Given my lack of success in seeing her on the Covent Garden stage in the past, it was pleasing to note that Anna Netrebko was indeed present – and then some. As the evening progressed the celebrity sheen was slowly dimmed in favour of her genuine acting talents. Vocally as well, she seemed to ‘free up’ as the performance went on, after a first act in which her vocal voluptuousness threatened to tip over into an excessively mezzo-ish tone with stodgy consonants. Nonetheless, she won me back over as she stood behind the tumbril in act 3 and reacted most movingly to Rodolfo’s changing explanations of why he had left her. At the close, she anchored the death scene with her stillness, matching her vocal beauty to the failing health of the character. (more…)
Not that it matters, since this rather hammy melodrama streamrollers forth, paying no heed to the new window-dressing. Outer acts appear to look backward to the clunkier operations of Il Trovatore or Nabucco, whilst the central act in the ‘spooky’ graveyard has more of the developed, conversational writing on which Verdi’s reputation is more justly based. Picking up on the spooky graveyard theme, not to mention the supernatural invocations of fortune-teller Ulrica, Thoma has opted for an omnipresent pseudo-Gothic décor (minus the pointed arches, incidentally). When funerary monuments are not required, the cloisters and weighty doorframes are rearranged to form libraries, bedrooms, etc., but in essence most of the action, loosely directed, takes place in a wide open space in the middle of the stage. The graveyard scene did have some quite effective business with statuary coming to life to caress the distressed Amelia. Otherwise not particularly engaging, but I suppose not too offensive either. Given Covent Garden’s recent run of flirting with more interventionist directorial ideas, it’s at least a more benign form of failure for a new production. (more…)
David McVicar’s Faust was back on the Royal Opera stage, and in rather good form. Gothic backdrops, a scene in the Cabaret L’Enfer, the Les Mis-style tricolore-waving crowd number, and Méphistophélès rocking up in a black diamanté-encrusted ball gown, all added to the fun. Throw in a few acrobatic shirtless demons for Méphistophélès’ retinue from the standard McVicar toolbox – as well as his characteristic concern for acting details, nicely recreated by revival director Bruno Ravella – and a long evening wasn’t quite as long as expected. (more…)
Notes and half-formed thoughts on three performances from the closing weeks of the Royal Opera season are still hanging around, not set down for posterity. Since posterity likes completeness (not that it ever gets it), I’d better crack on. (more…)
As old as me, John Copley’s production of La Bohème creaked its way onto the Covent Garden stage for another outing. There’s no denying it’s extraordinarily effective, even if the more jaded amongst us might wish for the refreshing tonic of a new production. Then again, bearing in mind the ROH’s choice for a Rusalka production, it’s probably best we stick with this for the foreseeable. (more…)
Two marvellous musical treats today: one live, one recorded.
At Covent Garden, Renée Fleming was displaying her Violetta in the fast-becoming-a-warhorse Richard Eyre production of La Traviata. With Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja alongside, and Pappano in the pit, it was probably the best revival of that production I’ve seen, having seen pretty much all of them. Indeed, interestingly, it’s not far off 15 years since that Gheorghiu debut, and a matter of weeks from my 15th year anniversary of attending Covent Garden, so to see the production being so well inhabited and delivering its not inconsiderable goods so efficiently was a real treat.
Fleming was wonderful. I’ve always had a bit of scepticism about her doing anything other than grand aristocratic ladies (Marschallins, Countesses, that sort of thing). There’s something in both voice and demeanour which seems regal and somehow detached. She misses that febrile intensity that you get with a Mattila or even the early Gheorghiu. The voice is glorious, though, and there is something almost thrilling simply in the technical security of it. However, in this Traviata, I think she won me over to something else.