Category Archives: mozart
Spending a couple of hours on a flight with an impressive number of rambunctious children under 10 offers a good opportunity to sit through this unecessary bloated production. At several moments I wanted to skip the extraneous music but faced with the joy of the child next to me playing with the tray I went back to Sellars et all 😉
Well, hohum. Quite the letdown. It’s got enough visual chutzpah to give an initial impression of thought out but there doesn’t seem to be any coherence at all due to the lack of strong relationships. The drama is pushed back behind the chutzpah and the endless choir action. I would under no circumstances show this to a Tito novice. But I think Tito veterans should see it for many reasons, none of which, sadly, having to do with the story of Tito itself – except in the general Tito context. It’s unusual but it’s not illuminating, unless you really wanted to know more about the MusicAeterna choir.
Let me start with what I liked:
- whatever is going on during the overture. It’s enegetic and interesting, it hits you and it feels refreshing that you don’t quite know what’s going on.
- I liked the idea behind the coreography on Non piu di fiori. The development was thin.
- Servilia and Sesto have a lovely sisterly relationship the likes of which you’ve never seen in a Tito production.
- the black/white/ethnic thing. It’s unusual (though not for Sellars) and it says something. An interesting conversation could be had regarding what exactly it does say. I am not entirely sure.
What I didn’t get:
- the development was thin in general. I never got the important relationships, aside from Annio and Servilia, who look like a real couple and the nice revelation of Servilia and Sesto.
- who is Sesto, really? What is his motivation, really? It’s never explained and you need that – there can’t be Tito without it laid out clearly. If any of you get it, please enlighten me. I am stumped. She looks like a student who hangs out with people of a radical bent, though the same people seem to really like Tito. She doesn’t look like a proper fanatic, especially when she starts feeling really remorseful. Again, if you saw something I didn’t, please argue your point. I would love to see more meaning that I could so far.
- Vitellia! She reminds me of the one we know but, again, her relationship with Tito and, especially, Sesto, is unclear to me. The upshot is I loved Schultz’s musically. She needs a proper Tito production, I hope she gets to sing in one somewhere we (I) can see.
- Tito dying lessens the drama and the message. In fact
- the lack of proper relationships dilutes the message to the point where it’s hard to care about what is going on.
- The MusicAeterna choir and their neverending closeups: yea, they’re good but I don’t see why Tito has to be used as a vehicle to push their agenda to the point where it’s more MusicAeterna choir than Tito.
I am still undecided on Currentzis yet. Some good stuff, some overdone, meddlesome. Whover advocated the extra music needs to be spanked with a wooden paddle (unless they particularly like it).
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. ↩
This time I cried during Del piu sublime soglio. Awesome performance from Croft.
Everybody is more relaxed by now, the acting flows beautifully. There are no more cameras.
Young woman at intermission: is Sesto sung by a woman? I kept wondering…
Other ladies in the loo queue: Yes, yes, he is. There was a cast change. But the reviews are about the one we’re seeing.
Young woman: oh, wow! Sesto is the star of the evening!
Other ladies: YES!
The only applause came after Parto. I was confused as it had been so beautifully performed, light and gentle, with some swoony ppp along the way (really moving) but also funny (Vitellia putting the moves on Sesto).
Especially in the wake of the Currentzis Tito I want to commend Ticci and Gupta on the fortepiano continuo for a very light, unfussy touch.
It’s raining. I took refuge under a very friendly mulberry tree with a cute little sleepy bird. How appropriate!
We had a weird incident on the way here, that held up the trains for almost an hour and a half. Luckily I was on a train ahead of the suggested train. The shuttle waited for the stragglers 🙂 but we only had 20min to settle and have a bite before curtain up.
Loud thunder was overheard in the auditorium just as the insurrection started on stage.
Staff offered umbrellas but I like my tree. Too bad I couldn’t visit with the sheep properly (now grazing on the adjacent meadow) ❤
Gent next to me in the auditorium: nobody dies! Not very operatic.
Dehggi: nobody should die. It’s all about the search for a better, more forgiving society.
After the intermission:
This was an all around emotional day, as it was my last time at Glyndebourne this year, the end of “my” season (though I really would’ve liked to come back again a couple of times, but you have to observe life-opera balance). Also going to the opera on your own makes for a very different atmosphere, perhaps even moreso when it’s your favourite opera. Even so, a few conversations happened:
Lady who sat next to me for act 2: I saw you talking to the usher about those free seats up there.
dehggi: yes, I want to possibly upgrade because this is my favourite opera.
Lady: …of all operas?!
dehggi: YES! I really like the ideals, forgiveness… and the music is beautiful.
Lady: well, someone is always forgiven at the end of Mozart operas.
(dehggi: someone, even some ones but not everyone.) I didn’t actually say it, because I didn’t particularly want to chat, I was in my own world and cried again during Eterni dei. After the curtain calls I dashed out for fear somebody would notice how tearful I was. Also to be first in line at the loo.
