Jonas Kaufmann

Oh, Carmen!

Dead Roses (c) Mark Tyson

(c) Mark Tyson

It is entirely possible that I was just not in the right mood last night, but I have to say that my spirits were not enlivened by the Royal Opera’s performance of Carmen. Having seen Francesca Zambello’s production a number of times over the years, I’d not really admitted just how absurd it is before now, what with the donkey and the horse for no reason other than gratuitous spectacle, together with a good deal of rather over-laboured ‘Spanishy’ dancing, on top of the perennially irritating children’s chorus that is built into the score. Maybe it was only more evident because the performance didn’t, on this occasion, ‘fly’. (more…)

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.


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…)

Tale of Two Puccinis

I’ve been behind on my jottings, and the performances to be reflected upon are mounting up. For a start, there are these two Puccinis, both from The Royal Opera: their recent outing of the Jonathan Kent Tosca and a new production, also by Jonathan Kent, of Manon Lescaut.

The Tosca is a well-known commodity: replacing the Zeffirelli, it was calculated not to frighten any horses and enjoys a similar visual grandeur and narrative simplicity. After a 30-odd year gap, Kent has brought back Manon Lescaut with decidedly less caution. He has attempted to bring to modern audiences some of the shock experienced by the first readers of the 1731 Abbé Prevost novel, and to do so, Kent and his design team have moved the action to a swanky three-storey hotel-cum-casino; this is followed by an Amsterdam-style glass-encased brothel; thereafter to the quayside for scenes of trafficked women; and ending on a motorway flyover as a contemporary vision of the ‘desert’ depicted in the original libretto. (more…)

Kaufmann’s Winterreise

Curtain Call, Winterreise, Royal Opera House, 6 April 2014: Helmut Deutsch and Jonas Kaufmann

Curtain Call, Winterreise, Royal Opera House, 6 April 2014: Helmut Deutsch and Jonas Kaufmann (set: Act 3, Richard Eyre La Traviata) Blurry iPhone picture!

The long-awaited date arrived: Jonas Kaufmann finally stepped out into the stripped-down Act 3 set from La Traviata, with Helmut Deutsch at the piano, to give a performance of Schubert’s intense song-cycle Winterreise. And it was as remarkable as it was expected to be, more so perhaps than the recent CD issue suggested. (more…)

A stunning Don Carlo

Two weeks ago, we attended the opening night of Don Carlo, and last night we were back. Having anticipated a certain ‘bedding in’, I confined my thoughts last time to the gorgeous performance by Anja Harteros. This time, however, the riches were in unquantifiable abundance: a truly splendid night of music and drama, everything fused into a thrilling, unsurpassable whole. (more…)

Anja Harteros

I have the good fortune, after some fast fingerwork when the booking opened, to be seeing Don Carlo twice at the ROH. My first encounter was the opening on 4 May, to a rapturous reception which was justly deserved for some truly remarkable singing. This was opera at its most formidable: a well-constructed opera of fascinating complexity but clearly-told story and engagingly rich music; a production which heightens, mostly, but doesn’t intrude; conducting of dramatic propulsion, more so later in the performance; orchestral playing of rich, sonorous quality; and singing of the highest order. (more…)