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Showing posts from 2019

Hervé (Louis-Auguste-Florimond Ronger) - Mam’zelle Nitouche

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Théâtre Marigny, Paris, Wednesday June 12 2019

Conductor: Christophe Grapperon. Production, sets, costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Denise de Flavigny, Mam’zelle Nitouche: Lara Neumann. Célestin, Floridor: Damien Bigourdan. La Supérieure, Corinne: Miss Knife. Le Vicomte Fernand de Champlâtreux: Samy Camps. Le Major, comte de Château-Gibus: Eddie Chignara. Loriot: Olivier Py. La Tourière, Sylvia: Sandrine Sutter. Le Directeur de théâtre: Antoine Philippot. Lydie: Clémentine Bourgoin. Gimblette: Ivanka Moizan. Gustave, officier: Pierre Lebon. Robert, officier: David Ghilardi. Les Frivolités Parisiennes.

The vocation of the Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de Musique Romantique Française is the rediscovery and international promotion of the French musical heritage of the long nineteenth century (1780-1920). Its interests range from chamber music to the orchestral, sacred and operatic repertories, not forgetting the lighter genres characteristic of the ‘esprit français’ of the nineteenth century (c…

Monteverdi - L'Orfeo

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Tuesday May 28 2019

Direction: Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro, assisted by continuo leader Thomas Dunford. Semi-staging: Mathilde Etienne. Costumes: Karine Godier, Sébastien Blondin. Orfeo: Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro. Euridice, Musica: Giulia Semenzato. Pastore: Mathias Vidal. Pastore: David Szigetvari. Apollo: Fulvio Bettini. Pastore, La Speranza: Eva Zaïcik. Proserpina: Mathilde Etienne. Plutone, Pastore: Frédéric Caton. La Messagiera: Lea Desandre. Pastore, Caronte: Jérôme Varnier. Ninfa: Maud Gnidzaz. I Gemelli.

My love affair with Monteverdi's Orfeo goes back a long way. I was acquainted with it from the radio before I went up to university. As an undergraduate, I was excited to be invited to play in a performance at the university's Senate House, and disappointed when I turned up with my instrument for the first rehearsal to be told by the surprised conductor - Stephen Barlow IIRC - that he hadn't expected and didn't need a double bass.

Whe…

Rameau - Hippolyte et Aricie

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Sunday May 26 2019.

Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Aricie: Mélissa Petit. Hippolyte: Cyrille Dubois. Phèdre: Stéphanie D’Oustrac. Thésée: Edwin Crossley-Mercer. Pluton / Neptune: Wenwei Zhang. Diane: Hamida Kristoffersen. Œnone: Aurélia Legay. Première Parque: Nicholas Scott. Seconde Parque, Tisiphone: Spencer Lang. Troisième Parque: Alexander Kiechle. Une Prêtresse de Diane, Une Matelote, Une Chasseresse: Gemma Ní Bhriain. Orchestra La Scintilla Zurich. Chorus of the Zurich Opera.

The cast for this concert performance of Hippolyte comes fresh from staged performances in Zurich in a production that, from what I’ve seen online, looks very striking. Perhaps rehearsal time in Paris was too short for the singers to take possession of the narrow strip of stage left to them and fully adjust to the restricted theatrical potential of the concert: I expected more sustained dramatic thrust and tension. In the event, it was somehow intermittent, with moments that h…

Stravinsky - Firebird. Rimsky-Korsakov - Sheherazade

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State Academic Bolshoi Theatre named after Alisher Navoi, Tashkent, Friday May 24 2019

Conductor: Bobomurod Khudaykulov. Choreography: Michel Fokine, recreated by Andris Liepa and Igor Pivorovich. Sets and Costumes: Léon Bakst, Aleksandr Golovin, Natalia Goncharova, recreated by Anatoly Nezhny, Elena Netsvetaeva. Orchestra, Soloists and Ballet of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre named after Alisher Navoi

Part of the legacy of Russian and later Soviet domination of Uzbekistan until the declaration of independence in 1991 is the possibility, on almost any evening, to see an opera or ballet at the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre in Tashkent. In May this year, for example, you could see Aleko, La Bohème, Aida, The Czar's Bride or Iolanta, or, if a ballet fan, La Bayadère, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote or the aptly-named Nutcracker, as well as concerts and other performances by local and visiting artistes. Tashkent, 6,000 km from western Europe but only 600 from China's …

Wagner - Tristan und Isolde

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday May 12 2019

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu. Production: Ralf Pleger. Sets: Alexander Polzin. Costumes: Wojciech Dziedzic. Lighting: John Torres. Tristan: Bryan Register. König Marke: Franz-Josef Selig. Isolde: Ann Petersen. Kurwenal: Andrew Foster-Williams. Brangäne: Nora Gubisch. Melot/Ein Steuermann: Wiard Witholt. Ein Hirt/Ein junger Seemann: Ed Lyon. La Monnaie Orchestra and Men’s Chorus.

