Category Archives: glyndebourne
You may or may not know, but for the past few years all of late December has been family time chez dehhgi. So now that New Year is being celebrated at the ancestral home, yours truly gets involved in food preparation. Due to a fluke (a less adventurous one than the setting up of the 2017 Christmas tree 😉 ), we ended up cooking all we wanted to cook yesterday, leaving quite a bit of thumb twiddling time for today, just right for a recap of what I took part – and what I skipped or missed – in 2018.
I think the right word for 2018 is fabulous, in its glamorous connotation – Venice, Salzburger Festspiele and lots of Glyndebourne, with notable stops in Halle and at the Bremen Music Fest, all of which spawned wonderful memories from meeting up with you, gentle reader, for some rocking performances (and a certain odd production). I think I may also start paying rent at Wiggy, since from the below list it looks like I went there at least once a month, with the notable exception of August, festival month.
Hope to see you at a theatre near you (or me) in 2019 😀 though what is on at the usual places does not look quite as exciting as before. Then again, there were some things this year I did not know I was going to see until closer to the time…
11 Sonia Prina | Wigmore Hall – a good way to start the year, right?
17 Salome | ROH
21 Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria | Roundhouse – I like this January Monteverdi fixture every couple of years. After we are done with the rep, can we start over?
23 Classical Opera (Mozart’s 1768) | Wigmore Hall
25 Anna Bonitatibus and friends | Wigmore Hall
27 Anna Bonitatibus | Wigmore Hall – I did not write about it because she did not sing from En travesti and I was a bit underwhelmed by her choices. But, of course, she is wonderful 🙂
31 Angelika Kirchschlanger | Wigmore Hall
4 Adrian Behle | Wigmore Hall
5 Golda Schultz | Wigmore Hall
English Concert (Buxtehude) | Wigmore Hall – I was sick for the rest of the month, along with Mum (who was visiting…) and one of my cats. Not the best of times chez dehggi by a very long shot.
26 Les Talens Lyriques | Wigmore Hall
13 Rinaldo | Barbican – quite the letdown, aside from Pisaroni as Argante. Both Davies and Harvey did much, much better at Glyndebourne later in the year.
14 From the House of the Dead | ROH
Christine Rice / Rebecca Evans | Wigmore Hall
22 Esther | Wigmore Hall – this year most of the festivals happened elsewhere. This was the only London Handel Fest performance I saw and in the end I did not write about it. Not the best Handel I have seen, I would say, though for sure nowhere near the worst.
26 D’Odette | Wigmore Hall
5 Haim /
Crebassa / Desandre / Devieilhe | Wigmore Hall – yes, this happened. Do not ask me details, as I cannot remember much, beside enjoying the deft playing of the band that did not need extra fireworks. The same Desadre that wowed me in Salzburg did not do much for me here. Perhaps I was bummed Crebassa bailed on me us?
7 Dido and Aeneas | Wigmore Hall
19 Orlando furioso | Teatro Malibran, Venice
21 Orlando furioso | Teatro Malibran, Venice – this was such a fun trip, I do need to write about it again.
24 Matthias Goerne | Wigmore Hall
1 Sonia Prina / Vivica Genaux | Wigmore Hall
3 Mauro Peter | Wigmore Hall
4 Lucy Crowe | Wigmore Hall
6 Royal Academy | Wigmore Hall
16 Hannigan Masterclass | Linbury Studio
21 Sara Mingardo / Francesca Biliotti | Wigmore Hall
24 Lessons in Love and Violence | ROH – it did spawn some interesting ideas (about love and violence) which in the end did not coagulate into a post. I kinda wish I had persevered but sometimes where there is a lot on the roster it is not easy to get your mind disciplined about something you do not particularly enjoy as such.
27 Simon Keenlyside | Wigmore Hall
4 Franco Fagioli | Barbican
5 Stephane Degout | Wigmore Hall
9 Arianna in Creta | Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche Halle Handelfest – after a couple of years of feasts, we have missed Hallenberg in London, so this was an awesome treat.
13 Jakub Jozef Orlinski | Wigmore Hall
15 Giulio Cesare | Glyndebourne – THE Glyndebourne Cesare! With overseas friends! A good metaphor for blogging about opera, right?
17 Ian Bostridge | Wigmore Hall
Christine Rice Julien Van Mallaerts | Wigmore Hall
19 Der Rosenkavalier | Glyndebourne
23 Giulio Cesare | Glyndebourne – and again 😀
2 Veronique Gens | Wigmore Hall
6 Sandrine Piau | Wigmore Hall – that was the week of fabu French singers and I did not write up on them. For no fault of theirs, they were wonderful as usual in their light and sophisticated way. I was absolutely rotten lazy/tired in July, as you can see by the lack of activity below.
Felicity Palmer | Wigmore Hall
15 JPYA | ROH – yes, I went again but I did not write, although I had an absolutely hilarious seatmate, very much up my own alley in spirit. The show itself was a bit underwhelming this year, cannot say anyone stood out for me, hence the lack of commentary.
18 L’ange de Nisida | ROH – if no one produces La favourite around here, at least we got its previous incarnation.
20 Giulio Cesare | Glyndebourne – and the third time, now with the London Crew. It was a very fun (although overcast) day, and the post is half written. I swear I was so tired and a bit out of it in July that I am afraid I came off stand-offish to those who know me less, though it was by no means the case.
22 Pavol Breslik | Wigmore Hall
27 Saul | Glyndebourne – such a fun production! For some reason, a Chinook flew over the gardens. They give me the heebie-jeebies.
1 Pelleas et Melisande | Glyndebourne
12 L’incoronazione di Poppea | Salzburger Festspiele (Haus fur Mozart) – yes. At least nobody got clever with the musical content.
