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Showing posts from April, 2015

Celebrated Manhattan in Charcoal

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Janacek - Jenufa

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Hungarian National Opera, Budapest, Saturday April 18 2015

Conductor: Graeme Jenkins. Production: Attila Vidnyánszky. Sets and costumes: Olexander Bizolub. Buryja: Éva Balatoni. Laca Klemen: János Bándi. Steva Burya: Atilla Kiss B. Kostelnicka: Gyöngyi Lukács. Jenufa: Szilvia Rálik. Mill Foreman: Gábor Bretz. Mayor: László Szvétek. Mayor's wife: Katalin Gémes. Karolka: Krisztina Simon. Neighbour: Éva Várhelyi. Barena: Erika Markovics. Jano: Eszter Zavaros.

In Budapest on the whole singers don't hold back, but despite the commitment of the four principals this performance of Jenufa was not a great success for various reasons, some of them probably to do with it being a first night.

For a start, the two tenors had a problem with pacing. Vocally they were sharply contrasted: Attila Kiss B.'s voice is clear and brassy; János Bándi's is darker and, in timbre but not volume, softer. Both threw themselves almost alarmingly into the first act, and this time Kiss B. was in bette…

VPO in Brahms

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Wednesday April 15 2015

Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach. Soloist: Leonidas Kavakos

Brahms:
Violin ConcertoSymphony N°1 The last time I heard the VPO in the same theatre I was disappointed. This Brahms concert made up for that in full.
Leonidas Kavakos' playing was so (deceptively) "simple" sounding that it was only as the concerto progressed that I realised what an outstanding performance I was actually hearing. It comes across as effortlessly straightforward, which of course it can't be: a great deal of skill and effort and talent must have gone and go into achieving such undemonstrative, un-flashy virtuosity, such fluency in pianissimo passages played without vibrato, note-perfect. The result reminded me of Ana-Caterina Antonacci's singing - in her case, so conversational she makes you feels as if she's taking you into her confidence: you almost forget she's singing, not just talking to you. With Kavakos, it was like havi…

Dusapin - Penthesilea

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday April 12 2015

Conductor: Franck Ollu. Production: Pierre Audi. Sets: Berlinde De Bruyckere. Lighting: Jean Kalman. Costumes: Wojciech Dziedzic. Video: Mirjam Devriendt. Electro-acoustic emplacement: Thierry Coduys. Penthesilea: Natascha Petrinsky. Prothoe: Marisol Montalvo. Achilles: Georg Nigl. Odysseus: Werner Van Mechelen. Oberpriesterin: Eve-Maud Hubeaux. Bote: Wiard Witholt. Botin: Yaroslava Kozina. Amazone: Marta Beretta. La Monnaie Orchestra & Chorus.

Before seeing this opera, I had no idea of the gruesome tale (as retold by Kleist) of Penthesilea. Here are some indications from the web…

First, very simply, from encyclopedia.com:

Penthesilea is about an Amazon queen who falls in love with the Greek hero Achilles but later goes mad with passion and kills him”.

Wikipedia hints at the gruesomeness:

Penthesilea (1808) is a tragedy by the German playwright Heinrich von Kleist about the mythological Amazon queen, Penthesilea, described as …

Massenet - Le Cid

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ONP Garnier, Monday March 30 2015

Conductor: Michel Plasson. Production: Charles Roubaud. Sets: Emmanuelle Favre. Costumes: Katia Duflot. Lighting: Vinicio Cheli. Chimène: Sonia Ganassi. L’Infante: Annick Massis. Rodrigue: Roberto Alagna. Don Diègue: Paul Gay. Le Roi: Nicolas Cavallier. Le Comte de Gormas: Laurent Alvaro. Saint Jacques: Francis Dudziak. L’Envoyé maure: Jean-Gabriel Saint-Martin. Don Arias: Luca Lombardo. Don Alonzo: Ugo Rabec. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. 

I've often said it's much easier to describe a bad evening at the opera than a good one. There was something special about Monday night's Le Cid at Garnier, yet it was far from flawless, so I've been wondering what gave it that particular buzz.

For a start, it can't have been the production, which was pretty much forgettable. By setting the work in the Spain of the 1930s, Charles Roubaud raised expectations of a concept (Rif war? Civil war?) which were not fulfilled: the up…