On the bus there were two French people behind me. The woman thought the production was too “brutalist” and concluded “this was the new tendency”. I wanted to turn around and ask where she had been for the past 20 years. She did think the voices very good, though this opera was “by no means” one of her favourites (dehggi: eyeroll). Then she went on to wax lyrical about some wonderful production of Giselle at Opera Garnier.
At 21:30 the train station was almost deserted and the train board let us know the 19:30 was delayed. Some ladies started to make plans in case the trains were still disrupted. I said I’d help them split the taxi bill to London if it came to that. We co-opted some very excited Japanese ladies, so all in all, we would’ve been 5 to split that bill.
The train was on time. I’ve never heard the Glyndebourne crowd whoop so freely outside the opera house before 😀
Everybody said they liked the performance, very good voices. One of the “taxi planning” ladies explained trousers roles to me 😀 Then I somehow got to talking about the earlier Hamlet production/opera with the other taxi lady. She, like the gent sat next to me at that performance, loved it (the actual music)! She also thought the production was “more modern” than this one. (dehggi: head scratching moment. Maybe we were thinking of different things?).
In the end, there were three arias that received applause: Sesto’s and Se all’impero (<- a lot more than for the livestreamed performance). However, there was very loud thumping at curtain calls. I guess this audience is more used to lieder? Heh. I’m not quite sure why they kept their appreciation to the end if they actually liked it this much. There was, however, a lot of laughter, even during Vengo…! Aspetatte! I agree, it’s a funny moment.
Just in case somebody doesn’t know about this and/or hasn’t had enough Tito this week 😀 when it rains, it pours! (btw, I mean to finish this! I am just juggling two Titi at the same time and spending a bit too much time with the ending of the Glyndebourne one at the moment 🙂 )
– does the Tito dance –
Intermission edit: I didn’t intend to liveblog this (because I like to take my time with Tito), I started with regular handwritten notes but then the production sort of took over and I had to “say” something. I wanted to do a different post for this later but it looks like I should better add my earlier notes here and let this mofo do its thing. Also I may not be able to watch everything tonight on account of work (I’ve already been late yesterday because of the Glyndebourne livestream), so I may just end mid-sentence, to be added later. Anyway, if you’re here, enjoy 😉
one more edit before I sign off for tonight: someone needs to tell Sellars that too much hand movement ain’t needed for operas written before 2010. Come ti piace imponi was a riot because of that. Come to think of it, maybe those were secret hand signals from Vitellia to the terrorists… but where’s the sex? Too much violence, not enough sex (remember Bush’s Everything Zen? Ha, I didn’t think I’d come to quote that fake grunge band but there you go, thanks for nothing, Sellars).
THE WTF MOZART MEDLEY TITO
Tito: Russell Thomas
Vitellia: Golda Schultz
Sesto: Marianne Crebassa
Annio: Jeanine de Bique
Servilia: Christina Gansch
Publio: Willard White
Conductor: Teodor Currentzis | musicAeterna / musicAeterna Choir
Director: Peter Sellars
Felsenreitschule (where else?!)
edit on 5 August: for the sake of completeness, here are my initial handwritten notes, in navy, with some additions after I slept on it.
Overture: running? Structures? coming out of the ground? Sesto and Servilia are running, he’s confused. They motley choir is back! Are they muslims?
And who are the armed dudes? Terrorists already? Guards?
Tito and his court come in, he checks out the crowd and wants Sesto and Servilia to join them; he introduces Sesto to Vitellia but the way they look at each other you can tell they’ve been acquainted already. The plot thickens! Did she signal to Tito which “commoners” to get?
Come ti piace imponi: interpretive dance?! Well… 😀 Berenice (muslim?) and Tito say a long goodbye
Annio: quite strong voiced/ no nonsense
Berenice shakes hands with Vitellia; Vitellia looks ready to bite her scarf off
Deh se piacer mi vuoi: very smooth start, nice trills on tuoi and fede; continuo gets busy (kitchen sink); Sesto wears cargo pants with tie – I really like Servilia’s black and white gauzy dress, girl has style; Vitellia puts moves on Tito who initially seems repulsed by her but then seems pulled into her game (did she not notice that? why does she need Sesto then?).
What does Tito want?
Musically I like this version, it’s very elaborate, with the right accents and very good chops from Schultz; it’s Vitellia we know and love but I think the message gets muddled as she moves between Sesto and Tito. I know there is a point there but we get it from the libretto. I think this would confuse Sesto even more and this aria is all about Sesto getting the right message.
It’s quite odd, as for once she seems to put the moves erotically on Sesto but then she gets further from that, which I don’t think is a good decision. Context intruding?
Annio has Servilia with him when asking Sesto for her hand, I like this. It’s good that she’s included, instead of the men (men? see below) deciding her life. Their (all three) interaction if very warm.
