The Metropolitan Opera House at night, as the audience files out of Madama Butterfly
I have just returned from New York, a trip that was based around celebrating a ‘significant’ birthday. During the 8-day stay, we took in five operas at the Metropolitan Opera House and, since I didn’t take a laptop with me, one post-trip round-up will capture thoughts on them all.
Overall, it was great to ‘live’ a different operatic experience for a week: everything about the Met is gargantuan, including (to be blunt) its own sense of self and the resulting hyperbole. In contrast, those fellow audience members with whom we chatted were reassuringly down-to-earth, and we had some great discussions, comparing notes on singers and performances across the Atlantic. And yet, from the security guards, to the rather prickly (and not particularly well-informed) backstage tour guide, to the social conventions around the front of house, it is all just slightly starchy when compared, dare I say it, to Covent Garden: more emphasis on a ‘sense of occasion’ than a night in the theatre, perhaps. Maybe it’s the shades of all those Rockerfellers, Astors and Vanederbilts etched into the marble foyer. (more…)
To say that Covent Garden’s latest revival of David McVicar’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro is well-choreographed sounds like an oddly limiting opening statement. In a quite profound way, though, it really sums up what was so spectacular about this performance: every note, every step, every gesture, every rhythmic or mood shift was totally spot on, and yet looked so breathtakingly effortless. It was a company effort of quite astonishing quality, and all elements and contributors to the company were at the top of their game. (more…)
A fabulous 50th birthday trip for my partner and some select friends to Glyndebourne, to see the new production of Don Giovanni. Broadly, very good. Not perfect, but very good.
Jonathan Kent’s production had things updated to somewhere around the 1950s (judging by the Marilyn Monroe effect applied to Zerlina) and to Italy, if Masetto was anything to go by. Don G spent most of the time in a white tux, and Donna Anna and Donna Elvira wore various chic numbers of the period.
The production revolves around a much-revolving tall box, which initially turns slowly during the overture, revealing sides that are alternately large white gloss brick and either an ornate classical portico or a full-height portrait in ‘Old Master’ style of a woman reclining. Through the evening, this box spins to different angles and is opened out into a myriad different spaces and shapes. The effect is impressive, and there are no end of interesting tableaux possible. Act 2 sees a slightly more decrepit – and, for the actors, perilous – version of the cube in play. The final dinner scene was played at a dramatic angle, rising up away from the audience with Don G’s seat at the table high up at the back of the stage. The table was upturned by Don G, revealing the Thriller-esque grave from which the Commendatore would rise to initiate vengeance.