaum. Barone Douphol: Till Fechner. Marchese d’Obigny: Jean-Luc Ballestra. Dottor Grenvil: Guillaume Antoine. Giuseppe: Gijs Van der Linden. Commissionario: Matthew Zadow. Domestico: Kris Belligh. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

Act one prelude. A wet night in a gloomy container park. A fresh consignment of prostitutes, in macs and stilettos, disembark from the stacked containers. The girls struggle against the traffickers, with one exception who, on the contrary, aims to seduce them: Violetta we presume.

Act one. Violetta’s white-floored saloon, with half a dozen matt-black chesterfield armchairs and the odd chrome table o…

Verdi - Otello

Hungarian State Opera, Friday November 16, 2012
Conductor: Domonkos Héja. Production: László Vámos, staged by Sándor Palcsó. Sets: Attila Csikós. Costumes: Nelly Vágó. Otello: Marius Vlad. Desdemona: Andrea Rost. Iago: Anatolij Fokanov. Emilia: Éva Pánczél. Cassio: Zoltán Nyári. Rodrigo: Tivadar Kiss. Montano: Sándor Egri. Lodovico: Tamás Szüle. Un AraldoZoltán Somogyi. Orchestra and Chorus of the Hungarian State Opera.

If or when you get Otello in your season you may, I think, be forgiven for wondering what to expect. But the last time I was in Budapest I was pleased to find a wholly Eastern European cast offering “generous, professional, committed singing of what’s now an old school” (quote from my write-up of Rosenkavalier) not to mention the excellent orchestra, chorus and the “third best acoustics in Europe,” as one punctilious, locally-written guide book put it. So I had high hopes for Otello this time round, and they were fulfilled.

Once again, the cast was admirably consistent…

Händel - Agrippina

Vlaamse Opera, Ghent, Sunday November 4 2012
Conductor: Paul McCreesh. Production: Mariame Clément. Sets: Julia Hansen. Costumes: Julia Hansen. Lighting: Bernd Purkrabek. Video: fettFilm. Agrippina: Ann Hallenberg. Nerone: José Maria Lo Monaco. Poppea: Elena Tsallagova. Ottone: Kristina Hammarström. Claudio: Umberto Chiummo: Pallante: João Fernandes. Narciso: José Lemos. Lesbo: Gevorg Grigoryan. Giunone: Marija Jokovic. Vlaamse Opera Orchestra.

As I sheltered in a museum café from the cold and rain that made visiting Ghent this weekend more difficult than it should have been, the lady having soup at the next table explained that she no longer went to the opera there because instead of putting on shows people want to see, they force-feed them modern productions. Would she really not have enjoyed this ingenious, effective approach to Agrippina?

It was a bright, colourful, “dinky” staging (“So smart!” someone exclaimed to me, like one of Evelyn Waugh’s Bright Young People, before shootin…

Donizetti - La Fille du Régiment

ONP Bastille, Saturday October 27 2012

Conductor: Marco Armiliato. Production and costumes: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Chantal Thomas. Lighting: Joël Adam. Choreography: Laura Scozzi. Marie: Natalie Dessay. La Marquise de Berkenfield: Doris Lamprecht. La Duchesse de Crakentorp: Dame Felicity Lott. Tonio: Juan Diego Florez. Sulpice: Alessandro Corbelli. Hortensius: Francis Dudziak. Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

Florez was fabulous.

