Showing posts from 2018

Verdi - Il Trovatore

ONP Bastille, Wednesday July 4 2018

Conductor: Maurizio Benini. Production: Àlex Ollé. Sets: Alfons Flores. Costumes: Lluc Castells. Lighting: Urs Schönebaum. Il Conte di Luna: Željko Lučić. Leonora: Sondra Radvanovsky. Azucena: Anita Rachvelishvili. Manrico: Marcelo Alvarez. Ferrando: Mika Kares. Ines: Élodie Hache. Ruiz: Yu Shao. Un vecchio Zingaro: Lucio Prete. Un Messo: Luca Sannai. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

I’d seen this production in 2016 and quite liked it at the time, the lighting especially, but the main reason for buying tickets again this season was to see and hear Anita Rachvilishvili as Azucena. It turned out she was not the only treat.

The four principal voices were very distinct. Željko Lučić’s singing style is quite odd and unexpected in Verdi. It’s gruff-sounding, not at all lyrical and with an tendency sometimes to bark, sometimes to bray. Yet quite effective if you’re playing Luna as relatively old, disgruntled and rough.

Anita Rachvelishvi…

Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov (1869)

ONP Bastille, Monday July 2 2018

Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski. Production: Ivo van Hove. Boris Godunov: Ildar Abdrazakov. Fyodor: Evdokia Malevskaya. Xenia: Ruzan Mantashyan. Nurse: Alexandra Durseneva. Prince Shuysky: Maxim Paster. Andrey Shchelkalov, Clerk of the Duma: Boris Pinkhasovich. Pimen: Ain Anger. Grigoryi Otrepiev: Dmitry Golovnin. Varlaam: Evgeny Nikitin. Missail: Peter Bronder. Innkeeper: Elena Manistina. The Yuródivïy (Innocent): Vasily Efimov. Mityukha: Mikhail Timoshenko. Police Officer: Maxim Mikhailov. A boyar, voice in the crowd: Luca Sannai. Sets and lighting: Jan Versweyveld. Costumes: An D’Huys. Video: Tal Yarden. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine / Paris Opera Children’s Choir. 

The ever-excellent ConcertoNet headlined its review of this new production of Boris at the Bastille “Un tsar et un chef” (a Czar and a conductor, only it doesn’t sound as good in English) and I can understand why. Ildar Abdrazakov and Vladim…

Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle/The Miraculous Mandarin

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday June 24 2018

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production and Costumes: Christophe Coppens. Sets: Christophe Coppens and I.S.M.Architecten. Lighting: Peter Van Praet. Video: Jean-Baptiste Pacucci, Simon Van Rompay. Prologue: Gabor Vass. A Kékszakállú Herceg: Ante Jerkunica. Judit: Nora Gubisch. La Monnaie Orchestra and Chorus.

A good-looking but somehow not, ultimately, very exciting Bartok double-bill in Brussels last Sunday. To me it came across more as a carefully-crafted "designer" production than a fully theatrical one.

The last time I was at La Monnaie was at the end of April, so not so long ago, for Lohengrin. "Act three involved a kind of Celebrity Squares or noughts-and-crosses set-up: three floors of three square spaces, making nine boxes in all, with steel stairs between." I did wonder, this Sunday, if they'd recycled the same structure for the Bartok, to save money. It would have made sense - especially as La Monnaie must have …

Ravel: L'Heure espagnole; Puccini: Gianni Schicchi

ONP Bastille, Tuesday May 22 2108

L'Heure espagnole
Conductor: Maxime Pascal. Production: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Florence Evrard, Caroline Ginet. Lighting: Joël Adam. Concepcion: Clémentine Margaine. Gonzalve: Stanislas de Barbeyrac. Torquemada: Philippe Talbot. Ramiro: Jean-Luc Ballestra. Don Inigo Gomez: Nicolas Courjal.

Gianni Schicchi
Conductor: Maxime Pascal. Production: Laurent Pelly. Sets: Florence Evrard, Caroline Ginet. Lighting: Joël Adam. Gianni Schicchi: Artur Ruciński. Lauretta: Elsa Dreisig. Zita: Rebecca De Pont Davies. Rinuccio: Frédéric Antoun. Gherardo: Philippe Talbot. Nella: Emmanuelle de Negri. Betto: Nicolas Courjal. Simone: Maurizio Muraro. Marco: Jean-Luc Ballestra. La Ciesca: Isabelle Druet. Maestro Spinelloccio: Pietro Di Bianco. Amantio di Nicolao: Tomasz Kumiega. Pinellino: Mateusz Hoedt. Guccio: Piotr Kumon. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.

