Hector Berlioz

Giddy Gilliam in Barmy Berlioz

benvenuto cellini firenze

Benvenuto Cellini bust on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence.

Terry Gilliam’s second foray into opera direction, again Berlioz, is if anything more successful than the first. I hadn’t known any of Berlioz’s 1838 opera Benvenuto Cellini, which tells the story of Cellini’s brush with both papal and paternal wrath in his simultaneous failure to cast a monumental statue of Perseus and his attempts to woo the daughter of a papal exchequer. The work seems sprawling, to put it mildly, and rambles along with rousing ensembles punctuated by less distinctive recitatives and short arias. Gilliam’s madcap treatment of the work would appear to meet its flaws head on in a spirit of riotous abandon. (more…)

Modified Rapture

Two events in the past week or so, each presenting something to chew on… (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…)

‘A Life in Opera Programmes’ 3: The Trojans, Royal Opera House, 1972

ROH Trojans programme cover 1972

The cover of the programme for the 1972 run of The Trojans at Covent Garden.

Ken attended two performances of the 1972 run of The Trojans (note: not Les Troyens since the work was performed in an English translation by Edward Dent) and, since this was the last time it was seen in these parts prior to the 2012 extravaganza just finished, what better excuse to dip into the archive?

Two casts evidently performed, with Ken taking the admirable step of purchasing one programme and annotating the differences in cast. Common to both of them was the Aeneas of Jon Vickers, who had also taken the role in the 1969 run. 21 September brought the Dido of Josephine Veasey adjacent to the Cassandra of Jessye Norman, her debut at Covent Garden, with Elizabeth Bainbridge as Anna. Just over a fortnight later, on 7 October, Josephine Veasey had been brought forward to play Cassandra, whilst Janet Baker mounted the throne of Carthage, with Heather Begg as her sister. (more…)

Berlioz and Gilliam fight it out for Faust

Such a lot has already been written about ENO’s The Damnation of Faust, the rather shapeless but lovable piece of Berlioz that has been panel-beaten into a concept by Terry Gilliam.  It was a really good evening at the theatre.  Not sure it did Berlioz very much good, though.

It’s always been a problem, as many have remarked: not an opera, not an oratorio, but a ‘legende dramatique‘.  When composers start inventing new terms for their dramatic – and not so dramatic – works, preparations should be made for an unconventional evening out.  Bühnenweihfestspiel, anyone? (more…)