Deh prendi: interesting interpretive moves; are Sesto and Annio women? I don’t think men interact that way with each other. I will take it they are women in this production. Nice vocal mix and I like the added trills, you barely even get that in this little duettino. I like their warm interaction 🙂
Serbate dei custodi: who is Annio? He seems to be more the upper class dude in this production. Sesto and Servilia go back to “their people” and hug them. It feels like they’re about to plead their cause or something.
The choir has good vocal balance.
White’s Publio looks super fierce.
Tito gets massive gold bullions as his temple.
Edit during stream: Lucky me! I’m loving this production, too, though what the hell is it with the Baroque music during the Temple scene? (Ok, Rob explains it in the comments; I mean he explains what it is, not why it’s there) Molto odd! Let’s get back to Tito.
Annio speaks up about how cool that gal Servilia is, who, remember, is there already, so she gets the good news directly from Tito and runs away. Annio is gutsy.
No more talk – Del piu sublime soglio – which Tito sings at Sesto (who is there, too). He seems touched. Very forceful segue into it; seems Tito gets bigger voiced with every production. The couple of trills don’t come easy to Thomas. I enjoyed Croft’s softly delivered avrei a lot more.
Everyone is very sweaty already.
Ah perdona: wish the damn continue wouldn’t keep barging in where it’s not its business. (see the comments again if you’re not used to Currentzis) I like how Servilia ain’t happy Annio shopped her to Tito. They seem very worried, not the usual happy duet and without much talk they start to sing. I like the rubato Currentzis gives the both of them to emphasise their own position within the duet.
Tito : Publio: they talk about the list of wrongdoers brought by Publio. Sesto is there for it, quite pointedly so. Tito says se ragion to Sesto (in regards to why people plot against him). Does he have, well, reasons to hint at that?
Servilia kisses Annio to make her point to Tito and then I guess what happens next makes sense:
Is this La clemenza di Tito or La voce di Servilia? More Servilia intrusive music?! Seriously, maybe I spoke too soon about liking this production. SCREW THE EXTRANEOUS MUSIC!
… because I guess she thinks she needs to sweeten the verdict a bit? Still:
Ah se fosse: THANK FUCK! For a moment there I really thought we’d skip it. It’s kinda interesting how everybody is there all the time and it makes sense. Though when we have bassoon why do we need that annoying continue to start the aria?
Parto already! Ha. I have to think if Sesto being there for everything justifies why he should be so easily pushed into Parto. If anything, I’d think the opposite. Lying on one’s back for Parto = classic 😉 Also, the week of the French Sesti. That physical jump into guardami! was amusing. Poor Sesto. He killed the clarinet, eh heh. Is this a first, when even the instrumentalists lie on the floor?! 😀 Too much movement for the cadenza, though the ladies who complained there wasn’t enough movement in the Glyndeborne one would love it (some old bats on the train back to London bitched about it being too static; I hope they liked this shit). Whose brilliant idea was to have a closeup there? My head was spinning from all the movement up and down and all around. Gimmicky to the max but at least Crebassa tried to look for a chest touchdown. Didn’t find a sexy one, eh.
I really liked how Sesto and the clarinet even did their trills together – BUT this is not about Vitellia anymore. It’s not even just Sesto and his emotions anymore, it’s Sesto and a flesh and blood double. Like I said, gimmicky to the max. Unless I’m missing something, which is possible, because duh.
Vengo!: waaaaay too slow! Haha, kidding, of course. The ’80s called and couldn’t get through to get their styles back. That being said Schultz has some mad chops.
Act I finale – more Baroque shit to mark Mozart’s Romantic forays, yay! I hope Servilia ain’t back with something praising the lords in Latin.
Sesto is putting on a massive submissive act considering how organised his insurrection is.
I really wish they got on with things, I need a bathroom break and the cats were clawing for grub. Finally! Sesto, suicide bomber? Yes, it works, but he lives on to sing the damn Deh per questo… bomb failing?
He’s trying to shoot Tito when he can blow them up? Clearly he’s not thinking straight. Then Tito knows already?
(Dude, take off the damn vest!) How did Annio not see what happened? Haha. They all see everything except the most important bits.
Good call Currentzis to speed the damn thing up after wasting so much time with the baroque stuff. Seriously, though, why is Vitellia wearing latest style cca 1987?
And still nobody notices Sesto’s suicide bomber vest! It’s not 1987, you know.
Is it Brian Large again? I want to see more wide views, less sweat (I know this is maddest continental heatwave since 2003 (coincidence? probably), everyone is drenched in sweat).
End of Act I conclusion: mad chops Schultz, me gusta mucho! WTF is with the extra crap, though??? This is the year Tito is fucked with, yanno. Remember the one with the belcanto add-ons? Let me make one thing clear: TITO DOESN’T NEED EXTRA MUSIC. There, I feel better.