This will be a shortish write-up as I'm off today for two weeks in Central Asia.

La Monnaie's new Tristan can be summed up as an odd but genuine case of three sets in search of an opera. Alexander Polzin designed and built three impressive, monumental performance installations, not obviously related in any way to this particular plot but impressive, and with great potential. But in them, Ralf Pleger staged the degré zéro of opera directing, a pale imitation of Bob Wilson with everyone creeping round at a snail's pace, making putatively significant, symbolic ge…

Shostakovich - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

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ONP Bastille, Thursday April 25 2019

Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher. Production: Krzysztof Warlikowski. Sets and costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak. Lighting: Felice Ross. Video: Denis Guéguin. Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov: Dmitry Ulyanov. Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov: John Daszak. Katerina Lvovna Izmailova: Aušrinė Stundytė. Sergei: Pavel Černoch. Aksinya: Sofija Petrovic. Tattered peasant: Wolfgang Ablinger‑Sperrhacke. Sonyetka: Oksana Volkova. Schoolmaster: Andrei Popov. Priest, Old Convict: Krzysztof Baczyk. Female convict: Marianne Croux. Police Chief: Sava Vemić. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

Over dinner with friends after Lady Macbeth the other night, we counted off on our fingers the various Warlikowski productions we'd seen over the years, between Paris, Brussels, London and Berlin. Quite a lot it turned out: Iphigénie en Tauride, Věc Makropoulos, King Roger, Parsifal, Macbeth, Médée, The Rake's Progress, Lulu, Don Giovanni, Bluebeard's Castle with la…

Händel - Semele, in concert

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Wednesday April 3 2019

Conductor: Harry Bicket. Semele: Brenda Rae. Ino/Juno: Elizabeth DeShong. Jupiter: Benjamin Hulett. Cadmus/Somnus: Soloman Howard. Athamas: Christopher Lowrey. Iris: Ailish Tynan. The English Concert. The Clarion Choir.

After this concert, I had a discussion online with a soprano who has twins about how pregnancy may affect a singer’s singing. There's no telling, it seems: it varies from singer to singer and sometimes actually helps. Brenda Rae was quite evidently pregnant, and I wondered whether her surprising and rather frustrating restraint as Semele was due to her condition or just to her holding back for stylistic reasons. She only really let rip in 'Myself I shall adore', which was loudly applauded, but sang the admittedly unreasonable 'No, no, I’ll take no less', which ought to crown a soprano’s evening, practically through gritted teeth and so to less applause.

Perhaps Harry Bicket was responsible (fo…

Adam - Le Postillon de Lonjumeau

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Opéra Comique, Paris, Monday April 1 2019

Conductor: Sébastien Rouland. Production: Michel Fau. Sets: Emmanuel Charles. Costumes: Christian Lacroix. Lighting: Joël Fabing. Chapelou/Saint-Phar: Michael Spyres. Madeleine/Madame de Latour: Florie Valiquette. Le marquis de Corcy: Franck Leguérinel. Biju/Alcindor: Laurent Kubla. Rose: Michel Fau. Louis XV: Yannis Ezziadi. Bourdon: Julien Clément. Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra de Rouen Normandie. Accentus chorus.

I wasn't sure I really wanted to see Le Postillon de Lonjumeau, but was persuaded to by a sweet old lady living in New York and, ultimately, by the fact that Michael Spyres would be singing the lead. What had put me off for a while was the Opéra Comique's track record in staging cringe-makingly silly, slapstick - and slapdash - productions, as if for imbeciles, of works that deserve better, more intelligent treatment. The right tone is hard to strike, the right degree of knowing complicity with the audience - and sheer f…

Verdi - Otello

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ONP Bastille, Paris, Friday April 29 2019

Conductor: Bertrand de Billy. Production: Andrei Serban. Sets: Peter Pabst. Costumes: Graciela Galán. Lighting: Joël Hourbeigt. Otello: Roberto Alagna. Iago: George Gagnidze. Cassio: Frédéric Antoun. Roderigo: Alessandro Liberatore. Lodovico: Paul Gay. Montano: Thomas Dear. Desdemona: Aleksandra Kurzak. Emilia: Marie Gautrot. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Maîtrise des Hauts‑de‑Seine/ONP Children’s Chorus.

