Eva-Maria Westbroek

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…)

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 Trojans at Covent Garden

Having seen the dress rehearsal of Berlioz’s Les Troyens on 22 June, last weekend we got to see the final results of the epic effort that was put into this monumental work – and any niggles or carps didn’t detract from a pretty sensational afternoon. (more…)

In a threesome, there’s aways one who feels a bit upstaged

So the Covent Garden season has been launched, and in quite high style with an evening of Puccini’s Il Trittico, two-thirds of which is new.  And, in performance terms, it was the new pieces that triumphed, the revival seeming a little worn by comparison.

Which is not to say that the pieces themselves sit in the same rank order.  Il Tabarro is gloomy and melodramatic, and is starting to slightly strain its material by the time its denouement arrives.  Suor Angelica is sentimental to a worrying degree (more Sound of Music than Dialogues des Carmelites in its treatment of nuns), even if, in this production, it was the most effective in conveying its story.  Gianni Schicchi, taken on its own merits is the most completely satisfying and consistent hour.  If Tabarro is Puccini in Tosca-mode, Suor Angelica finds him in Butterfly-style.  Schicchi is harder to find parallel for. (more…)

The Met Live in HD: Die Walküre

This wasn’t a cinema; it was a ‘screening lounge’.  The Everyman Cinema, Hampstead (well, Belsize Park anyway) is a rather luxurious affair.  Hugely wide lounge chairs, acres of legroom, and drinks service in intervals.  In some ways perfect for 5 hours of Wagner, except I can’t quite adjust to lying back and having the opera brought up close to me.  Somehow I miss leaning on a balcony ledge peering down at it.  That may be to do with the rather artificial soundstage of the Met transmission, of which more anon. (more…)

The over-inflated Anna Nicole

The revised Royal Opera House curtain, Anna Nicole-style

The revised Royal Opera House curtain, Anna Nicole-style

I tweeted it at the time, and I say it again here.  I so wanted to like this.  The Royal Opera House had pulled out all the stops – not least in the marketing department – for this collaboration of Mark-Anthony Turnage and Richard Thomas (of Jerry Springer, the Opera fame).  It was not, however, to be, and I fear that what follows is going to make me appear humourless and about 25 years older than I am.  Whatever.

Arriving at the opera house, the audience were left in no doubt that this was ‘an event’.  Photo boards all around the House, more usually given over to vintage images of opera stars of yore, were covered over with the same pouting, bosom-caressing image of (I think) Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole Smith, and likewise all of the television screens carried that image.  In the auditorium, her face was strapped to every cherub on the balcony fascias, a Marilyn Monroe style headshot was placed over the head of Queen Victoria, and the ROH curtain was replaced by a vivid pink number, with the Royal crest reinterpreted to include two body builders but, rather daringly, retaining the crown and both Dieu et mon droit and Honi soit qui mal y pense.  Considering that the usual translation is Shame be to him who thinks evil of it, this gaudy reworking signified one of the evening’s more notable ironies. (more…)