Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

When in Rome…

Last weekend was spent amidst the overwhelmingly abundant delights of Rome. Quite why I’m now, on my return, a bit worn out may be explained by the amount that we packed in to four days: Pantheon, Colosseum, Forum, Palatine, Castel Sant’Angelo, St Peter’s, Vatican Museum, Galleria Borghese, San Clemente, numerous smaller churches and a good deal of wandering around the streets of this fascinating city. Unsurprisingly, I’m still digesting it.

Teatro dell'Opera di Roma... nothing to see here, move along...

Teatro dell’Opera di Roma… nothing to see here, move along…

Sadly, there was nothing on at the Teatro dell’Opera to coincide with our visit, but we did get along to two musical events: one planned, the other impromptu. We had prebooked a concert by the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in their newer home at the Parco della Musica at the north side of central Rome. And then, in our hotel, we picked up a leaflet for a ‘dinner-and-show’ package featuring La Traviata. Being at an otherwise loose end, we thought ‘why not?’ and booked it; it turned out to be surprisingly good. (more…)


Temple of Athena, Rhodes

Another new production at the Royal Opera House; another unsatisfying evening in the theatre. Much has been said about Martin Kušej’s new production of Idomeneo, mostly about the shark. In many respects the shark was the least of its problems.

By the interval (by which time the shark had made its appearance) I was feeling relatively well-disposed towards the production. It was one of those standard grey-white walls, unspecified-villains-in-trenchcoats, bewildered-peasantry-in-50s-ish-modern-dress affairs. Much use was made of the revolve, as different empty room configurations swung into view. The basic theme was of dystopian civilisation in which the libretto’s references to Neptune are applied to a sort of cult which demands his worship: hence the shark becomes some sort of ritualistic maritime offering. By the interval, though creaking a bit at the seams, it was holding together passably well. (more…)

My week at the Metropolitan Opera

Lincoln Center - Metropolitan Opera House

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…)

Holten’s Don Giovanni

Kasper Holten’s production of Don Giovanni, which opened at Covent Garden last night, would appear to have one eye set on its DVD recording or HD transmission. Equally, it seemed an exercise in bringing some HD clarity to the stage visuals. Whether, ultimately, it functions as an insightful production of the opera is a matter of some debate, but it seems hard to deny that the projected visuals, matched with remarkable technical facility to the moving set, were a tour de force of their kind. (more…)

A finely-honed Figaro

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 bit of magic back in the old Flute

Die Zauberflöte cast sheet Colin Davis dedicationA revival of David McVicar’s gloomy-but-not-intrusive production of Die Zauberflöte doesn’t really get the blood rushing these days; in the event it was shot through with excellent performances that added up to one of the best revivals of this production I can recall. This was particularly pleasing in a run dedicated to Sir Colin Davis. (more…)

A tale of two Mozarts…

Figaro on Friday, Giovanni on Saturday. I’m a wee bit Mozart’d out…

Both productions, the Figaro by David McVicar and the Don Giovanni by Francesca Zambello, have been doing the ROH rounds for a while now, and seeing them in such close succession was definitely unfavourable towards the Don Giovanni. The details, the cool elegance and poise of the setting of Figaro showed up all of the deficiencies in the static, rootless, vague Giovanni.  In fact, having been fairly agnostic on the point before, I now came out of the latter opera convinced this slightly clumsy production was ready for replacement. (more…)