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Showing posts from November, 2013

George Benjamin - Written on Skin

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Opéra Comique, Paris, Monday November 18 2013

Conductor: George Benjamin. Production: Katie Mitchell. Sets and costumes: Vicki Mortimer. Lighting: Jon Clark. The Protector: Christopher Purves. Agnès: Barbara Hannigan. Angel 1 - The Boy: Iestyn Davies. Angel 2 – Marie: Victoria Simmonds. Angel 3 – John: Allan Clayton. Angels, Archivists: David Alexander, Laura Harling, Peter Hobday, Sarah Northgraves. Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

NOTE: This will be a longish post, but only because, for a new work of this importance I think it's useful to offer a summary of the plot and give some background information. My report of the performance I attended is at the beginning; background notes and plot are at the end, for those interested.
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George Benjamin's Written on Skin was a huge hit when it premiered in Aix last year and has continued to reap praise, with few dissenting voices, as it has toured, so of course I was glad to see fo…

Richard Strauss - Elektra

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ONP Bastille, Paris, Monday November 4 2013

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Robert Carsen. Sets: Michael Levine. Costumes: Vazul Matusz. Lighting: Robert Carsen, Peter Van Praet. Klytämnestra: Waltraud Meier. Elektra: Irene Theorin. Chrysothemis; Ricarda Merbeth. Aegisth: Kim Begley. Orest: Evgeny Nikitin. Die Aufseherin: Miranda Keys. Fünf Mägde: Anja Jung, Susanna Kreusch, Heike Wessels, Barbara Morihien, Eva Oltivanyi. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

“Sobriety” may not be the word you expect to settle on to sum up a performance of Elektra, as I did this Monday. This could explain why some critics have claimed this production was “tame”.

Musically, taken on its own terms, it was excellent – but some people might not subscribe to the terms. The orchestra was on magnificent form, playing Strauss better than I can ever remember; an amazing feat, to those of us old enough to remember when the Paris Opera orchestra couldn’t play Strauss at all. But Jordan kept…

Britten - War Requiem

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La Monnaie – Bozar, Brussels, Sunday November 3 2013

Conductor: Ludovic Morlot. Soprano: Sabina Cvilak. Tenor: Mark Padmore. Baritone: Dietrich Henschel. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie. Flemish Radio Chorus. Vocaal Ensemble Reflection. La Monnaie Children’s Chorus.

It's probably simplistic of me (and yet another sign of my lack of proper musical education) to imagine, when a composer decides to score for both full and chamber orchestra, that he expects the small band to make less noise than the big one. The main shortcoming of this performance of Britten's wonderful War Requiem was, to me, lack of dynamic variety. It was mostly loud to very loud, with Ludovic Morlot apparently making little effort to coax some more subtly nuanced playing from La Monnaie's players (or to cue his soloists' entries properly). As a result, tenor and baritone often seemed forced to bawl their parts and the best bits were either those that Britten undoubtedly intended to be loud - the out…