8 La Iole (Porpora) | Theater Oldenburg – my first live encounter with the wonderful Iervolino – and with a Porpora work in its entirety. If you are asking yourself Oldenburg what? this was part of the Bremen Music Festival 2018, which is kind enough to spread around the region instead of allowing the city to hog all the events. Another take on the Hercules/Dejanira story, this centres on the woman with whom he is cheating on her. The cosy Theater Oldenburg lavished its audience with a cast of top young singers in excellent form – Iervolino (Dejanira), Aspromonte (Iole) and Renato Dolcini (Ercole). It is a short (but fun) work but all three really got into it with much gusto and the audience loved it. I liked Aspromonte here much better than in Vivaldi.
10 Dorothea Roschmann | Wigmore Hall
Marianne Crebassa / Mass in B minor | Löningen – also part of the Bremen Music Festival 2018. As you can see, Crebassa remains elusive to me, but the Mass in B minor is a lovely work and the choir did a good job.
19 Masterclass Sarah Connolly | Wigmore Hall – cannot tell you why I never finished this post, I was even well rested by then.
Sandrine Piau | Wigmore Hall
17 Porgy and Bess | ENO
Karina Gauvin | Wigmore Hall – annoyingly, I was under some rough weather in October and missed these two fine ladies due to horrible head colds.
25 Semiramide | Teatro La Fenice – back to Venice 😀 and more Iervolino! Excuse me if I simply love the woman, she is cute as button here. She also sings rather well 😉
26 Serse | Barbican
2 Marie-Nicole Lemieux | Wigmore Hall
19 Roberta Invernizzi | Wigmore Hall – the show that caused me to pick up a guitar (and make some noise)!
11 Lucy Crowe | Wigmore Hall
What with everything, I missed the Gen Sale for the return to Wagner at ROH (oh, no!). The Ring Cycle is back this Autumn, with Pappano at the helm. I may look up returns for Stemme’s sake (aka, best intentions). Otherwise, we have the following:
Solomon in concert with Zazzo in the title role
Verdi’s Requiem with Jamie Barton and Stoyanova; sold out at this point
Simon Boranegra… for those of strong Verdi constitution (but where there is Wagner, there is also Verdi and there will be another production for the hardcore Verdians soon; an opera we know and I love to make fun of, because a recent new production at ENO clearly was not enough)
The Queen of Spades = must not forget
Traviata for the casual goer – it’s still the much loved production
Katya Kabanova – I’ll probably go
Così returns but don’t count me in
Insights Masterclass with soprano Angel Blue who’s doing a stint of Traviata this season
La forza del destino 😉 yep, that one, in Loy’s vision; with Trebs and the Alvaro of our times
Faust – hm, I might go, see how Damrau is holding up, PLUS it’s got Abrahamyan in her ROH debut (!) as Siebel (let’s all lament the fate of very good mezzos). On the downside, Ettinger conducts.
Billy Budd conducted by Ivon Bolton – the all male cast opera, let’s check it out…
Andrea Chenier – NOT with the Alvaro of our times but with Alagna and Radvanovsky! How can we resist that offer?!
Tosca with Opolais/Grigolo/Terfel but the last show brings Draculette back to her rightful territory so yay for those who care.
Boris Godunov still with Terfel but without Ain Anger; so soon? Maybe because they were short of money for a new production…
Carmen, because we’d already missed her, this time with Margaine, and Pisaroni as Escamillo, ha!
Figaro after a couple of seasons, because there are only 3 operas and 1/2 by Mozart; this is the season with Kimchilia Bartoli as Cherubino but also unusually with Gerhaher as Figaro plus Keenlyside as the Count. You know it might actually be worth revisiting and weirdly enough, for the men.
La fille du regiment returns once more, now with Devieilhe, and Camarena will show us his 3283576 high C in a row. Then again, Pido conducts.
In conclusion, some interesting turns but generally a rather meh year ahead for yours truly’s taste.
La damnation de Faust – a Richard Jones production, so it could be much fun
Rusalka – nah
Il barbiere – see below
Die Zauberflote – I’ll have to see it at some point, don’t know that this is that point; however, Agathe, David Portillo is Tamino 😉
Cendrillon – usually a spectacular mezzo-mezzo borefest, now with DeNiese and the ever trouserable Kate Lindsey; I mean, they had to make up for the music…
Rinaldo with DeShong in the title role. A bit of a strange choice IMO, but to be honest I have not heard her live and in Handel to boot. I was proven wrong before.
1 August was the date Glyndebourne reserved for people under 30 to flock to this production of Pelléas et Mélisande – I’ve never seen so many truly young people at the opera! It was disconcerting until I realised what was going on. My first thought was why does Debussy bring out so many young people as opposed to Handel? 😉 Heh. Once I will make a point to go for the under 30 performance of a Handel opera.
My relationship with Debussy is generally positive, reason for which I attended. It was the same in this case. Musically I find much to appreciate about his anti-opera, though I can’t say I ever get to the point of loving it like I do Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle1. To my ears it’s always very listenable, though a bit too loose structurally to grip me.
Golaud: Christopher Purves
Mélisande: Christina Gansch
Geneviève: Karen Cargill
Arkel: Brindley Sherratt
Pelléas: John Chest
Yniold: Chloé Briot
Doctor: Michael Mofidian
Shepherd: Michael Wallace
Conductor: Robin Ticciati | London Philharmonic Orchestra and The Glyndebourne Chorus
Director: Stefan Herheim
The subject is a more complicated matter. Obsessive jealousy isn’t a favourite plot, and the woman character as cipher is tedious as far as I’m concerned. I do understand the validity of presenting characters who never quite get each other’s motives (that’s rather realistic for an opera interested in the elusiveness of emotion) and I think my reaction to the cipher woman comes out of the frustration of having seen so many men insist on writing about women without bothering to communicate with them long enough to start making sense of them. Though making sense is hardly what Debussy had in mind here, so even if it irks me, it’s not fair to bitch too much about it in this case.
