Been busy…

It’s a good job that the readership of this blog is intermittent and doesn’t rely on it for anything.  Sorry, I’ve been moving house, so there’s some catching up to do.  At the rate I’m going, Opera magazine will get the reviews out before I commit my thoughts to the public realm.

Anyhow, somewhere in the middle of the packing up of boxes there was Le Nozze di Figaro at Covent Garden.  Erwin Schrott’s Figaro was the main draw; the women were Annette Dasch (Countess) was Eri Nakamura (Susanna); Mariusz Kwiecien was the Count.  A wonderful evening, in summary, with some quick observations to be made.

Firstly, Erwin Schrott needs to watch those little grimaces, ad libs and general hyperactivity.  What  is endearing at the start, and undeniably adds to the drama, could easily become wearisome, repetitive and [old fogey alert!] vulgar.  He was rather wonderful overall, though.  And quite easy on the eye, make no mistake, especially with his crop cut.  Lucky Ms Netrebko.

Annette Dasch was a curious Countess: her voice quite unwieldy in places and not at all the usual Isokoski-like sweet tone for the big numbers, but in the drama she was convincing indeed and I distinctly remember thinking that this is the first time I’ve believed that this Countess is the Rosina of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  Quite impressive, if not the most elegantly sung assumption.

The others were all rather wonderful, especially Kwiecien as the consistently frustrated Count; Colin Davis was wonderful, as ever, his pacing easy and fresh, but gaining weight when the drama bit down.  I like this production, though I still feel that people get a bit lost in Act 4, and somehow the Countess’s re-entry doesn’t quite have the punch it should.  And, finally, why do people laugh at the surtitle of the Count’s line ‘Countess, forgive me.’ when palpably the  music is a very long way from comedy.  If only I could have all 2,400 seats to myself, Covent Garden would be perfect…

Right in the middle of the move itself, we had tickets for ENO Tosca.  Sorry, nothing to report.  Why we thought it a good idea to retain them, given it was the day that Pickford’s moved us in, I do not know.  Anyway, the friend that went in our place said it was knockout, so looks like we missed something good.  Unlike the last thing we missed, which was Covent Garden’s recent Aida and which has just received one of those thoroughly entertainingly bad reviews in Opera, so we can be less disappointed on that occasion.

So, post-move, our first thing at Covent Garden was Manon with Netrebko and Vittorio Grigolo.  Frankly, I want brownie points for having stayed to the end.  Such a formulaic, boring opera, presented in an OK-but-nothing-special production…

Netrebko was OK, but again nothing special.  Nice tone, reasonable dramatic engagement, looked nice in the frocks.  But something was missing.  An announcement was made asking for our understanding after Act 1, but I didn’t notice her particularly out of voice.  Anyway, maybe it was the opera itself, but I couldn’t get excited.

And Grigolo?  A big voice allied to some of the most hammy acting I’ve seen in recent times.  He flung himself around the set to the point that he crashed into one of the pillars in the St Sulpice scene and the whole edifice wobbled.  I thought we’d slipped into Samson et Dalila for a moment and Netrebko was about to nip on with the scissors.

This particular act ended with Des Grieux declaring he couldn’t resist her and getting down to some snogging.  Moments later, he was all sullen arriving at a party where she was being a floozy.  It was these sorts of crass gear-changes that made the whole drama a patchy mess.  The music was scarcely any more interesting and sort of meandered along except for the big choral scenes, which are better done by Gounod or Offenbach.  To think Wagner had been dead for six months when this premiered.  Moreover, it was 30-odd years after La Traviata, with its immeasurably more skilful handing of intimate duets between key characters (think Act 2 scene 1, which displays a subtlety far removed from anything Massenet delivers).  I won’t be rushing to a performance of Manon any time soon.   Pappano conducted, for what it was worth.

So, that’s brought me up to date in time for this week’s big hitters:  as I type this, Domingo is resounding around the flat in the telecast of Simon Boccanegra, which we see on the 13th (the day of the live relay to the big screens), and on Friday we’ve got pubescent angst and a man with his chopper out in Salome.  Ah, what a summer of contrasts…


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