Andrew Shore

Masterful Mastersingers

Woodcut of Nuremberg from the Nuremberg Chronicle [Wikimedia Commons Public Domain]

Woodcut of Nuremberg from the Nuremberg Chronicle [Wikimedia Commons Public Domain]

Anyone coming afresh to the superlative performance of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg at the Coliseum last night would be astonished to find out that the company behind it was facing such challenges as it is. English National Opera demonstrated in this one performance just how essential it is as a part of London’s operatic life. It was a performance of fresh immediacy, for once the English language translation absolutely sharpening its focus, and a production of inventive, well-observed detail. (more…)

Death in Venice

ENO Death in Venice

ENO Death in Venice – (c) ENO/Hugo Glendinning – click to jump to their Flickr page for more

In Britten centenary year, when better to encounter his Death in Venice for the first time? Especially in so graceful and poignant a production as that provided by Deborah Warner for English National Opera.

There was atmospheric assistance on hand, after a run of particularly humid (and drably grey) days in London we had just a small insight into the stuffy, oppressive air that pervades the work. This saw the rudimentary Coliseum air-conditioning turned well up, so that most of us in the Balcony were assailed by sudden and severe gusts of cool air. At times this nicely mirrored the billowing curtains of the hotel scenes that separated the lobby from the balcony overlooking the ominous lagoon. The light shifted and changed over the lagoon, and the cityscape of Venice shifted elegantly into and out of focus as the scenes moved between the Lido and the city. Walls and curtains moved silently to change the locations, leaving most of the downstage area empty. If there was one minor carp, it would be the near-impossibility of creating claustrophobia on the Coliseum’s yawning stage, but this production did come as near as any to achieving it. (more…)

The Rose-Bearer clearly wasn’t travelling by public transport in London

So last night was Der Rosenkavalier at ENO – from what I remember of it after the rather tedious journey home. In fact the rather wonderful evening was ‘book-ended’ by frustrations, latterly the travel chaos and previously the frustration of ENO’s pricing structure at the Coliseum. If you want the write-up of the opera, skip the Preamble! (more…)

The Makropoulos Case, ENO

Wow.  I mean, blimey, wow.  This was quite an evening.

Having previously watched a bit of The Makropoulos Case on DVD (the Glyndebourne set with Anja Silja), I had anticipated an engaging but rather abstruse work.  In fact, sitting through it live, it is immediate, fresh and perfectly lucid.  Which is not to say it doesn’t leave you with questions, but the narrative lays out very clearly all the material you need to debate them for yourself. (more…)

The Elixir d’Amore at Anglo-Italian National Opera

Quite an evening.  One of those that seemed to spell disaster at the beginning, but turned out to be a triumph.

It started with the little slip of paper in the programme.  “John Tessier is unable to sing at tonight’s performance.  The role of Nemorino will be performed by Edgaras Montvidas.”  Then, as the lights went down, the Head of Casting duly trooped on stage.  John Tessier was unwell.  So was his understudy.  Murmurs from the audience.  “Oh, it gets worse,” he helpfully informed us.  The translation was new (more of that later) and no-one in the world knows it.  So Edgaras Montvidas would sing in Italian whilst everyone else sang English.  Oh, and our Belcore (David Kempster) was suffering from a viral infection but would stuggle on.

And that’s even before the curtain went up.

When it did go up, it revealed Jonathan Miller’s new 1950s staging (‘new’ in the sense of only two previous owners: NYCO and Royal Swedish Opera).  Adina’s Diner with a backdrop of wide-vista American horizons, all the men seemingly dressed as mechanics or somesuch.  The diner revolved at different points to reveal the petrol station forecourt into which Dulcamara’s car pulled, or a niche around the back for the  gossiping women alongside the loos.  This provided a bit of comic business in the scene where the women discuss rumours of Nemorino’s inheritance, with an occasional flush between phrases, and one woman emerging with her skirt in her knickers.

(more…)