The three main characters (Pelléas, Mélisande and Golaud) are all presented via their emotions first and foremost. When Golaud and and Mélisande first meet, she’s acting severely traumatised, but we of course never find out why. He’s lost in the woods. Pelléas falls deeply in love with Mélisande as soon as he sees her. Later on, she tells Golaud that she’s unhappy in their relationship (which, duh! he saves her and immediately marries her because what other course of action can there be? Plus his wife has died and his father says in so many words that a wife will distract him from “unsavoury actions”) but puts it in a it’s not you, it’s me way, that rings true to this day – people only say that when they’re afraid of the other one’s reaction to the truth. He, of course, flies off the handle and starts suspecting Pelléas, who, by virtue of being young, is more suited to her.
As the opera goes on we learn that we’re dealing with unreliable witnesses and Golaud’s frustration with pushing for
his the truth culminates with him directly asking Mélisande(‘s ghost?) whether there was anything between her and Pelléas, to which the answer is, of course, inconclusive. This was my favourite scene in the entire opera. We can never know, especially when we push for a certain answer which has more to do with our insecurities than with evidence. But at this point it’s not even clear whether the whole thing plays only in his mind or if it actually happened (Herheim does a good job at keeping it unclear).
If this was the high point of the opera, the lowest – for me – was the romantic scene between Pelléas and Mélisande, where he comes to – so to speak – serenade her below the tower when Golaud has locked her (ie, their bedroom). He asks her to let her hair down so he can touch it and basically make out with it. Ok. This scene goes on for quite some time and I did realise, after a while, that it’s supposed to be really romantic and sexy. Dear reader, I have a romantic deficiency and I actually fell asleep on my feet, to the point I was about to fall down, but luckily was jolted awake midfall. No joke 😉
And, indeed, this is an opera where everything is deadly serious, aside from a rather unintentionally comic moment when Pelléas says that his grandfather, who has been gravely ill, has woken up and upon seeing him commented that he (Pelléas) looks like someone who doesn’t have long to live, so he’d better go travelling.
The production by Herheim seemed fine to me but I have never seen another one for this opera, neither do I know it enough to have thought about it before. I think it covers everything and deals with the issues at the heart of the plot. He says in the Glyndebourne interview printed in the booklet that he has incorporated the organ from the Glyndebourne Organ Room because it looks so ominous, even more so because it is not used at all for its music making in the opera, just as a visual symbol (gothic, oppresive, old school mores etc.). I would argue that making every production Glyndebourne related can turn into a bit of a gimmick but, fair enough, why not use the organ if it makes sense? Whether having Glyndebourne goers show up in the last scene is closer to gimmick or not depends on your feelings.
I wasn’t invested enough to feel one way or another, but that’s more Debussy’s fault than Herheim’s – or my detachment from this particular plot2. I did enjoy how he used the sets (the dining-drawing room of the big, old house) for every scene, with only certain lighting details to signify a dream sequence or walls retracting for literally more space. Also the central pedestal-well-sarcophagus-grotto was another aptly used multifunctional symbol.
Purves as Golaud was great, but I guess to no surprise, as his role in Written on Skin is very similar and it really suits him dramatically. In fact, before the intermission I kept thinking of parallels between the two3. Things do change quite a bit (for the better) in the last two acts. The others were good, too, though in spite of its name, this opera is mostly about Golaud (or like Hippolyte at Aricie, where they main characters just go on and on – she ❤ him, he ❤ her – and other more interesting things happen around them).
Speaking of its long ranging influence on 20th and 21st operas, the beginning of Bluebeard is very similar (for my taste Bartók improved on whatever Debussy tried with Pelléas et Mélisande) and I swear the distinctive flute part in Akhnaten comes right out of here. The libretto must be made up of 80% words of Latin origin, as I could never follow a French text to such a degree before (also thanks to the clear – if not always very French – diction employed by the singers).
A wonderful Summer day wrapped up my 2018 G-season. A welcome surprise this year was the Southernrail trains, who gave me no trouble whatsoever4. Looks like I’ll be less G-busy next year, but you never know…
- But then I really like the plot in that case and the language is a lot more poetic and the music much more structured. ↩
- You may not be surprised to remember that I did like how Guth used the Glyndebourne grounds for Tito. The grass is indeed a very important feature of the local landscape and the pond at the very back of the garden is mysterious enough to fuel the imagination. ↩
- What is considered scary in entertaiment has changed a lot in the past 100 years, interesting since our actual life is a lot more sheltered. ↩
- Unlike bloody Ryanair, who has added really unnecessary stress for the past month and a detour via Munich for my next outing. ↩
That week was all about Glyndebourne and it being June, we were graced with good to very good weather – bright skies, fluffy clouds, fragrant roses and fields and acceptable temperatures for this time of the day in a temperate climate.
It’s quite amusing (in an endearing way) to see people’s first reaction at arriving in the bucolic English countryside for opera. Agathe said pictures don’t do it justice, as you think what is posted is the best of the best possible angles but when you get there it’s that in 360 surround. She also reckons it’s bigger and more remote than Bayreuth. Though remote isn’t exactly what I would call English countryside (unless it’s the moors). It is very much the country, rolling hills that just cry out for a long walk with your hounds, healthy crops, shady country lanes and exquisitely tended to look awesome-wild flower beds but it isn’t quite the same as Croatian forest wild.