I’ve said it before and even so I’m going to say it again: there seems to be no logic (other than the director’s whim) to the Paris Opera’s decisions to keep or discard productions. Warlikowski’s outstanding Parsifal, seen only once, was replaced by something less outstanding on the grounds it was already ten years old. But already, 15 years ago, I left this dismally conventional Otello (“Bergerac,” muttered my neighbour the other night, meaning the standard was deeply provincial) at the interval. In other words, Paris k…

Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos

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Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Thursday March 28 2019

Conductor: Jérémie Rhorer. Production: Katie Mitchell, staged by Heather Fairbairn. Sets: Chloe Lamford. Costumes: Sarah Blenkinsop. Lighting: James Farncombe. Ariadne: Camilla Nylund. Bacchus: Roberto Saccà. Composer: Kate Lindsey. Zerbinetta: Olga Pudova. Harlequin: Huw Montague-Rendall. Brighella: Jonathan Abernethy. Scaramuccio: Emilio Pons. Truffaldino: David Shipley. Naiad: Beate Mordal. Dryad: Lucie Roche. Echo: Elena Galitskaya. Music master: Jean-Sébastien Bou. Dance master: Marcel Beekman. Officer: Petter Moen. Wigmaker: Jean-Christophe Lanièce. Major-Domo: Maik Solbach. Lackey: Guilhem Worms. Actors: Rainer Sievert, Anna Daria Fontane. Orchestre de chambre de Paris.

I started my recent article about Les Boréades in Dijon by writing “Rameau hasn’t been getting his due lately in Paris.” The same could, sadly, be said of Strauss, so I was glad to find Ariadne on the TCE’s schedule, ignored my misgivings at seeing who was…

Rameau - Les Boréades

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Opéra de Dijon - L’Auditorium, Dijon, Sunday March 24 2019

Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm. Production: Barrie Kosky. Sets and costumes: Katrin Lea Tag. Lighting: Franck Evin. Choreographie: Otto Pichler. Alphise: Hélène Guilmette. Sémire, Polymnie, Cupidon, Nymphe: Emmanuelle De Negri. Abaris: Mathias Vidal. Borée: Christopher Purves. Borilée: Yoann Dubruque. Adamas, Apollon: Edwin Crossley-Mercer. Calisis: Sébastien Droy. Dancers: Yacnoy Abreu Alfonso, Julie Dariosecq, Benjamin Dur, Anaëlle Echalier, Lazare Huet, Anna Konopska. Orchestra and chorus: Le Concert d’Astrée.

Rameau hasn’t been getting his due lately in Paris (or else I’ve been missing things, as I do). The last time I saw any staged was well over four years ago. So although this is a very busy period at work, when I saw Dijon, his home town, was putting on Les Boréades with what looked like a strong cast, I booked for the Sunday matinée. I’m glad I did, as this was one of the best Rameau productions I’ve seen.

I suppose I shou…

Berlioz - Les Troyens

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ONP Bastille, Tuesday February 12 2019

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production and sets: Dmitri Tcherniakov. Costumes: Elena Zaytseva. Lighting: Gleb Filshtinsky. Cassandre: Stéphanie d'Oustrac. Ascagne: Michèle Losier. Hécube: Véronique Gens. Énée: Brandon Jovanovich. Chorèbe: Stéphane Degout. Panthée: Christian Helmer. Le Fantôme d'Hector: Thomas Dear. Priam: Paata Burchuladze. Un Capitaine Grec: Jean-Luc Ballestra. Helenus: Jean-François Marras. Polyxène: Sophie Claisse. Didon: Ekaterina Semenchuk. Anna: Aude Extrémo. Iopas: Cyrille Dubois. Hylas: Bror Magnus Tødenes. Narbal: Christian Van Horn. Deux Capitaines troyens: Jean-Luc Ballestra, Tomislav Lavoie. Mercure: Bernard Arrieta. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris.

Talking about Les Troyens the other day, a colleague remarked that none of the Paris Opera’s new productions under Stéphane Lissner’s management have been outstandingly successful. As usual (though the phenomenon continues to puzzle me) the hoo-h…

Ponchielli - La Gioconda

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La Monnaie, Brussels, Sunday February 10 2019

Conductor: Paolo Carignani. Production: Olivier Py. Sets & Costumes: Pierre-André Weitz. Lighting: Bertrand Killy. La Gioconda: Hui He. Laura Adorno: Szilvia Vörös. Enzo Grimaldo: Stefano La Colla. Barnaba: Scott Hendricks. La Cieca: Ning Liang. Alvise Badoero: Jean Teitgen. Isèpo: Roberto Covatta. Zuàne /Un pilota: Bertrand Dunby. Un Barnabotto/Una voce: Bernard Giovani. Un cantore: René Laryea. Una voce: Alejandro Fonté. La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. MM Academy & La Monnaie's Children's and Youth Chorus.

As the suave ‘cello solo turns into a quartet and the oboe then joins in, you think to yourself “Wow, I don't recall La Gioconda being so good.” Shortly afterwards, and for the next three hours or so, you realise why you’d forgotten. People sometimes say it’s a singers’ opera and that you need an outstanding cast to make it worthwhile. But I’m pretty certain that if you did have an outstanding cast in it, y…