David McVicar

Well-matured ham

It’s great to see the increasingly fervent Twitter commendations for Andrea Chénier at Covent Garden as the run reached its climax with the last night on 6 February.

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Fervent, but not very revolutionary

Versailles: Galerie des Glaces [photo: Mark Tyson]

Versailles: Galerie des Glaces

I wasn’t expecting to see Covent Garden’s new Andrea Chénier until next weekend, but was cajoled into a last-minute returned Upper Slips ticket for last night. For various reasons – not least, that it was a long, long week – I’m glad I’ll have a second chance at it.

I don’t really know Andrea Chénier, other than as a couple of over-impassioned excerpts such as La mamma morta and the closing duet. Judging by some Twitter commentators, it’s a piece of rare delicacy that calls for the most carefully cultivated voices and a production of subtle delicacy, making the most of the myriad options for reinterpretation. To me, it looked – and sounded – like a loud, brash load of old ham: one of those operas that makes a good noise, but isn’t going to change your world.  (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…)

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…)

A finely-honed Figaro

To say that Covent Garden’s latest revival of David McVicar’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro is well-choreographed sounds like an oddly limiting opening statement. In a quite profound way, though, it really sums up what was so spectacular about this performance: every note, every step, every gesture, every rhythmic or mood shift was totally spot on, and yet looked so breathtakingly effortless. It was a company effort of quite astonishing quality, and all elements and contributors to the company were at the top of their game. (more…)

A bit of magic back in the old Flute

Die Zauberflöte cast sheet Colin Davis dedicationA revival of David McVicar’s gloomy-but-not-intrusive production of Die Zauberflöte doesn’t really get the blood rushing these days; in the event it was shot through with excellent performances that added up to one of the best revivals of this production I can recall. This was particularly pleasing in a run dedicated to Sir Colin Davis. (more…)

JDF, JDD & GC

I just don’t seem to have the time, or perhaps it’s the energy, to keep on top of jottings about things I’ve seen. So, one concert and one cinema screening… (more…)