Under the care of the younger Christie Glyndebourne has become more accomodating to the younger and trendier crowds (though the big bulk is still mature audiences that think nothing of dishing out £200 on a ticket and having the swanky G-dining experience on top of that) whilst at the same time getting really creative with the type and design of products they can attach the G logo to. If I had the money to spent I’d be shelling a few hundreds on G goods, they are all very well done.
So this time it was Agathe and I who took the train from Victoria to Lewes along with various picnic-ers and someone who looked suspiciously much like Patricia Bardon (conspicuous: no luggage, no picnic/gown attire but took the designated train and got off at Lewes with all of us; moreover, she was on the train back with all of us). In the G gardens, we met Giulia at the interval over some major Baroque-swooning (you can read her account here if you haven’t already).
Giulio Cesare: Sarah Connolly
Cleopatra: Joelle Harvey
Tolomeo: Christophe Dumaux
Cornelia: Patricia Bardon
Sesto: Anna Stephany
Achilla: John Moore
Nireno: Kangmin Justin Kim
Curio: Harry Thatcher
Conductor: William Christie | Orchestra or the Age of Enlightenment
Director: David McVicar
Like a vintage convertible, Cesare took a couple of performances to come into its own. Compared to previous week (second performance of the run), everybody seemed more relaxed and ready to adlib.
After seeing two performances, I am happy with everything but above all I loved the sound of the orchestra to a delirious degree (ha!). With the less than satisfactory acoustics of Ulrichskirche still fresh in mind, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the Glyndebourne hall had my ears purring.
All three of us agreed that this is one of the best period ensembles (or ensembles who play period Baroque) on the market today. I still have the gorgeous sound of the low strings from Svegliatevi nel core1 ringing in my ears. It’s not quiet playing but it’s always accomodating the singers and still the power comes through. Certain Baroque-playing bands that fancy themselves rock’n’roll badass should pay attention to this subtle solidity.
I highly enjoyed focusing on this time was Christie’s interaction with orchestra and singers. He quite obviously allowed the singers to lead and do their thing2 and then he would bring in the orchestra with perfect timing, giving specific instruments their moment to shine as well – all this with elegance of movement and minimal fuss (none of that flying off the conductor’s stand).
I attended this actually not knowing the work1. Stray has repeatedly mentioned how \m/ this oratorio is. How very true! The choir parts in this piece are super badass! Combined with Kosky’s tongue in cheek approach, their first entrance had the effect of an avalanche on me. Maybe Kosky needs to stage Israel in Egypt as well? More busy choir (and in fact it reminded me of it2). Set your speakers to the loudest option:
You can’t quite get the feeling from the video as you do from the hall – the choir are grinning like how excellent! He killed Goliath! Way cool. Also it’s much more booming in the house (Glyndebourne has dry acoustics, as far I understand – similar to TADW).
I haven’t seen the DVD but at first you get the very long overture with the curtain down. It goes on and on (not the most exciting one in the scheme of things to come) and nothing happens. Then all of a sudden you realise there is a head on stage (didn’t we have one just last week? Dead heads in Handel = a thing) on something that looks like dirt, but it’s actually road grit (made me think of the blasting of Sodom).
The curtain goes up and David comes in with his slingshot, a second curtain goes up and we get the choir perched on the table, in high mime mode, as only Kosky can do it and not look cheap. I generally love all his references, he integrates his chosen elements very well and it never feels thrown together or gratuitous3 (just poking fun at received reverence).
I can see how this work could get very preachy-earnest4 if you don’t find a way to infuse it with some levity. But it’s an interesting moment to write about and you’re left aching for the sequel of how great David is going to be when he grows up.
Saul/Apparition of Samuel: Markus Brück
David: Iestyn Davies
Merab: Karina Gauvin
Michal: Anna Devin
Jonathan: Allan Clayton
Abner/High Priest/Amalekite/Doeg: Stuart Jackson
Witch of Endor: John Graham-Hall
Dancers: Robin Gladwin, Ellyn Hebron, Thomas Herron, Merry Holden, Gareth Mole, Yasset Roldan
Conductor: Laurence Cummings | Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment | The Glyndebourne Chorus
Director: Barrie Kosky (2015)
In short, Saul needs to be performed more often. It’s true the arias aren’t as catchy as in his most famous works but it’s quite obvious he thinks differently when it comes to oratorios. The scale is grander and he stretches his creativity in all directions, including giving opportunities to all sorts of instruments (as per wiki):
He conceived Saul on the grandest scale and included a large orchestra with many instrumental effects which were unusual for the time including a carillon (a keyboard instrument which makes a sound like chiming bells); a specially constructed organ for himself to play during the course of the work; trombones, not standard orchestral instruments at that time, giving the work a heavy brass component; large kettledrums specially borrowed from the Tower of London; extra woodwinds for the Witch of Endor scene; and a harp solo.:318–319
I love Handel’s organ work! Whoever else does, listen to this, there is quite a bit 😀 Kosky, as usual, listens and responds to the music, so when the major organ solo happens the organist + organ raises from
hell below the stage and spins around in the centre of a field of candles! That’s what I’m talking about (\m/).
Also, there are quite a few very effective duets, ariosos, direct dialogue between the choir and different characters and lots of exciting chromatic stuff like this amazing minute of brass’n’vocal goodness here:
And then he goes into old school Handel like it was nothing. Then he reprises How excellent. Handel = the man, best known for Messiah. Let the world not stop there.
