Georgia Jarman

Uneasy lies the head…

Duomo di Firenze, Georgio Vasari (detail) Photo: Mark Tyson

Duomo, Cattedrale di S. Maria del Fiore, Firenze; Georgio Vasari (detail) Photo: Mark Tyson

It’s a tricky one, don’t you find? When you’re struggling to maintain your grasp on regal power because the anonymous, writhing naked men dwelling in the depths of your psyche simply won’t stop distracting you. They become particularly lively, and things reach a particularly feverish and catastrophic pitch, when a so-called prophet rides into town promising all sorts of pleasures…

Thus runs, broadly, the theme (it’s not so much a plot) of Szymanowski’s Król Roger, at least in Kasper Holten’s well-judged production at Covent Garden. At last, a new production at Covent Garden that can be considered a fairly comprehensive success. The monumental head, filling the stage, starts out as some sort of totem of established worship, framed within a galleried set. As it turns, it reveals a metaphorical chamber, with enlightenment above (symbolised by piles of books) and the aforementioned baser elements slithering in the depths. This colossal stage-picture allowed the themes of Szymanowski’s opera to be very well elucidated: pulses of movement in the sensual depths accompanied each hint of King Roger’s seamier psychological undercurrents, until things disintegrated completely and broke free from the central cranium. Knowledge, again symbolised by books, was destroyed in a flaming pyre in the third act, giving way to the pursuit of pure pleasure – except for Roger, who sees a possibility of rebuilding a more meaningful life.  (more…)

ROH Rigoletto

An interesting and very enjoyable Rigoletto at ROH last night. I always forget – between encounters – just what a romping good piece this is.

With John Eliot Gardiner at the helm, it started coolly, almost subdued. The so-called ‘orgy’ on-stage (which never works, as I noted last time) didn’t suffer for that. As the drama deepened, the pacing and dynamics became more variable and responsive. As an example, the fantastic close to Act 2, Si, Vendetta!, started at a rather measured tread, slightly slow, prompting in me some slight surprise, but with each ‘stepping up’ of the musical frisson, just a little extra pace was added, ultimately powering the music to an exciting climax. The storm scene was as thrilling as it should be.   (more…)