Wow, this production – Sellars has really gone a bit cookoo. I mean, dude. What? But also kinda cool. Some things are very cool, like how everyone is always there and how that makes a difference in how they react – screwing with meaning, I guess. I like that. But we’re wasting too much time with gimmicks. It really does not need gimmicks (especially what happened with Parto and the camera panning into the mad movement – just no). Guth wins this time. Less fuss, more personal meaning, more intimacy. This take is too much about the bigger picture Tim Ashley wanted. I hope he went to Salzburg to see this one.
Currentzis needs to put a cap on the continuo. Seriously, it’s fucking annoying. But some things are cool. Too bad he’s got a kitchen sink kinda mentality. TOO FUCKING MUCH! Calm down a bit, it’s good music already. Trust Mozart.
Tito is loved by ethnic people. Nice. Is this the Requiem? Can we just have Tito for like 2hrs? Will we get something from the Magic Flute as well?
How about the Commie looking dude? He’s some sort of friend of Sesto’s and Servilia’s. Maybe from when they went backpacking during their gap year and stayed with his family in the Urals and experienced the simple life Tito wants?
I’m all for context but I’m feeling this is too much context and not enough Tito.
Shit, it’s Torna di Tito a lato! Who would’ve thunk they’d throw in a lesser known Tito tune?! Did you guys know I once woke up singing it aloud? Nice trills. In fact, the trills are some of the best things in this Mozart medley.
(phew, Sesto took off his suicide bomber vest!)
And just like that it’s Se al volto. Crebassa is a bit whingy sounding but it’s a very supple voice and this trio needs a bit of whinge. Schultz = ❤ Sesto loves his family. You know what, I
only always meant to ask why Sesto and Servilia have so little (like 0) stage time together. So I’m glad we get warmth with Servilia here.
You know what I ain’t feelin’? Sesto and Vitellia’s connection. I’m not sure who exactly they are to each other because chemistry is not built into their acting.
White got some soft action in those vienis.
The continuo doesn’t know yet if Tito has survived. It’s all as it’s happening 😉 Too cool for school.
Ah non sventurato = Tito came back from the dead due to the love of his people! Haha. I like Thomas but he’s a bit past Mozart days.
Tardi: I never thought I’d get to hear White sing Tardi. I just like the man. It’s of the booming type, of course. TARDI! Ehehehe.
Publio (to Annio and Servilia): see what you did to him? Anyway, come on, Tito sign the damn thing.
This Tito on deathbed is like the Act IV of Traviata. He sings on! But first some more Requiem or whatever. I mean, duh. 1791 and all. It feels like they were saying in the ’50s when Stalin died (mum told me that when he died in 1953, in ye olde Eastern Europe people were crying in the street like the sun had just dropped off the sky). I want the Papageno-Papagena duet, me.
Come on, folks, with Glyndebourne we were already almost through with Se all’impero. I need to get going. Guth wins so far.
Tu fosti tradito: and io sono partito, ciao bambini! (nice chops, Annio, had we heard more of this stuff tonight, eh? That music is nice, I wonder who wrote it and why.)
fffwd to the end: I wanted to hear what Currentzis did with Eterni dei and… well, when I caught a glimpse of Sesto in the plastic jumpsuit and then how he dropped Tito – clearly he’s not done his Moving and Handling Mandatory Training! Somebody’s (Annio?) going to have to write a very complex Datix on this serious incident and let’s not talk about the inquest. Sesto’s not done with Publio yet.
(1) Guth managed not to fuck up this Mozart! (praise the gods)
(2) Mezzo Vitellia = YES! ROH take note. It’s time to bring Tito back to London.
(3) DVD! Not only a livestream, a Proms stint but also a proper DVD is in the works. 4 Cameras were in the house yesterday. Glyndebourne does things in style (also it was high time they put the old production behind).
Tito: Richard Croft
Vitellia: Alice Coote
Sesto: Anna Stéphany
Annio: Michèle Losier
Publio: Clive Bayley
Servilia: Joélle Harvey
Conductor: Robin Ticciati
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and The Glyndebourne Chorus
Clarinet obligato: Katherine Spencer
Director: Claus Guth
When the last echoes of the Act I finale faded I thought to myself I don’t want to wait for 1 1/2hours! At the end of Act II I said I was ready to come back and see it for the rest of the week. Guth and team have put together a highly cinematic Tito.