As far as acting, Gauvin’s Merab ran circles around everyone else. Such direct, logical, efficient and unaffected acting ❤ Nobody was a bad actor in regards to doing what they were called to do, but it’s also a matter of stage presence. You have a panoramic view of the stage from your spot in the audience and you get a very good feel for who has presence and who is being dutiful about their stage movement.
Merab’s job isn’t that complicated by acting standards but there are some moments that a sensitive actor will use to pop her character into 3D. For presence we have the time early on when Merab wasn’t gonna take daddy Saul’s shit (= marry David from the barrio just because he said so, being momentarily taken with the popular hero). She also gets to call him on his illogical ways when Saul changes his mind from David is the bees knees to David must die or I’m gonna throw down. But then there’s the moment of reflection when she feels bad for David, who although not posh, has some qualities. Plus the way she acts outraged and disgusted by Saul’s trying to assault her when mad – all this adds to a rounded portrait of a living person.
Saul is quite the opera about men interacting with each other, so we only have two female characters and the Bechdel test would be easily failed. Michal in Devin’s interpretation is a typical teenager, instantly in love with David the same way contemporary girls would rave about the Biebster. It’s a valid portrayal, but I’m not habitually enamoured with her high soprano. On the other hand, I enjoyed the contrast of sound with Gauvin’s Merab. It’s an interesting role vocally, lower and more dramatic than Michal; of course, Gauvin worked it with intelligence.
From our perspective Saul’s turn from yay, David to nay, David is a funny moment: the choir is busy praising – Saul killed a thousand enemies, he gets a few thousand praises. David killed ten thousand enemies, he gets a large shitload of praises! Yay, David, you rock! [David stage dives and they carry him around – no, really, he does and they do]
Saul: Yay, David! Wait… that can’t be right. Why do I get just a few thousand praises and he gets the large shitload? I mean, come on! He’s just a kid! What next? They’ll be voting him king! OMYahweh.
Saul becomes very tormented – we assume he’s in throes of psychosis, because the dancers show up at least once specifically to mime him wrestling with unseen forces. He has a fit and people have to hold him down. Jonathan pleads with bro David to do something.
Here we see David’s very fine de-escalation techniques, when he sings to Saul (which works for a while) and then holds him (human touch also works for a while). Alas, the situation is too serious already. Acuphase came to mind. He’s behaving unreasonably with his loved ones and insists David should die, which is embarassing, now that he’s agreed for David to marry his younger daughter, Michal5.
He schemes to have David go into battle against the Philistines, hoping he would be killed. David being David, the battle has a happy ending. Saul is upset his son Jonathan, too, has started to idolise David (bromance alert) and refuses to kill him, even when his father points out that David will depose him of his rightful throne. At wits’ end, Saul enlists the powers of daaaaaaaaaaaarkness (\m/).
Lydia of Definitely the Opera fame warned me that the Witch of Endor was the worst caricature of mature femininity and I was expecting something offensive. What I got was comical. It’s sung by a mature dude who looks like Willie Nelson with the fakest (though apparently lactating, so much for mature) saggy boobs. It’s more Les Mamelles de Tiresias than Ulrica Arvidson on a bad day.
The Witch does in no way act feminine to me, so I resolved to see the whole thing like an interaction between a man without boobs and a man with boobs (not breasts, those are defo boobs). That was especially true when the Witch grabbed Saul’s hand after the terrible pact with Samael and the two walked off like two arthritic gents from the Retirement Palace.
Say a job opening appeared for a witch, not a wizard, and Willie Nelson put on his boobsuit and applied. Absent other candidates, the Witchy Authorities of Endor felt pressed to fill the vacancy the best they could (a bit day late and dollar short, judging by how things turn out but that’s HR departments the world over).
It’s a Kosky production, so I didn’t expect any camp opportunity to be missed. There are way worse faults out there beside indulging in it. So bring on the moob-y man-witch and let these past-their-due-date heroes get on with their dastardly schemes. I mean you can imagine what kind of dark entity Samael is if he has to do their bidding. Though does he? Because in the next scene Saul ends up headless (moral: it’s always good to tone down your enthusiasm when your mortal enemy ends up headless, lest some devil-wannabe from a literal hellhole play a cruel prank on you).
Brück’s job is to portray Saul as an erstwhile hero whose mental health is destabilised by today’s yoof. It’s not easy for any of us getting to grips with the latest gadget (BC version: a slingshot) but it’s not worth losing your head over it. What we get is a garden variety mental breakdown so in itself not all that amazing to act. The best part is when Brück has to channel Samael and alternate sounding authoritative with meek and lost. Also his mock-Shakespearian, fourth wall-breaking recitation of I’m the king! was quite powerful and caused at least one goer to keep asking afterwards was that re-ci-ta-ti-ve? Because I don’t quite know what it was. His singing was all right but the top credits as far I’m concerned would go to Gauvin, Davies and Clayton, in this order.
It’s not that long ago that most everybody ended up suggesting that Stephany’s Cesare Sesto wig was the same she had on last year for Tito‘s Sesto. I offer that Clayton’s Jonathan wig is the same he had last year as Hamlet. Glyndebourne hair politics aside, he’s a very musical singer, always paying attention to the orchestra and working with what’s going on around him. This role showcases his sensitivity a lot more than Hamlet did (but I’m sure you could see that one coming from me). Tl;dr: more Baroque, less shot in the dark contemporary.
Acting-wise, he was very involved and followed the character well, though not quite a stage animal. Then again, Jonathan is more like a self-effacing hippie at heart. He has an aria that would warm the cockles of Jarvis Cocker’s heart – ie, he’s all about the love of common people, titles and high birth meaning nothing to him. Well, dear, I’d like to see you move to the barrio with David and leave palace life behind to Merab and them. Funny how just hours before I read this gem from Gigi Hadid, a woman famous for having society-approved features: My first Louboutins came from my first paycheck.
