Maurizio Benini

Rigoletto back with a bang

Discounting the dreadful Anna Nicole, to which wild horses couldn’t drag me back a second time, the Royal Opera’s season opened with Verdi’s dark 1851 masterpiece, Rigoletto. On 27 September, it was a full-blooded performance of Italian vigour, and definitely one to blow the cobwebs away.

Maurizio Benini was on duty in the pit, driving the orchestra hard whilst still allowing space for the singers: the contrast was thrilling as the big set piece act-closers hoved into view… The storm of act 4 – surely one of Verdi’s most atmospheric effects, with the chorus providing the howling wind to follow the orchestral thunderclaps – was beautifully, hauntingly realised. The orchestra played wonderfully throughout, with particularly characterful brass and woodwind contributions and some very threatening timpani. (more…)

A romping good Faust

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…)

Tosca back again

One of the Royal Opera’s many-cast money-spinners for this season, we caught the second cast of the run on Saturday night.  It made its mark, but not without some difficulties along the way.  A short set of jottings this time. (more…)

*That* Traviata…

At the end of my scribblings on the Traviata in November last year, which starred Ailyn Pérez, I noted that her husband, Stephen Costello, would be singing Alfredo alongside Netrebko in the new year, and concluded the piece with:

Given Ms Netrebko’s track record, there must be a fair chance of a last-minute call to get husband and wife together on stage…

Sure enough, the cancellation came, this time due (not unreasonably) to having to have surgery on her foot.  There was a tense few days and then we were told that Ermonela Jaho, who was the principal protagonist for the post-Christmas run of Traviatas, would step in.  So it seemed that the prophecy was not to be fulfilled.  However, at the last minute, Jaho also fell ill and, lo! Pérez is summoned from her rehearsals for the same piece in Hamburg.  Opera does like a good off-stage drama, and sure enough there was a bit of a buzz for the first performances together of this husband-and-wife team in this repertoire. (more…)