I kept my mind clear of any reviews before this report so you shall see for yourselves on Thursday and make your own judgments. So far, though – and you know how it is when you have to focus on everything at once and can’t stop the show and “rewind”, or go to the kitchen for a moment and ponder, and especially when it’s your first time seeing your favourite opera staged – I am very pleased with Guth’s take on it. It’s dark but it’s not quite as angsty as I feared (certainly not as angsty as his TADW Poppea). Ticci himself opted for a super clean libretto to go with brisk – rambunctious, even – tempi. The house was packed and the applause generous throughout plus lots of stomping (especially for Stéphany) at curtain call. I am of course very happy to see such a hearty reception for my favourite opera 🙂
We did not luck out with our seating. It seems there’s an unwritten law that says lots of the action in a staged production shall happen on the right side of the stage (from the audience’s perspective) – unless it’s Wagner, says Leander (read her take on this performance of Tito here), who actually sat through 5 hours of Tristan for Connolly’s sake. We, of course, had seats on that side of the horseshoe). So we did miss a fair bit of the action (such as the shooting of fake Tito). I’d moan more if there were no livestream and DVD or me going again next week.
Evil Sesto. Sometimes Guth’s interest in deeper psychological investigation pans out. Here we have the return of the lesser spotted evil Sesto. Normally we know who our baddy is. In this case Vitellia is ambitious and dangerously driven by scorn but it feels like high drama would’ve been averted had Tito simply made the nature of his generosity clearer. Moral: if you pride yourself on working for the higher good, take time to speak to all your subjects, lest someone feels shafted due to miscommunication. People aren’t used to such levels of goodness and they might take your kindness for love.
But what of Sesto, eh? During the overture we had video projections. Praise the lord, they do serve a clear purpose here, as they give us a snippet of Tito and Sesto’s friendship. It’s a neat little black and white short that focuses on a key moment of their childhood. I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know yet what happens. Watch it on Thursday 😉 Let’s just say that it tells us there is something inherently wrong with Sesto. I’m game with that! Guth gives us a possible answer as to why Sesto keeps getting into these ambiguous relationships. It makes that line ch’io son l’oggetto dell’ira degli Dei work for us 21st century audiences.
It’s kind of interesting that Stéphany ended up playing this new incarnation of evil Sesto not that long after her stint in the Zurich production of the original evil Sesto. Whereas that one was very self aware rotten, I feel this one is bad in spite of himself. He doesn’t want to do harm but he keeps succumbing to those atavistic impulses. I like it. The black and white short’s atmosphere reminded me a bit of Haneke’s White Ribbon. (Speaking of films, a favourite of mine – and if you know it you won’t be at all surprised I like it -, the Japanese classic Onibaba, also has sex, betrayal and revenge happen within a world of tall grass).
As you (may) know, my previous experience of Stéphany live left me very unimpressed with her acting abilities, to the point where I purposely missed that particular revival of the Zurich Tito, even though it’s one of my very favourite takes on the story and I would like to see it one day in the house, if they still hold on to it.
Before the show started I said to Leander that I’m open to possibilities, as long as the whole works out. And I have to say that within this whole Stéphany did work out. Leander herself, who bitterly lamented the cast change, ended up saying she did not miss Lindsey in the end. The public gave her stomps. So you know she must’ve done something right.
She did. Her singing was technically flawless. The coloratura was as flexible as anything (what is it with French singers and top coloratura chops?), she divested herself of a couple of well placed and new to me flourishes on each of Sesto’s big arias and the initial partos had individuality enough to inform us of his bravado/indecision. She made a surprisingly convincing troubled young man (early to mid 20s?) and would’ve done so even absent the (well done) facial hair.
For me she was just short of spectacular because I still want more (or warmer?) charisma in Sesto, more can be done with Deh, per questo aside from beautiful/energetic singing and I also want a ringing chest touchdown in Parto, and, of course, a truly memorable voice. But that’s me with my standards for this character, which have prevented me from settling on a number of staged productions until now. You can argue this quasi-psychopathic Sesto does not need the warmer charisma, Leander will say her voice is finer than Garanca’s. I may yet grow to like the performance more upon further investigation, because I am already a big fan of the Tito/Sesto background story.
900 words before we get to Vitellia. Let it be put in print that Vitellia is hands down my favourite role for Coote. I like her even better here than as Ruggiero. What I was saying about her voice’s texture proved true. YES! We need a mezzo Vitellia more often (3 mezzo Tito = for me! 😀 ) and those who are willing, let them sing the hell of her.
I don’t know about the neck brace, but I had no problem whatsoever with her singing last night. It got to the point where I was thinking: why do sopranos sing this role, again? And you know how I love my Roschmann1 Vitellia, which I should re-listen to see why indeed. (With a mezzo you don’t get the intended screechiness but you get more unshakable power instead). Coote’s voice has got the right warmth and weight and she managed the high notes like the pro she is. I’ve seen her quite a bit this year (1 x Octavian, 2 x Ariodante) and I have to say, the woman knows how to sing.
Baroque Bird was asking what is she known for? (as in what genre). And I said, everything! She is at a point in her career where she can navigate everything, reason for which I vote she sings more of this stuff – earth to ROH again. I guess you could – and after the livestream I probably will – make a deeper analysis of her performance but for now I will just say I simply loved it, the rather benign crankiness and the coogarness of it. She’s a determined woman and she found a way to get what she wanted – but didn’t realise she unleashed something she couldn’t quite control in the end.