This well-travelled production is so familiar, I thought I might get away with writing nothing else about last night's performance. After London, Vienna, Milan, Barcelona and New York, here it all is in Paris, as seen on TV, DVD and YouTube. The barricades of beds, old furniture and grandfather clocks on handcarts, the chorus armed with pots and pans, pitchforks and carpet-beaters. The Tyrolean landscape of old maps, criss-crossed with "Siegfried lines" of long johns, and in the second part, the Marchioness's parlour plonked…

Berg - Lulu

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday October 21 2012

Conductor: Paul Daniel. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets and costumes: Malgorzata Szczesniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Choreography: Claude Bardouil. Video: Denis Guéguin. Lulu: Barbara Hannigan. Grafin Geschwitz: Natascha Petrinsky. Gymnasiast & groom: Frances Bourne. Maler & Neger: Tom Randle. Dr. Schön & Jack The Ripper: Dietrich Henschel. Alwa: Charles Workman. Schigolch: Pavlo Hunka. Tierbändiger & Athlet: Ivan Ludlow. Prinz, Kammerdiener & Marquis: (Replaced). Theaterdirektor & Bankier: Rúni Brattaberg. Mutter: Mireille Capelle. Kunstgewerblerin: Beata Morawska. Journalist: Benoît De Leersnyder. Polizeikommissar, Medizinalrat & Professor: Gerard Lavalle. Diener: Charles Dekeyser. Eine Fünfzehnjährige: Anna Maistriau. Ballerina: Rosalba Torres Guerrero. Dancer: Claude Bardouil. Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie.

“She [Berg’s illegitimate daughter] no doubt dreamed of becoming an artist herself as a mea…

Wagner - Tristan und Isolde

Salle Pleyel, Paris, Saturday October 13 2012.

Conductor: Mikko Franck . Isolde: Nina Stemme. Tristan: Christian Franz. Brangäne: Sarah Connolly. Melot: Richard Berkeley-Steele. Kurwenal: Detlef Roth. King Marke: Peter Rose. Young Sailor: Pascal Bourgeois. Shepherd: Christophe Poncet. Steersman: Renaud Derrien. Chorus of Radio France. Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

There isn't much you can say about an evening of this kind, that has the whole Salle Pleyel on its feet at the end, bawling "Bravo!" (the French don't bother much with such niceties as "Brava" and "Bravi") and clapping rhythmically. I was reminded of a madman who used to be on one of several classical music forums I quit and often used the expression "in a zone", pinched, I think, from the world of sport. There are times, if you're really lucky, when a performance seems to move on to a trance-like plane, mesmerising the audience: in a zone. This was one. Though I…

Strauss - Capriccio

ONP Palais Garnier, Paris, Wednesday September 19 2012

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Robert Carsen. Sets: Michael Levine. Costumes: Anthony Powell. Lighting: Robert Carsen, Peter Van Praet. Die Gräfin: Michaela Kaune. Der Graf: Bo Skovhus. Flamand: Joseph Kaiser. Olivier: Adrian Eröd. La Roche: Peter Rose. Die Schauspielerin Clairon: Michaela Schuster. Monsieur Taupe: Ryland Davies. Eine italienische Sängerin: Barbara Bargnesi. Ein italienischer Tenor: Manuel Nuñez Camelino. Eine junge Tänzerin: Laura Hecquet. Der Haushofmeister: Jérôme Varnier. Acht Diener: Antonel Boldan, Chae Wook Lim, Vincent Morell, Christian Rodrigue Moungoungou, Slawomir Szychowiak, Ook Chung, Yves Cochois, Hyun-Jong Roh. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.

I've already described Robert Carsen's detailed, interesting 2004 production of Capriccio, which mildly raises one or two awkward questions as well as ending in a blaze of Schmalz, at length, and it will be familar to many from the DV…

