Placido Domingo

I due Foscari

Window on the Ca' Foscari, Venice. John Ruskin, plate VIII from The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Window from the Ca’ Foscari, Venice. John Ruskin, plate VIII from The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Not an evening to provoke wild enthusiasm. Verdi’s 1844 opera struck me as being some long way short of his later masterpieces, whether or not a particularly persuasive case was made for it. Its greatest virtue was brevity: 111 minutes of run time, and a half hour interval. The half hour of chatting was more eventful, frankly. (more…)

Tale of Two Puccinis

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…)

Nabucco

Nabucco programme and ticket

So, last night was a thoroughly enjoyable performance of Nabucco at Covent Garden, something of a birthday treat. Domingo headed a cast that included the formidable Liudmyla Monastyrska amongst other excellent performances.

Daniele Abbado’s production has had more than its fair share of detractors, but from our vantage point (extreme side, in a Balcony box) I thought it functioned quite effectively in providing an unintrusive – indeed atmospheric – space for the action, with some nice touches such as the standing stones being toppled in one destructive episode. Elsewhere, admittedly, it’s less effective, such as the destruction of the idol, which is formed from parts held on sticks, which actors bring down to the floor with rather less drama than the music suggests. The clouds of dust that erupt from the sand-covered space whenever the chorus move around it seem rather alarming as well, given the artform depends on the health of participants’ airways. (more…)

ROH canters to a close for 2011/12

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…)

A celebration of artistic generosity

Well, we’re freshly back from an afternoon where the celebratory warmth in the auditorium was distinctly at odds with the repetitiously murderous events on stage.  Anchored around Plácido Domingo, the final acts of Otello, Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra (strangling, stabbing and poisoning, respectively) provided more of an opportunity for the great man to celebrate his ensemble skills than for virtuoso display.  Which is fitting, for an artist of his generosity and integrity. (more…)

Sometimes you don’t feel like commenting…

Well, here we are again.  Nearly a month since the last post and much operatic activity that has passed without comment.  What can I say?  My mind was elsewhere.

In short:  a fabulous Simon Boccanegra with Domingo; an excellent Salome with Angela Denoke; a so-so Traviata with a hyperactive Gheorghiu; and Hänsel und Gretel at Glyndebourne, not quite as good as the last outing. (more…)

Tamerlano… briefly

I will keep this brief.  I’m never pleased with myself after leaving an opera at an interval, but this evening’s performance of Tamerlano at Covent Garden really didn’t present much of an incentive to stay.  To be blunt, it was a dull opera, badly sung and statically presented.

It wasn’t an auspicious start when we arrived to be told that an opera that started at 6.30pm would finish at 11pm.  On a weeknight, I find it a little daunting to be arriving home at about 11.45pm.  Well, that is to say, without being merry on an evening’s festivities, and this opera is certainly not one to get you merry or festive.

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