I was told, by someone who's usually right, that Stéphane Lissner explained he replaced K. Warlikowski&#…

Wagner - Parsifal

ONP Bastille, Sunday May 20 2018.

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Richard Jones. Sets and costumes: ULTZ. Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin. Amfortas: Peter Mattei. Titurel: Reinhard Hagen. Gurnemanz: Günther Groissböck. Klingsor: Evgeny Nikitin. Kundry: Anja Kampe. Parsifal: Andreas Schager. Zwei Gralsritter: Gianluca Zampieri, Luke Stoker. Vier Knappen: Alisa Jordheim, Megan Marino, Michael Smallwood, Franz Gürtelschmied. Klingsors Zaubermädchen: Anna Siminska, Katharina Melnikova, Samantha Gossard, Tamara Banjesevic, Marie‑Luise Dressen, Anna Palimina. Eine Altstimme aus der Höhe: Daniela Entcheva. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine, Children’s Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

A practising Catholic once told me I was a "païen né" - a born pagan. I'm sorry to say that no amount of gruesome, guilt-infested, sado-masochistic mumbo-jumbo is likely to ensure my salvation. I find it mostly tedious and sometimes frankly n…

Wagner - Lohengrin

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday April 29 2018.

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Olivier Py. Sets and costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Lighting: Bertrand Killy. Heinrich der Vogler: Gabor Bretz. Lohengrin: Eric Cutler. Elsa von Brabant: Ingela Brimberg. Friedrich von Telramund: Andrew Foster-Williams. Ortrud: Elena Pankratova. Heerrufer: Werner Van Mechelen. Vier Brabantische Edle: Zeno Popescu, Willem Van Der Heyden, Kurt Gysen, Bertrand Duby. Edelknaben: Raphaële Green, Isabelle Jacques, Virginie Léonard, Lisa Willems. La Monnaie Orchestra and Chorus. 

As a persistent opera-goer, however loudly you applaud Bieito or Warlikowski and however assiduously you seek out new works, you get used to being dismissed as a hidebound fuddy-duddy. And some directors also give the impression they think you're thick and need things spelling out. In the case of Olivier Py, this is often literally the case: his chalk bills must be huge, so often do his characters scrawl things on the walls then th…

Britten - Gloriana

Teatro Real, Madrid, Saturday April 14 2018.

Conductor: Ivor Bolton. Production: David McVicar. Sets: Robert Jones. Costumes: Brigitte Reiffenstuel. Lighting: Adam Silverman. Choreographer: Colm Seery. Queen Elizabeth I: Anna Caterina Antonacci. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: Leonardo Capalbo. Frances, Countess of Essex: Paula Murrihy. Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy: Duncan Rock. Penelope, Lady Rich: Sophie Bevan. Sir Robert Cecil: Leigh Melrose. Sir Walter Raleigh: David Soar. Henry Cuffe: Benedict Nelson. A Lady-in-Waiting: Elena Copons. A Blind Ballad-Singer: James Creswell. The Recorder of Norwich: Scott Wilde. A Housewife: Itxaro Mentxaka. The Spirit of the Masque: Sam Furness. The Master of Ceremonies: Gerardo López. The City Crier: Àlex Sanmartí. Principal Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real. Pequeños Cantores de la Comunidad de Madrid.

In various ways, following the success of Bomarzo last year, flying to Madrid for a weekend for Gloriana was a bit of a gamble. In the opera…

Lezhneva, Fagioli in concert at the TCE

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday March 27 2018

Conductor: Andres Gabetta. Julia Lezhneva, soprano. Franco Fagioli, counter-tenor. Cappella Gabetta.
Vivaldi: Concerto for strings and continuo RV 156Porpora: Motet "In caelo stelle care"Ragazzi: Sonata for violin and orchestra Op.1 No.8Vivaldi: Nisi DominusPergolesi: Stabat Mater P77  "Most countertenors, Italians more than others, look like vegan consumptives on a bad day and sound - if you can hear them at all - like gas escaping from a (small) pipe," I wrote in 2013. Fortunately, it doesn't apply to all of them. Franco Fagioli is a case in point. I had noted, writing about a Giulio Cesare at the Champs Elysées in 2006, that "Franco Fagioli was the right kind of 'stage animal' counter-tenor to give us a petulant, if not always accurate, Tolomeo." Ten years later, I saw him as Cavalli's Eliogabalo at Garnier: "Franco Fagioli was most impressive in his rich and grainy, expressiv…