Guth isn’t very focused on Vitellia, having established she’s rather succumbed to wishful thinking and misunderstanding than pure evil. She’s ambitious enough to manipulate Sesto but her contrition at the end of act II is unusually credible. Her and Tito’s interaction is likewise warmer and more mature than usual; they are more together as people than in most productions. She’s getting more and more annoyed with the turn events take and is chain smoking in very tall grass, which caused Baroque Bird to suggest she could’ve set the Capitol on fire all on her own 😉
Vitellia (act 2 finale): Tito, I have to tell you something.
Tito: what is it now?
Vitellia: I started the fire. My chain smoking got the better of me.
Tito: Romans, keep Rome safe! Quit smoking!
Tito. We had a bit of a laugh at the intermission, what with the childhood short where Tito seems older than Sesto but not quite as much as the obvious age difference between stage Tito and Sesto. I joked that perhaps suave Sesto (is there any other kind?) has his Dorian Gray portrait in the attic. I wouldn’t put it past this child of the corn.
Age difference out of the way, Sesto and Tito share an interesting natural feel that I don’t know that I got in other productions. Usually much is made of the stunted relationships among the characters, which is reflected by a stiffness in their interactions. Here we have a moment where, in a rambunctious effort to get through to his best friend, Tito lifts Sesto off the ground, in a gesture that is both chummy and manages to draw further attention to Sesto’s apparent youth – which he (Sesto) does not seem to like.
Their age difference can point out their different levels of responsibility/maturity. This Tito is very sane (though his limits are pushed) and a down to earth man, with a higher than usual (even among Titi) common touch. Yet he is forced in a position of power which finds him removed from the very people he wants to be close to. That’s true to life. Once you get in a position of some sort of power, everyone, even those closest to you starts to treat you differently.
There is that moment when a frustrated Tito asks Sesto if he hoped to gain happiness by attaining power and Sesto says no. Well, perhaps Sesto would benefit from becoming more responsible. But this one can’t.
Croft is here perhaps the most self effacing Tito I have seen. He too is a cog in the system. His subjects (the highly stylised-moving chorus) seem to act of their own accord, their adulation towards their leader a given but also a powerful force. Guth elects to use Serbate, dei custodi as the mob casting out Berenice2 rather than as an ode to Cesar. Another touch I really enjoyed.
So in the end, when Tito decides to defy the gods (mob?), it feels like this is his own breakthrough, with Croft conveying that with much clarity mixed with that specific brand of vulnerability that makes his characters so human with so little apparent effort. His Tito knows it’s dangerous to meet badness with understanding and kindness but (in the long run) it’s worse to perpetuate the cycle of violence and if there is one thing he can do from his position is attempt to break this cycle.
Croft’s singing is also off the cuff, so when he gets to toss the endless coloratura in Se all’impero you may be fooled it’s no biggie. He puts the benevolent in benevolent ruler by voice alone and Tito’s mission statement comes off a less like a here’s my big aria! moment and much more integrated into the whole. It’s a rare achievement.
Tito’s 1:1 with Sesto also benefitted from Croft’s unfussy Tito. It was easy to believe him when he told Sesto I’ve never hidden anything from you. Their interaction here was, as it should be, driven by a genuinely friendly Tito. I think this particular Tito’s drama is that he isn’t unapproachable like others tend to be. He lost his approachability due to his position instead of something he has or hasn’t done.
… there is more I want to say and surely it needs further pondering but right now I have to stop short to post this even if it’s not completely done. Rest assured I’ll have more to say in the next few weeks and again when the DVD comes out.
Two more things before a more step by step rundown after Thursday: the clarinet/basset horn was fab and the chorus, drafted at the back of the stalls/under the boxes during the Act I finale was in very good form – and very effective due to the positioning (shouts of tradimento! coming from underneath), sending shivers up my spine.
As I was saying, there were some harkbacks to the classic Salzburg Tito, among them the tiered structure, about which Ticciati gives a neat little explanation below:
Cast update I somehow have missed:
Tito: Richard Croft
Be still my beating heart! ❤ ❤ ❤ Did I mention ❤ ❤ ❤ ?
Sesto: Anna Stephany
Wait, whatever happened to Lindsey? She’s not showing for the Proms either. It’ll have to do. I’m sure Stephany can sing it (in a pretty manner), not sure at all about her acting.
Date and time: 6pm GMT on 3 August, on the Glyndebourne page. In the event this isn’t working, try telegraph.co.uk and look for Tito. If you miss it/can’t make it, come back to the page and watch if for 1 week after the broadcast date.
You can see it at the cinema on the same date.
The Proms date is still 28 August (7pm), which you will be able to listen to here.