Berlioz - Les Troyens

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Sunday July 8 2012
Conductor: Antonio Pappano. Production: David McVicar. Sets: Es Devlin. Costumes: Moritz Junge. Lighting: Wolfgang Göbbel. Choreography: Andrew George. Cassandre: Anna Antonacci. Chorèbe: Fabio Capitanucci. Enée: Bryan Hymel. Didon: Eva-Maria Westbroek. Narbal: Brindley Sherratt. Anna: Hanna Hipp. Ascagne: Barbara Senator. Priam: Robert Lloyd. Hécube: Pamela Helen Stephen. Ghost of Hector: Jihoon Kim. Panthée: Ashley Holland. Hélénus: Ji Hyun Kim. Greek Captain: Lukas Jakobski. Trojan Soldier: Daniel Grice. Iopas: Ji-Min Park. First Soldier: Adrian Clarke. Second Soldier: Jeremy White. Hylas: Ed Lyon. Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
I’d intended this season to go out with a bang. To get tickets for Les Troyens with Kaufmann, Antonacci and Westbroek in the new, McVicar production, I pulled out all the stops. Against all odds, as I’ve never actually liked the place, I became a "Friend of Covent …

Strauss - Arabella

ONP Bastille, Paris, Wednesday July 4 2012
Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production and sets: Marco Arturo Marelli. Costumes: Dagmar Niefind . Lighting: Friedrich Eggert. Graf Waldner: Kurt Rydl. Adelaide: Doris Soffel. Arabella: Renée Fleming. Zdenka: Genia Kühmeier. Mandryka: Michael Volle. Matteo: Will Hartmann (replacing Joseph Kaiser). Graf Elemer: Eric Huchet. Graf Dominik: Edwin Crossley Mercer. Graf Lamoral. Thomas Dear. Die Fiakermilli: Iride Martinez. Eine Kartenaufschlägerin: Irène Friedli. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

It doesn’t show, because I don’t succeed, but in fact every time I start one of these write-ups I tell myself I’ll keep it short. The trouble is I always want to include enough detail to recall the production if need be (which was the whole point when I started keeping these records), so I end up rambling on.

This time, however, for those who want the facts about Paris’s new Arabella in a few words, I can sum it up in six: great cast,…

Verdi - Il Trovatore

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday July 1 2012
Conductor: Marc Minkowski. Production, sets: Dmitri Tcherniakov. Costumes: Dmitri Tcherniakov, Elena Zaytseva. Lighting: Gleb Filshtinsky. Il Conte di Luna: Dimitris Tiliakos. Manrico: Misha Didyk. Azucena: Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo. Leonora: Marina Poplavskaya. Ferrando: Giovanni Furlanetto. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

Directors must spend a lot of time wondering how to make Romantic plots work, dramatically, with today’s audience. We, today’s audience, meanwhile, on our way to a Sonnambula or a Rigoletto, may (or is that might?) hope - against hope, you could add - to get a decent evening’s singing, but don’t expect to have a great evening’s theatre, let alone emerge breathless and shaken. Yet Dmitri Tcherniakov achieved exactly that: he turned Trovatore into an afternoon (I was at a matinee) of total music theatre, with acting so powerful that it came as a useful reminder – we have plenty of opportunities to forget – that when the drama…

Rameau - Hippolyte et Aricie

ONP Garnier, Friday June 22 2012
Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Production: Ivan Alexandre. Sets: Antoine Fontaine. Costumes: Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz . Lighting: Hervé Gary. Dance: Natalie Van Parys. Phèdre: Sarah Connolly. Aricie: Anne-Catherine Gillet. Diane: Andrea Hill. L’Amour/Une Prêtresse/Une Matelote: Jaël Azzaretti. Oenone: Salomé Haller. Tisiphone: Marc Mauillon. La Grande Prêtresse de Diane/Une Chasseresse/Une Prêtresse: Aurélia Legay. Hippolyte: Topi Lehtipuu. Thésée: Stéphane Degout. Pluton/Jupiter: François Lis. Arcas/Deuxième Parque: Aimery Lefèvre. Un Suivant/Mercure: Manuel Nuñez Camelino. Neptune/Troisième Parque: Jérôme Varnier. Orchestra and chorus of the Concert d’Astrée.

Facebook is an odd phenomenon. You start because one or two young friends – real friends you have actually met, know and love - tell you you should join. Then gradually people you don’t know from Adam start asking to be your “friend” and, as you don’t want to be unpleasant, you say yes… So you end up…