Naive or not, Jonathan is David’s biggest fanboy. Kosky does not miss the opportunity to have the two of them make out and David seems very satisfied by that course of action (does he kiss Jonathan’s dead head later on? quite possibly; opera history tells us that’s a go in that part of the world).
For his part, David is not only in the possession of the latest gadgets but leads his generation with his no-label attitude to love. Here he’s pictured open to anything (he’s very polite in refusing Merab’s hand, though he notices her antagonism, accepts Michal’s worship with enthusiasm and Jonathan’s puppy-eyed devotion with similar good nature and gusto). A doubly large shitload of praises to you, Jesse’s son.
Davies presents that with his usual boyish charm. That’s the thing with CTs, they have plenty of that kind of presence. Later on David has to step up as winner of popular vote, with Saul and Jonathan conveniently killed in battle while he was away to see his family for the holidays. He walks down the same stage Sarah Connolly walked a day before as Cesare. It’s hard not to compare. There is no comparison.
On the other hand, with the proper amount of rehearsal behind him and without the hectic travel he did in the Spring, he too sounded superior to his stint in Barbican’s Rinaldo. His pleasant plaintive tone and clear coloratura sounded fresh and flowing.
Cummings is a regular at the annual London Handel Fest, where I have seen him conduct Faramondo, Ariodante and Semele. He knows how to read his Handel make it exciting and did a very good job this time as well. The orchestra needs no further recommendation from me, I have only good things to say about their performances. The Glyndebourne Chorus likewise, especially considering the amount of physical stuff they have to do whilst singing. All in all, a wonderfully riveting performance of a still underrated score. Opera houses, please program Saul more often. In the meanwhile, watch it here and if you like it remember you have until Thursday to back it up.
You know what I noticed a good while ago and somehow never worked into any of my write-ups? There’s this trend among Japanese opera fans in this courntry to show up in kimonos regardless of rep. We had at least one kimono yesterday. What’s the deal with that? To be fair, we also had the kilt with sporran, which made sense for Cesare but seemed a bit out of place for Saul. I’m always a bit thrown by specific traditional attire as formalwear.
Since I went on my own this time, I decided to explore the lesser taken paths, which would be the veggie garden, the mini orchard and the hothouses (all extremely well tended). And what did I find? The statue of Tito from the old production 😀 at least I think it’s Tito (it looks Roman). Anyway, I only had my old Samsung with me this time and the battery was kaput by then, so no old Tito pic for now. A quick shower caught me in the tomato and chili pepper hothouse so I spent some time with them 😉 27 was the turning point of weather this Summer with the temperature plunging for at least 10 degrees within an hour or so. Back to the capricious English weather, though apparently the hot temperatures will make a return next week.
- At this point my attitude to Handel is I’ll most likely enjoy it, whatever it is. But I don’t enjoy everything this much. Military oratorios FTW! ↩
- Unsurprisingly, since Israel in Egypt is his next work. It’s true what Grant said, Handel goes into 6-12 months of intense inspiration, so many of of his best works come in twos. ↩
- Like when other directors think they’re cool by having all sorts of periods represented together on stage and it just looks clueless, confused and lazy. ↩
- It’s a morality piece: envy – the eldest born of hell – is bad for you -> it gets Saul killed. ↩
- Michal sounds exactly like Michael and confuses my gender-conscious mind. ↩
Der Rosenkavalier is, in many ways, the ultimate trouser role opera. Octavian is a mezzo with not one but two sopranos to choose from. That could be the end right there but s/he also gets to humiliate the ridiculous villain out of the opera, just to doubly underline the point.
What’s more, it’s actually funny. In Richard Jones’ hands that’s very silly. The second time around it seems even more hilarious.
I was sort of swept by peer pressure (that’s actually a strong term, peer enthusiasm rather) and went again, on the strength of the daring wallpaper in Marschallin’s salon. It was also because Carsen’s production from ROH was a bit too heavy on its own meaning and way, way too light on the comedy for me. I don’t want to overthink things when it comes to DR, I want to have a silly couple of 3 hours.
Octavian: Kate Lindsey
Die Marschallin: Michaela Kaune
Ochs: Brindley Sherratt
Sophie: Louise Alder
Faninal: Michael Kraus
Annina and Valzacchi: Stephanie Lauricella and Alun Rhys-Jenkins
Italian tenor: Sehoon Moon
Marianne Leimetzerin: Garniele Rossmanith
… and others
Conductor: Robin Ticciati | London Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne Chorus
Director: Richard Jones / Revival Director: Sarah Fahey
Whilst the production still stands 4 years later and acting across the board served it very well, the singing was a bit more approximative. We appreciated Lindsey’s ability to project over the orchestra and the Kaune’s… acting ability. She wasn’t quite as comfortable as Kate Royal during the “manhandling Mariandel” scene (when Ochs is merely boasting about his “female hunting”1 techniques and says oh, yea, you only know how it is to be pursued, but, omg, to be on the prowl every season of the year like me! – and the Marschallin is playfully trying some fun hunting moves on Mariandel for a change), but she was game most of the rest of the time.
The monologue scene wasn’t particularly memorable and the last trio was marred by Ticci allowing the jets in the orchestra to finally take off, so that the singers were left to fend for themselves. The result was more akin to an enthusiastic racket rather than smooth and alluring. Yo, Ticci, I guess you don’t know the one about trouser role operas and threesome epilogues. Someone should send him the memo.
