Bryn Terfel

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…)

Fun’n’frolics

House detail, Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italy. Image: Mark Tyson

House detail, Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italy. Image: Mark Tyson

A cool, sunny Autumn day in London; a warm, sunny comedy at the Royal Opera House: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, in Laurent Pelly’s energetic production.

Lucy Crowe was an Adina with a little more bite than usual, helped by a keen comedy swagger and a plangency in her voice, which amply gave to the more thoughtful moments what may have been missing from the farcical. There was no dimming of Terfel’s ebullience in Dulcamara’s daft scenes. Levente Molnár had the Monty Python-esque physical comedy of Belcore in good measure, but could have done with a bit more vocal brilliance to match it. And Vittorio Grigolo… ah well, his puppy-dog over-acting rather suited the role of Nemorino, in fact more than I had expected. Sledgehammers and nuts had come to mind when I contemplated this casting and, indeed, we should gloss over an Una furtiva lagrima which sounded as though written by Giordani, for which Daniele Rustioni in the pit shared the blame. But, that said, his Nemorino won the house over on the basis of vocal heft and force of personality.

Rustioni seemed to me to struggle with some co-ordination between stage and pit here and there, but kept things buoyant. The orchestra played brilliantly; the chorus – on slightly muted form, I thought – framed the action with giddy excitement. The dog did its thing. The sun shone. We all went out smiling.

 

A romping good Faust

David McVicar’s Faust was back on the Royal Opera stage, and in rather good form. Gothic backdrops, a scene in the Cabaret L’Enfer, the Les Mis-style tricolore-waving crowd number, and Méphistophélès rocking up in a black diamanté-encrusted ball gown, all added to the fun. Throw in a few acrobatic shirtless demons for Méphistophélès’ retinue from the standard McVicar toolbox – as well as his characteristic concern for acting details, nicely recreated by revival director Bruno Ravella – and a long evening wasn’t quite as long as expected. (more…)

Half a Ring at the Proms

There’s relatively little I can add to the general chorus of celebration surrounding the Ring Cycle led by Daniel Barenboim at the Proms last week.  Essentially, all the superlatives have been taken, and there are none left for me at this point. Some brief observations, then… (more…)

Swiss Dutchman and Four-Handed Piano

As the year pootles to a close, need a quick catch-up on a couple of events of a couple of weeks ago, and they are two concerts in which I have to declare an interest, knowing people performing in both.

On 15 December, Opernhaus Zürich brought their Fliegende Holländer over, with everything bar the sets, and launched it headlong onto the flat oceans of the Royal Festival Hall. As with much Wagner in concert, it still transcended the rather brightly-lit auditorium and the dry acoustic, and from our seats in the side stalls (sort of ‘slips’ seats along the edge) they managed to get across a good measure of the thrill and drama of the score. (more…)

Der »Knick-Knacks« des Nibelungen

I’ve waited until the end of the entire first Cycle before compiling jottings on the Royal Opera’s revival of Der Ring des Nibelungen in Keith Warner’s fussy, random, distracting collection of bits’n’pieces. What you might call a Gesamtkunstwerk of jottings. I see it again for the third cycle and might give it the blow-by-blow treatment then. (more…)

The Bolívars tackle Strauss with Gust[av]o

As Alpine Symphonies go, this was a Matterhorn-scale reading. Probably best viewed from a Romantic distance, but nonetheless breathtaking in scale.

The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, teamed with their charismatic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, almost certainly need no introduction. If they do, get yourself googling and within minutes you’ll be well-versed in the kind of hyperbole that surrounds them on their travels. As I contemplated a concert at the Festival Hall on a stuffy Tuesday night, it had a hint of the off-putting about it. Approaching a little warily, perhaps even slightly icily, they certainly thawed me. (more…)