Aleksandra Kurzak

Quick catch-up…

Programmes April 2015

It’s been a hectic old time the last few weeks, so capturing thoughts on performances has rather got forgotten. They’ve been a diverse bunch as well.

So, in brief: (more…)

Rigoletto back with a bang

Discounting the dreadful Anna Nicole, to which wild horses couldn’t drag me back a second time, the Royal Opera’s season opened with Verdi’s dark 1851 masterpiece, Rigoletto. On 27 September, it was a full-blooded performance of Italian vigour, and definitely one to blow the cobwebs away.

Maurizio Benini was on duty in the pit, driving the orchestra hard whilst still allowing space for the singers: the contrast was thrilling as the big set piece act-closers hoved into view… The storm of act 4 – surely one of Verdi’s most atmospheric effects, with the chorus providing the howling wind to follow the orchestral thunderclaps – was beautifully, hauntingly realised. The orchestra played wonderfully throughout, with particularly characterful brass and woodwind contributions and some very threatening timpani. (more…)

Emerging into the sunshine

After dwelling in the depths of two Ring Cycles in October/November, it was nice to emerge blinking into the warm sunshine of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.  I’d forgotten how much I like it, even if this wasn’t an ideal performance.

I do like Laurent Pelly’s production, a few niggles aside: the wide open spaces don’t help singers’ projection, the business with scooters, trucks, etc. is fun but a little distracting in parts, and quite a lot happens on extremes of the stage. But, all in all, it’s got some verve and liveliness to it and tells the story cleanly.  It’s atmospherically lit and, after Keith Warner’s clumsy Ring, it was nice to be able just to sit back and let the drama wash past, without constantly being reminded of the technical workings of the stage. (more…)

A tale of two Mozarts…

Figaro on Friday, Giovanni on Saturday. I’m a wee bit Mozart’d out…

Both productions, the Figaro by David McVicar and the Don Giovanni by Francesca Zambello, have been doing the ROH rounds for a while now, and seeing them in such close succession was definitely unfavourable towards the Don Giovanni. The details, the cool elegance and poise of the setting of Figaro showed up all of the deficiencies in the static, rootless, vague Giovanni.  In fact, having been fairly agnostic on the point before, I now came out of the latter opera convinced this slightly clumsy production was ready for replacement. (more…)

Memories of the Barber

I’d better catch up quickly on Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Covent Garden the other day (er, week?).  I went on the Friday the 21st AND Monday 24th, which was the result of taking friends on the Monday and being seduced (later) by a stalls seat offer for the preceding Friday.

Row B of the stalls, relatively central, was an odd experience.  Acoustically not as revelatory as expected and, viewpoint-wise, alternately thrilling and neck-achingly inconvenient (especially for surtitles).  When the box-shaped set lifts at the end of Act 1 for the rolling coup-de-théatre, it was as though you were watching people perform opera on the roof of your house.  And the tickets were (I’m sorry to inform the marketing wonks at the ROH) through the ‘Danny Knows Best‘ initiative, that rather game but slightly clunky attempt to seduce reality-show junkies through the doors of the nation’s most venerable lyric theatre.   Ah, well this old Friend got a bit of a treat anyhow.  Claiming the free champagne in the Floral Hall was like day 1 of the Horrids’ sale, though…  You wouldn’t believe it, but the Amphi bar is a much more pleasant experience! (more…)

Rossini and Kit & the Widow

“We’re off to Glyndebourne to see a rather boring opera by Rossini,
We both like Glyndebourne; it gives us scope to be particularly queeny.”
Kit & the Widow, ‘Glyndebourne’ (tune: overture to Il Barbiere di Siviglia)

A curious link between my last two artistic experiences.  As this year’s Glyndebourne whirl approaches, Kit & the Widow’s rather wonderful song about the experience of a day in Sussex focuses on the process of actually getting there.  Traffic problems and overly fancy picnics culminate in the sort of flustered arrival in the gardens which seems to be such a feature of a relaxed afternoon’s opera-going in the Sussex Downs.

Ah well, back to Rossini, and in particular a belated comment on the Caurier/Leiser production of Il Turco in Italia at the Royal Opera House.  The production style is evident from photos and heartily meets with my approval.  The cast, containing buffo stalwart Alessandro Corbelli as the hapless husband and Aleksandra Kurzak providing a lighter Fiorilla than the last run’s Cecilia Bartoli.  Colin Lee got an outing of his own accord as Narciso, rather than playing second fiddle to Flórez, and the Turk himself was Ildebrando d’Arcangelo.  Both Lee and d’Arcangelo were more satisfying that in previous roles: Narciso seemed more lyrical, requiring less dexterity than does Almaviva, and this suited Lee better.  d’Arcangelo was a far more satisying Turk than he had been a Toreador in runs of Carmen.  His voice came across full and firm, with a weight equal to the role. (more…)