Full cast as of now:
Vitellia Alice Coote
Sesto Anna Stéphany
Annio Michèle Losier / Rachel Kelly (19, 21 August)
Publio Clive Bayley
Tito Richard Croft
Servilia Joélle Harvey
July is the time when the ROH audience checks on the house’s young artists to see how they’ve grown. I found this year’s programme rather ambitious and the results mixed.
Verdi: I due Foscari, Act II (duet)
Conductor: David Syrus
Lucrezia Contarini: Vlada Borovko
Jacopo Foscari: David Junghoon Kim
This is the kind of opera that kept yours truly aloof from the art form for so long. I couldn’t wait for the overwrought scene/duet to be over. If you can’t pinpoint it in your mind, imagine the typical belcanto duet between important/main characters who are about to be parted by fate. It’s mainly Italian angst, with moments of gloomy recit, ominous shredding from the string section for the moments when ghosts are mentioned (one of the characters is ever on the brink of a breakdown, the other one tries more or less feebly to be their rock but it’s obvious they are also suffering) then a cheerful tune gets shoehorned in (so that the audience can draw a breath) and is explained in the dialogue by “outdoors sounds” such as the gondolier, good moment for the whinger to draw attention back to their plight, so that the hand wringing can start anew and continue for another 15min. Kim is on the right track for this kind of thing and has a beautiful tone but he’s obviously too young for the finer details this 19th century brand of Italian neuroticism needs.
Nowadays they simply have women either dressed in an updated version of ’80s powersuits or as lalala bohemians. Borovko looked utterly in charge in her suit which I dare say was curious for
Amelia Lucrezia. Then again, I despise this opera so much that I might have missed something essential. I doubt it, Romantic opera womenfolk were utterly decorative.
Upon return home I realised this was not Simon Boccanegra.
Massenet: Cendrillon, Act II (duet)
Conductor: Matthew Scott Rogers
Cendrillon: Kate Howden
Prince: Angela Simkin
Massenet, eh? Poor mezzos, he wrote for them but alas, I don’t like his saccharine stuff. For once I would’ve like the mezzo singing the trouser role to wear sensible shoes but it was not to be. Aside from that, Howden and Simkin’s interaction was not bad at all. Sometimes when I see mezzos and sopranos singing to each other of love I feel the interaction is actually helped by them both being (straight) women. It’s almost like they think whew, it’s just her, I won’t get distracted by wayward hormones, I can focus on the notes I’m supposed to sing and when I have some free time I can glance at her in a chummy manner – which masquerades surprisingly well as young love. Howden covered for an indisposed Emily Edmonds and I can’t complain about anything, but then again, Massenet. Simkin had more of a moment here than as Isolier later on, obviously since this is a duet, and though I again have no complaints, I also didn’t feel particularly wowed by her tone.
Mascagni: L’amico Fritz, Act I (duet)
Conductor: David Syrus
Suzel: Francesca Chiejina
Fritz: Thomas Atkins
I find it a bit odd that I enjoy Mascagni quite as much as I do (Cavalleria) but there you go, I liked this duet as well. You might ask wait, how is this any less fluff than Massenet above? It’s not but it’s much more enjoyable music to my ears. Atkins and Chiejina had rather nice chemistry going and were well suited vocally. Plus, there was a really big bucket of cherries on stage and a hot summer day outside. Chiejina’s cutely colourful maid outfit exemplified what I said above about the lalala bohemian vs powersuit.
Strauss: Arabella, Act III (final duet)
Conductor: David Syrus
Arabella: Jennifer Davis
Mandryka: Gyula Nagy
Jennifer Davis has a surprisingly large voice for her age, definitely able to cope with a Strauss orchestra as conducted by Syrus, and has a rather fearless attitude about attacking the highs and a good technique to back that. I could see from the Don Giovanni bit after the interval that Syrus was unusually careful in helping his singers do their best, so I suppose he was here as well. As far as the finer parts, well I guess that’s where both nature and experience come in. I remember the fairly recent (sometime last year) Bayerische livestream of Arabella with Harteros in the title role, which I loved, so I think that’s a good goal to keep in mind for aspiring Strauss singers.
Nagy sounded a bit stiff to me in what I imagine is a very tricky role. Aside from the livestream, my experience with Arabella is rather limited so I don’t as yet have a good idea about who Mandryka is supposed to be, aside from a vaguely wild force, personification of sexual desire as experienced by virginal women? Anyway, one needs a bit of stage and life experience to make that work.
Rossini: Le Comte Ory, Act II (final scene)
Conductor: James Hendry
Countess Adèle de Formoutiers: Francesca Chiejina
Isolier: Angela Simkin
Count Ory: David Junghoon Kim
This hilarious trio/scene elicited a lot of mirth, as it usually does, even though I dare say none of them are natural Rossinians, and thus the finer details did not shine. Hendry must’ve got a bit too much into it and, perhaps skewed by Strauss volume levels, let the orchestra rip which often covered the singers. But they were mostly funny, especially Kim who got into the nun act. The bed cover looking like something from Pylones added to the silliness.