Alder as Sophie has finally come into her own as far as I’m concerned. That’s a voice that begs to soar over something, and she’s ready to move on from sinking a delicate Baroque mezzo/contralto. She was the epitome of modern woman when it came to scolding Ochs for his ochsnoxiousness or generally being outraged at what is going on around her when Octavian isn’t there. Her interaction with Lindsey’s Octavian was very good in the Presentation of the Rose (this production has them sway back and forth, languishing in the arms of budding teenage desire).
Sherratt’s Ochs was more Ochsish than last run’s Rose (who was rather the bumbling English country cousin type) and was probably in possession of the best suited voice for Strauss on that stage, at this particular moment.
None of the rest or the orchestra stood out for any kind of faults as far as I can remember, but then we don’t go to DR for Faninal or the Italian Singer ™, do we?
On the way back from Glyndebourne we caught an earlier train and spent the ride back into Victoria thinking about scenarios regarding the fictitious act IV. Put a bunch of WS together and pretty soon discussions about whether Octavian would or would not (and under which conditions) return to the Marschallin arise.
Forgot to say: at Cesare, crows and magpies thieved our blackberries (and were well on their way to make off with the celery)!!! :p so this time we got clever and put all the fruit away. And then at the short interval we only had time to move the blanket into the sun before we had to go back to the opera. I ended up very thirsty.
Crow: what are you doing this summer?
Magpie: I’m going to Glyndebourne.
Crow: trying to get famous, are you?
Magpie: I heard the catering is fabulous. Then again, if I get offered a cameo I’m not going to say no…
The lawn was mobbed with picnic-ers even more so than at Cesare‘s, so we (this time Mon, Anna and I) ended up also pondering if the Cesare and DR crowds are different or the same. I think we agreed they should more or less be the same. It was also amusing to note that DR is 30min shorter. Baroque operas mean business.
This year it was very smooth sailing as far as trains were concerned (knock on wood from now on). If anyone is interested, the recommended train is going to Ore/Littlehampton and you need to be in the 4 front (Ore) carriages. It (usually) runs from track 15 during the week and track 12 at the weekend.
- you just know he would call women females. ↩
A bight, warm-ish day saw picnic-ers return to the Glyndebourne lawn for another round of the production that even McVicar-haters love. Updating Rome to the British Empire at its height and Egypt to the Subcontinent as its prized possession has retained both its poignancy and light-hearted humour.
Giulio Cesare: Sarah Connolly
Cleopatra: Joelle Harvey
Tolomeo: Christophe Dumaux
Cornelia: Patricia Bardon
Sesto: Anna Stephany
Achilla: John Moore
Nireno: Kangmin Justin Kim
Curio: Harry Thatcher
Conductor: William Christie | Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Director: David McVicar
As most die hard Baroque fans are aware, this is the Giulio Cesare production on the market, still enduring after more than 12 years. It’s returned to the Glyndebourne hall after a whooping 9 years. Connolly, Dumaux and Bardon reprise their trademark roles – when you star in a definitive production the differences between you and your role will blur in the public’s mind.
Newcomers Harvey, Stephany and Kangmin Justin Kim are more than able to fill in the tall boots they were presented with. Though not a natural mover with DeNiese in mind or when sharing the stage with Connolly (textbook swagger) and Dumaux (Mr Athleticism), Harvey showed that she is very proficient at following directions to portraying a lively and energetic Cleopatra. Vocally she’s not Piau but her accomplishment surpasses DeNiese’s by far and her stamina is enviable. Remember, it’s not just 8 arias (most of them difficult, with Da tempeste rounding it all up after almost 4 hours) but also the relentless matching choreography.
Stephany, hot on the heels of portraying the other Sesto (big Sesto, to this little Sesto) at last year’s festival, was very convincing as the earnerst son of Pompey, called to take adult responsibility much too soon, and her interaction with Bardon’s Cornelia, Sesto’s mother, was entirely believable. This role is very well suited to her voice (I’d say better suited than big Sesto).
I have not seen before Kangmin Justin Kim but he entirely lived up to his niche comedy reputation as Kimcilia Bartoli, which amounted to a winning stage presence (ie: very camp funny). Nireno doesn’t have much to sing so it’s hard to gauge him just yet but in his aria he showed an unusually mezzo-ish tone. Afterwards we discussed the possibility of him actually being a tenor.
The orchestra was on top form, with the winds, brass and continuo all sounding like butter and Christie conducting at optimal tempi. A genuine pleasure to listen to! I could’ve honestly been happy with just them alone. 4 hours flew like nothing. It is really a shame Glyndebourne isn’t streaming it this year so more can hear it but I guess the DVD will have to do – after all, it was Christie and them back then as well.
I came to this production at a time when I was sick and tired of pop music so my first rection to its Bollywoodness was ambivalent. On the one hand I couldn’t deny its effectiveness, on the other I really hated the choreography. Time has passed and the 2018 me loved the opportunity of witnessing a legendary production with its legendary actors in its legendary house. Seeing this Cesare at Glyndebourne is like seeing Der Rosenkavalier in Vienna or any Verdi in Italia. Nowadays I enjoy the jokey nature and the silly moves – Baroque music lends itself really well to dancing and it’s great when a production finds a way to incorporate that in the stage action.
One interesting aspect of this production is played by way of costume. At the beginning we see the Romans wearing… err, British gear and the Egyptians harem-style getups. But as things move on, the Roman/British outfits start to crop up with the Egyptians as well. This to me alludes to what we’d (still) call today the cosmopolitan nature of the Egyptian (ie, exotic land Westerners want to
conquer civilise) elite. They presumably speak fluent Latin/English with their visitors.
