What an utterly joyous evening! Even a darkening sky and a chilly interval picnic failed to diminish the fizzing pleasure of this first revival of Richard Jones’ 1940s Falstaff (revived here under Sarah Fahie). Originally playing to rather mixed notices but now with an almost entirely new cast the production coalesced into a superbly sharp, detailed and hilarious experience.
Yards of tartan, a tenor as hirsute Braveheart rebel Highlander and a picturesque mural (or murial) of Loch Katrine, which would have had Hilda Ogden green with envy, place us emphatically in Scotland for this new staging of Rossini’s La donna del lago at Covent Garden.
Cannibalism, self-mutilation, mad axe murderers, two-headed genetic mutants and women wearing clingfilm – just a few of the things you don’t usually expect to see in your average production of Parsifal. Welcome to the crazy world of Calixto Bieito, whose brilliant and disturbingly nihilistic interpretation of Wagner’s Bühnenweihfestspiel is most definitely not for traditionalists, the squeamish or those of a sensitive disposition.
The most amazing thing about this performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlois that it took place at all. The troubles that have been plaguing the Fondazione del Maggio Musicale Fiorentinoare well known and this writer has already mentioned them in other recent reviews.
The Mariinsky company is very proud of this production of Shostakovich’s The Nose. And so they should be, as this is a spectacular staging that plays to all the company’s strengths. It is a rollercoaster from beginning to end; bizarre and surreal, but also dynamic and constantly inventive.
I come not to bury Dessay, but to praise her. Anyone who witnessed last season’s screening of La traviata from the Met featuring Natalie Dessay would have approached this cinema relay of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto starring the French coloratura soprano as Cleopatra with extreme caution. Indeed, those who listened to a Youtube recording of what is purportedly Dessay singing ‘Da tempeste il legno infranto’ on the opening night of the run could well have returned their tickets.
The 2013-14 Rosenblatt Recital series has been unveiled, with an enticing blend of up-and-coming young singers and a few veteran performers. The biggest surprise is the appearance of Italian baritone Leo Nucci, who gives a special one-off concert with the Italian Opera Chamber Quintet at Cadogan Hall on 12thDecember, featuring some of the Verdi repertoire on which he’s built his long career. Nucci was last seen in London as Nabucco, warming up the production for Plácido Domingo.
The silvery strains of Portuguese soprano Susana Gaspar have recently been heard emanating from on high in the Royal Opera House’s auditorium as the (suitably angelic) Voice of Heaven in a starrily-cast revival of Don Carlo. When we met last week, we mused that the final performance on Saturday would be her last role at Covent Garden as a Jette Parker Young Artist, aside from their matinee summer showcase on the main stage.
Biography: Mary Robertson is an Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychiatry at University College London and visiting Professor at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Aside from being an opera devotee, Mary is a published poet and photographer.
(New poems added: 04/08/2010)
Anna Netrebko is due to sing the role of Lady Macbeth for a single performance at the Bavarian State Opera in June 2014.
Maria Agresta will sing Lucrezia in Verdi's I due Foscari in the 2014-15 season at Covent Garden. Placido Domingo does the Doge double, adding the baritone role of Francesca Foscari to his Simon Boccanegra.
Corinne Winters, fresh from her triumph as Violetta in ENO's production of La traviata, is to return to the Coliseum next season as Teresa in Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini. Michael Spyres sings the title role in a production which sees the return ofTerry Gilliam to the director's seat, after his Damnation of Faust debut.
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Reviews to be published shortly:
The Importance of Being Earnest - Royal Opera
Siegfried - Opera North
Peter Grimes - Aldeburgh Festival
Gloriana - Royal Opera
The first thing to say about this recording is that one needs to put out of one’s mind most of the famous recordings that have preceded it since what one is accustomed to hear from the Callas, Sutherland, Caballé recordings or even further back excerpts from Cigna or Ponselle is a radically different work of art. Giovanni Antonini, Riccardo Minasi and Maurizio Biondihave spent years scraping away the barnacles of dubious performance tradition and updated instrumentation and restoring hundreds of small cuts that have become part of the standard performing edition. As with a restored oil painting the removal of years of accumulation has revealed a very different work of art. Indeed I would say that it redefines the work both in terms of sound and in appropriate casting.
If, like me, you attended Sunday’s “Flórez and Friends” concert at the Barbican – as opposed to sitting through oceans of orchestral filler in the RFH in order to dribble over the unfeasible length of Jonas Kaufmann’s ‘Wälse’ – you may be forgiven for wondering how an audience already in a state of chronic, uncritical delight could possibly be pleasured any more. In which case, you needed to be at tonight’s solo recital, the latest tranche of Juan Diego Flórez’s Barbican residency, which comprehensively proved the time-honoured adage “it ain’t over until the sooty-lashed one sings at least four encores”. The nubile bounced around, whooping; the mature squirmed with satisfaction in their seats, emitting the odd low moan; I shouldn’t be at all surprised if the lame weren’t seen dancing in the aisles, and the dead – always a fair percentage of any opera audience – weren’t newly-risen. Indeed, anyone suffering with scrofula could well have been cured merely by touching his immaculately tailored trousers (though I’m still working out how to explain this to the police).
In a pivotal scene in Verdi’s early opera, Pope Leo squares up to the defiant Attila, causing the Hun to turn tail. Here, two leading Slavic basses – Russian Ildar Abdrazakov and Bulgarian Orlin Anastassov – go head to head in the title role, but it proves to be something of an uneven contest due both to their supporting casts and the conditions in which the two performances were captured on film. Both are fairly traditionally staged and costumed, which should satisfy those pining for the days when Huns looked like Huns, but a few minutes viewing of each disc is enough to separate the wheat from the operatic chaff. In the blue corner, Arturo Gama’s production from the Mariinsky Theatre, released on its own label; in the red corner, a rudderless affair laughably attributed to director Plamen Kartaloff, recorded in the ruins of the Bulgarian fortress of Tsaverets.
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