Willard White

Giddy Gilliam in Barmy Berlioz

benvenuto cellini firenze

Benvenuto Cellini bust on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence.

Terry Gilliam’s second foray into opera direction, again Berlioz, is if anything more successful than the first. I hadn’t known any of Berlioz’s 1838 opera Benvenuto Cellini, which tells the story of Cellini’s brush with both papal and paternal wrath in his simultaneous failure to cast a monumental statue of Perseus and his attempts to woo the daughter of a papal exchequer. The work seems sprawling, to put it mildly, and rambles along with rousing ensembles punctuated by less distinctive recitatives and short arias. Gilliam’s madcap treatment of the work would appear to meet its flaws head on in a spirit of riotous abandon. (more…)

A magical Parsifal

Curtain Call at Parsifal

Curtain call at Parsifal, showing the basic set with woodland surrounding a geometric playing space and the Grail ‘cube’.

I’m not sure Parsifal has ever quite worked this spell on me. It’s entirely possible I was just ‘in that zone’ and receptive to its very special charms. However, I also think that this was one of the most successful new productions Covent Garden has had for some time. Whilst Stephen Langridge’s production is not without flaws, in comparison to a number of recent new productions on London’s stages, it is something of a triumph. With a very strong cast – and some notably outstanding and character-redefining performances – it was a special evening indeed. (more…)

Fidelio packs its punch

Last Saturday’s Fidelio at Covent Garden may not have been perfect, but it’s in the work’s DNA to pack a punch against many odds.  And even if the work itself hadn’t had such in-built strength, the quality of the singing would have pulled it through.

Nina Stemme, remarkable in every role I’ve ever heard her in, once again came through as a dramatic and vocally confident Leonora.  Even when given daft things to do by the director she still managed to retain the dignity of the character and make something convincing of the role.  A good example would be the frequent cleaning of guns, weighing them up, and swapping them from one bag to another during Abscheulicher! Make something of that, whilst imbuing your gleaming tone with dramatic nuance, if you can.  And if anyone can, Stemme did. (more…)