Berlioz - Benvenuto Cellini

ONP Bastille, Monday March 26 2018

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Terry Gilliam with Leah Hausman. Choreography: Leah Hausman. Sets: Terry Gilliam, Aaron Marsden. Costumes: Katrina Lindsay. Lighting: Paule Constable. Video: Finn Ross. Benvenuto Cellini: John Osborn. Giacomo Balducci: Maurizio Muraro. Fieramosca: Audun Iversen. Le Pape Clément VII: Marco Spotti. Francesco: Vincent Delhoume. Bernardino: Luc Bertin-Hugault. Pompeo: Rodolphe Briand. Cabaretier: Se-Jin Hwang. Teresa: Pretty Yende. Ascanio: Michèle Losier. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

People who go to the cinema will know better than I what Terry Gilliam's work looks like - his visual identity. I did once see Brazil on TV, or parts of it at any rate, and hated every second. From what I've read, however, it would seem this production of Benvenuto Cellini is more like his Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and certainly in some respects the visuals were reminiscent of the animated sectio…

Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana; Leoncavallo – Pagliacci

La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday March 18 2018

Conductor: Evelino Pidó. Production: Damiano Michieletto. Sets: Paolo Fantin. Costumes: Carla Teti. Lighting: Alessandro Carletti.
Santuzza: Eva-Maria Westbroek. Lola: Josè Maria Lo Monaco. Turiddu: Teodor Ilincai. Alfio: Dimitri Platanias. Lucia: Elena Zilio
Nedda: Simona Mihai. Canio: Carlo Ventre. Tonio: Scott Hendricks. Peppe: Tansel Akzeybek. Silvio: Gabriele Nani. Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie.

"Mon avis n'engage que moi," as the French say: my opinion is but my own. Come to think of it, it could be the motto of this blog. It's my view that, as well as a good production, these second-class works need vocal and orchestral glamour, southern swagger, whatever the Italian for Schmaltz is, to work. Damiano Michieletto's production is what the French call "efficace": it gets the job done and, as a bonus, comes with a sprinkling of ideas. People like it. But the music-making, unus…

Händel - Alcina

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Friday March 16 2018

Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Production: Christof Loy. Choreography: Thomas Wilhelm. Sets: Johannes Leiacker. Costumes: Ursula Renzenbrink. Lighting: Bernd Purkrabek. Alcina: Cecilia Bartoli. Ruggiero: Philippe Jaroussky. Morgana: acted by Julie Fuchs, sung by Emöke Barath. Bradamante: Varduhi Abrahamyan. Oronte: Christoph Strehl. Melisso: Krzysztof Bączyk. Cupido: Barbara Goodman. Orchestra and Chorus of the Concert d’Astrée.

A glance at the above will reveal that this Alcina's star-studded cast involved one more star than expected: Julie Fuchs acted the part, but the excellent Emöke Barath sang it beautifully from the pit, and it was her "Tornami a vagheggiar" in particular that accounted for the loud, long applause at the end of the first act. I am actually at work all this weekend but, as I already had my ticket, was allowed out on parole to see this show. As I don't have much free time, I'm going to cheat…

Janáček - From The House Of The Dead (Z mrtvého domu)

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Saturday March 10 2018

Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Designer: Małgorzata Szczęśniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Video: Denis Guéguin. Alexandr Gorjancikov: Willard W. White. Aljeja: Pascal Charbonneau. Luka Kuzmič: Štefan Margita. Skuratov: Ladislav Elgr. Šiškov/Priest: Johan Reuter. Prison Governor: Alexander Vassiliev. Big Prisoner/Nikita. Nicky Spence: Small Prisoner/Cook. Grant Doyle. Elderly Prisoner: Graham Clark. Voice: Konu Kim. Drunk Prisoner: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts. Šapkin: Peter Hoare. Prisoner/Kedril: John Graham-Hall. Prisoner/Don Juan/Brahmin: Aleš Jenis. Young Prisoner: Florian Hoffmann. Prostitute: Allison Cook. Čerevin: Alexander Kravets. Guard: Andrew O'Connor. Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.

Just as the ghost of Maria Callas haunts some roles, making life hard for her successors, it might be said that - for the relative few who must take an interest in such things - the ghost …