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…)
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…)
So the Covent Garden season has been launched, and in quite high style with an evening of Puccini’s Il Trittico, two-thirds of which is new. And, in performance terms, it was the new pieces that triumphed, the revival seeming a little worn by comparison.
Which is not to say that the pieces themselves sit in the same rank order. Il Tabarro is gloomy and melodramatic, and is starting to slightly strain its material by the time its denouement arrives. Suor Angelica is sentimental to a worrying degree (more Sound of Music than Dialogues des Carmelites in its treatment of nuns), even if, in this production, it was the most effective in conveying its story. Gianni Schicchi, taken on its own merits is the most completely satisfying and consistent hour. If Tabarro is Puccini in Tosca-mode, Suor Angelica finds him in Butterfly-style. Schicchi is harder to find parallel for. (more…)