House detail, Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italy. Image: Mark Tyson
A cool, sunny Autumn day in London; a warm, sunny comedy at the Royal Opera House: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, in Laurent Pelly’s energetic production.
Lucy Crowe was an Adina with a little more bite than usual, helped by a keen comedy swagger and a plangency in her voice, which amply gave to the more thoughtful moments what may have been missing from the farcical. There was no dimming of Terfel’s ebullience in Dulcamara’s daft scenes. Levente Molnár had the Monty Python-esque physical comedy of Belcore in good measure, but could have done with a bit more vocal brilliance to match it. And Vittorio Grigolo… ah well, his puppy-dog over-acting rather suited the role of Nemorino, in fact more than I had expected. Sledgehammers and nuts had come to mind when I contemplated this casting and, indeed, we should gloss over an Una furtiva lagrima which sounded as though written by Giordani, for which Daniele Rustioni in the pit shared the blame. But, that said, his Nemorino won the house over on the basis of vocal heft and force of personality.
Rustioni seemed to me to struggle with some co-ordination between stage and pit here and there, but kept things buoyant. The orchestra played brilliantly; the chorus – on slightly muted form, I thought – framed the action with giddy excitement. The dog did its thing. The sun shone. We all went out smiling.
Last night was, originally, to have been La Fille du Régiment at Covent Garden. However, when we got lucky with tickets for the Christian Gerhaher recital at Wigmore Hall, La Fille had to go – well, in fact we moved to last Sunday’s matinee. The contrast between the two was marked, to be sure. It’s a bit difficult to think back on Fille with Gerhaher’s glorious, and resolutely serious, Schumann still fresh in my ears. (more…)
On Friday 24 January, I caught the revival of the Royal Opera’s Manon. I looked back at my musings on the first run back in 2010, when it functioned as a star-vehicle for Anna Netrebko and Vittorio Grigolo. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the piece, and not particularly swept away by the two lead singers. Happily, whilst still remaining not entirely convinced by Massenet in this work, the performance was more impressive. (more…)
Last Sunday (9th) was spent in the company of a French operatic rarity, exhumed (quite literally in Act 3) by the Royal Opera after 122 years of absence from the Covent Garden stage. Robert le Diable by Giacomo Meyerbeer burst forth with a comparative absence of dark Gothic gloom, an over-abundance of brightly coloured horses and maidens, and a ballet of zombie nuns.
Two evenings, both with flaws as well as tremendous performances; both looked forward to immensely, and one more successful than the other.
The first – and most successful – was the concert performance of Der Freischütz at the Barbican (21/4). The LSO were on fine form, with all the gorgeous sonorities of the score richly displayed. Sir Colin Davis ensured there was the right amount of pep in all of the folksy numbers, the angst of Agathe and Max was given its space, and there was a liberal dose of fire and thunder in the Wolf’s Glen scene. I could have done without some of the electronic sound effects: I thought we left such things behind with John Culshaw’s Solti Ring recording. (more…)
Italian opera, composed for the French traditions of opera comique, performed by some of the world’s leading exponents, singing and acting at the top of their game, in a funky, bright, clear, witty production with one of the world’s finest opera companies providing chorus and orchestra. Maybe the sun has got to me over the weekend, but La Fille du Régiment at Covent Garden struck these eyes and ears as damn-nigh perfect.
Oh, alright, there are a few quibbles. The orchestral playing started a little ragged; the lead tenor may have over-milked some of the big moments; the lead soprano may have given the impression of sailing a little close to the edge; you could carp about a well-known British comedienne overdoing it in the cameo role; maybe the old bat was a bit less old-battish than the last occupant of the role; and maybe there is a lingering doubt that the material is all being held up by the sheer energy with which it’s being attacked. But all of those niggles really don’t tarnish a bright, shiny, fabulous evening… (more…)