Kasper Holten

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…)

L’Ormindo

There can hardly be a greater contrast between The Mastersingers of Nuremberg at English National Opera, which I’m about to head out to, and L’Ormindo performed in the warm intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe Theatre. The 340-seat theatre, tightly packed and lit exclusively by candlelight, is a perfect setting for early Baroque operas such as this one by Francesco Cavalli. Standing for £10 was a bargain on any measure, even if my days of standing through performances are rapidly running out. (more…)

Holten’s Don Giovanni

Kasper Holten’s production of Don Giovanni, which opened at Covent Garden last night, would appear to have one eye set on its DVD recording or HD transmission. Equally, it seemed an exercise in bringing some HD clarity to the stage visuals. Whether, ultimately, it functions as an insightful production of the opera is a matter of some debate, but it seems hard to deny that the projected visuals, matched with remarkable technical facility to the moving set, were a tour de force of their kind. (more…)

Tardy thoughts: Parsifal and Eugene Onegin

With relative brevity, given the lack of currency, my thoughts on my last two musical outings: to the Met Parsifal, relayed (with some disappointment) to the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley; and before that to the last performance of the run of Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House, which was also not without its frustrations. 

The Met’s production seemed measured, expansive and non-intrusive.  The barren expanses of the outer acts were accompanied by massive projections of swirling, angry skies and mystical planets rising up from the horizon in the manner of Melancholia.  For the second act, Klingsor’s enchanted garden was a little less than enchanting, but taken on its own terms it was a relatively well executed confrontation, and the lake of blood soaking up the white shift-dresses of the Flowermaidens was a striking image. (more…)