Gaetano Donizetti

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 reigning monarch

Mary, Queen of Scots, after Cornelius and William Cure, plaster cast of head, (circa 1606-1616) [NPG Creative Commons]

Mary, Queen of Scots, after Cornelius and William Cure, plaster cast of head, (circa 1606-1616) [NPG Creative Commons]

The Royal Opera have assembled a wonderful cast for their performance of Maria Stuarda, but one performance reigned supreme: Joyce DiDonato as the titular Queen of Scots.

First, though, much has been said of the production by returning directorial pair Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser – and equally by those who would lambast the production and by those who would reserve their ire for the booers on the opening night, each in their own rather sanctimonious terms. At the risk of joining the former group, having been at both the opening night, and not having booed, as well as a second viewing, I’m afraid I don’t have much beef with those who did boo. It’s a messy, lazy, clumsy affair which, given how much time productions have lavished upon them for designed, prototyping, development and rehearsal, ought certainly to have been much, much better. (more…)

1840: a year of contrasts

Last night was, originally, to have been La Fille du Régiment at Covent Garden. However, when we got lucky with tickets for the Christian Gerhaher recital at Wigmore Hall, La Fille had to go – well, in fact we moved to last Sunday’s matinee. The contrast between the two was marked, to be sure. It’s a bit difficult to think back on Fille with Gerhaher’s glorious, and resolutely serious, Schumann still fresh in my ears. (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…)

Freischütz & Fille

Two evenings, both with flaws as well as tremendous performances; both looked forward to immensely, and one more successful than the other.

The first – and most successful – was the concert performance of Der Freischütz at the Barbican (21/4).  The LSO were on fine form, with all the gorgeous sonorities of the score richly displayed.  Sir Colin Davis ensured there was the right amount of pep in all of the folksy numbers, the angst of Agathe and Max was given its space, and there was a liberal dose of fire and thunder in the Wolf’s Glen scene.  I could have done without some of the electronic sound effects: I thought we left such things behind with John Culshaw’s Solti Ring recording. (more…)

Video killed the opera star: Lucrezia Borgia at ENO

First, a public service announcement: English National Opera’s high-key publicity around Mike Figgis’s operatic debut seems calculated to draw in that mythical ‘new audience’.  If you were indeed lured out of the cinema to this Lucrezia Borgia as your first experience of opera, then I am here to beg you to stick with the genre: it does get better.  Much better. (more…)

It surely doesn’t get any better…?

Italian opera, composed for the French traditions of opera comique, performed by some of the world’s leading exponents, singing and acting at the top of their game, in a funky, bright, clear, witty production with one of the world’s finest opera companies providing chorus and orchestra.  Maybe the sun has got to me over the weekend, but La Fille du Régiment at Covent Garden struck these eyes and ears as damn-nigh perfect.

Oh, alright, there are a few quibbles.  The orchestral playing started a little ragged; the lead tenor may have over-milked some of the big moments; the lead soprano may have given the impression of sailing a little close to the edge; you could carp about a well-known British comedienne overdoing it in the cameo role; maybe the old bat was a bit less old-battish than the last occupant of the role; and maybe there is a lingering doubt that the material is all being held up by the sheer energy with which it’s being attacked.  But all of those niggles really don’t tarnish a bright, shiny, fabulous evening… (more…)