Indeed, during Va tacito we see Tolomeo’s staff bring out what looks like tea cakes and some sort of liquor. Cleopatra rocks a 1920s flapper girl outfit to seduce Cesare as Lydia and Tolomeo apparently enjoys hunting in safari gear as much as he does swinging his hips in harem trousers. The discreet appeal of colonialism has swayed minds even before any war ships and blimps appear on the horison.
Seeing it in the company of an international cast of WS was another highlight (check us out on Definitely the Opera, if you haven’t already). After plotting this outing for roughly a year, we finally met for this very special reason. I think I speak for us all when I say we had a blast. When you’re picnic-ing on the Glyndebourne lawn for a couple of hours, enjoying the sights, atmosphere – that curious combination of posh dress and easy chumminess1 – and a good opera chat, the ring of the first bell comes almost as a surprise: there’s live opera on the menu as well 🙂 And not just any opera.
What can I say? Tolomeo grew a hipster beard since the DVD came out and we know Cesare has badass hair under that wig2 – it goes really well with the coat – too bad we didn’t get to see it 😉 all the badass moves are there and people still openly ooh and aah at them and it’s always funny to see Cleopatra nonchalantly use Pompey’s urn as umbrella holder… it takes a bit of time to get used to the fact that something you’ve seen countless of times on the screen is now happening under your eyes, though in the house the difference in voice projection between Connolly and Bardon was rather striking. But this was only the second performance of the run and things evened out and got even livelier the week after.
- in that sense, Glyndebourne is like Venice – everybody’s happy to be there and most will be friendly. ↩
- it’s kind of interesting how McVicar did this year’s Vienna Ariodante in a similar vein, especially since Connolly and Dumaux were rivals there as well – or maybe because of that. I still think he shoul’ve relented on the Cesare hair front. ↩
Currently waiting for the General sale to start, busy twiddling my thumbs, hoping not to end up too far back in the queue.
Here is a picture from last year:
Hipermestra = I fudged that writeup real well. I guess the reason is I still haven’t warmed up properly to Cavalli. It was very good – and I really liked the staging, with the small band not only given a lot of stage but becoming part of the show later on – but it was the kind of very good that didn’t make me very verbose. Aside from Nessie, about which I should talk some more.
But! On to the famous Giulio Cesare 😀
6:02 : Bad gateway!
7:02 : yours truly still 278 in the queue but we seem to have done a great job as a group 😀 we’re in business, thanks to spitfiretommy, who was a real spitfire and shot out and grabbed seats ❤
7:30 : the Cesare tickets went like hot cakes. I don’t think there’s anything left online at this point, so it’s all returns from now on. But there’s phone booking starting tomorrow morning, so luck could be had that way.
Let us not forget there are other productions this year, such as: Saul (a Kosky production), Pelleas et Melisande, Richard Jones’ Der Rosenkavalier, Vanessa (Samuel Barber) and Madama Butterfly. I myself (eventually) got a ticket to Saul (La Gauvin is in it!) and one for Pelleas (I’m not too keen on it but it’s a new production 😉 I mean I don’t hate it and I may like it even better in the house).
2017 was a busy opera year for yours truly, with plenty local outings as well as opera trips to Italy, Austria and Germany, and a return to Glyndebourne in style (3 out of 4 dates = sunny). I met old and new friends and even ran into a certain contralto on the street 😉 And then there was the Summer of Tito. Plus a couple of duds and misses… 😉
Yesterday I had a short exchange on this subject with Kate V. and it seems it got stuck in my head before the performance 😉 Here are some things that occurred to me only whilst seeing it again in the house (says something about my usual attention span):
on the subject of age: it works for Sesto to be/look significantly younger, especially when the production is based on the angle of Tito missing those more innocent times. In this case = absolutely. I was thinking about Sesto’s rock, too, which is located right under Tito’s chair/throne. There is a reason why it’s there and not across the stage, which would also make sense.
burying the magpie (during Del piu sublime soglio):
- shows us that Tito and Sesto are working on their issues together
- Tito hasn’t forgotten but has forgiven Sesto, so he’s not faking his goodness
- Sesto is aware of his own nature and is actively trying to become a better person
amicitia vs il primo amor: Glyndebourne translated il primo amor in Deh, per questo as “the first friendship”. During the opera (ie, other than in this aria) their relationship is called amicitia, whereas Annio and Servilia always refer to theirs as il primo amor. What I take from this is that Tito and Sesto’s friendship is of a more intense kind than usual friendship (though not necessary gay as we understand it today). Also considering it’s only called amor during an aria, it’s probably not something that’s so much put into words as felt.
questo cor and altro cor: Sesto refers to questo cor in Deh, per questo (not cor 😉 ) and immediately on its heels Tito asks for (un) altro cor in Se all’impero. I like that link of ideas and I also like how at the end all the people who turn out to share questo cor are downstairs in the reeds whereas the bureaucrats are upstairs in the manmade structure1.
ah, sventurato!: says Publio, upon hearing from Tito that Sesto’s fate is decided (right before Se all’impero). I’ve always taken it to refer to Sesto but after yesterday’s performance it hit me that Publio is talking about Tito because he knows Tito2 and he also knows what the mob wants (not merciful leaders, despite professing otherwise).
the reeds: they pop right out of their stands, if you look closely when Tito is harvesting them (Tu fosti tradito).
- I like designer Christian Schmidt’s comments on how the structure seems to have dropped from the sky in that originally idyllic landscape. It’s a good metaphor for adult life, with its inherent rigidity and hypocrisy invading the simpler, more direct and more imaginative world of childhood. ↩
- isn’t he singing what Tito feels during Quello di Tito e il volto? He’s clearly aware of Tito’s struggles. ↩