Mozart: Don Giovanni, Act II (from Zerlina finding Masetto to end)
Conductor: David Syrus
Fortepiano continuo: Nick Fletcher
Donna Anna: Vlada Borovko
Donna Elvira: Jennifer Davis
Zerlina: Haegee Lee
Don Ottavio: Thomas Atkins
Don Giovanni: Gyula Nagy
Leporello: David Shipley
Masetto/Commendatore: Simon Shibambu
As I was saying earlier, Syrus did a really good job with the volume here, definitely one of the better ways to approach DG that I have heard at ROH, where conductors seem to think this is early Verdi. The singers were properly cradled and it showed once again how good Mozart is for young singers regardless of what voice type their future has in store. It was easily the best moment of the evening.
Thomas Atkins as Don Ottavio got the most applause. It’s true he has a very fine tenor that works with many things and he coped pretty well with Il mio tesoro, a bold choice to be sure. Let’s say I’d rank my ROH Don Ottavios like so: Antonio Poli, Atkins, Villazon. Nagy was much more at ease with the Don than with Mandryka and I think he makes quite a dashing figure; I see this role in his future, he has it all going for him. ROH says he is a baritone but I felt he was rather a bass-baritone or he will be one soon.
Generally I was impressed with the density of the basses and the baritone voices on display – proper stuff. To that end, Shibambu divested himself well of the lugubrious DON GIOVANNI! cry one expects from the statue. He needs a bit more projection for the big stage but otherwise smooth sailing. Btw, I noticed he constantly gets to wear a military uniform but then I guess that’s the lot of basses, what with their authority figure repertoire. Shipley as Leporello was pretty good, too, not overly funny but his interaction with Nagy’s Don was on the money.
Borovko returned as Donna Anna. Now that I’ve seen her recently in a big role I can say this: her top is very good and her coloratura ace but the cloudiness from the middle down seems constant. I don’t know what others hear but if this is simply how her voice sounds I can’t see myself getting excited in the future. Or perhaps she needs to find herself very high roles and stick with those? How about contemporary opera, then. Davis as Donna Elvira wasn’t bad at all, coping very dutifully with all required, though I still think Strauss is where she needs to aim. This Donna Elvira was abjectly in love with the Don but I think Davis got her – tricky for the contemporary mind – preoccupation with saving DG’s soul from eternal damnation.
Sopranos: Vlada Borovko, Francesca Chiejina, Jennifer Davis
Mezzo-sopranos: Angela Simkin, Kate Howden
Tenors: Thomas Atkins, David Junghoon Kim
Baritone: Gyula Nagy
Basses: Simon Shibambu, David Shipley
If you think I was a bit hard on the young singers, bear in mind that I somehow managed to get there two hours before the start of the show (I thought it started at 16:30 instead of 6:30. I know, getting old…), after which I decided to wander around and (re)discovered what a consumerist Mecca Covent Garden is. Let’s start with the hapless straw hat “boy with guitar”, whom I was this close to pay a fiver to shut up for a few minutes. Worse even than a Verdi dirge is a wounded bohemian pop tune. You know the kind, something from the late seasons of Dr House. Try stepping into a shop, they all play music – your choice is now bubblegum pop with nondescript teen voices. Then there was the obligatory curly haired musician setting up his amp to blast what sounded very much like gentle Shoreditch downtempo cca 2003. I guess these moves are savvy, it’s touristy as all getout around there and all of the above are now part of the pop psyche.
I couldn’t take it anymore so I scurried into a book shop (where I knew they don’t play any music) to read Andrew Eames’ account of getting morbidly bored on a barge on the lower Danube. What was he thinking, right? Muddy water, catfish, poplars and weeping willows, engine fuel, moody sailors – a proper circuit party.
But the Comte Ory trio got stuck in my head for days, so things righted themselves to an extent.
the nudes …another eyebrow-raising search engine term. Dear reader, I must disappoint you. I actually had to google Ms Gimadieva’s images as I had only a vague idea of how she looked (= brunette). Less of an idea about her in the nude 😉 but I can see how those who like typical Russian features might dig further (and they will have to, I don’t have any related pictures stashed around this blog).
the cave. I’m in the cave because I’ve been struck by ear blockage, which prevented me from going to see Spyres and El-Khoury yesterday. So much for giving Spyres another chance. After some in-house work on my ears I’m crossing my fingers Gerhaher projects tonight because I don’t want to miss him as well now that I finally chanced on a ticket to see him in recital. You see how fate keeps trying to stop me from seeing him?
Tito. It’s been a while, eh? But you might remember it’s not long now that Tito will return to Glyndebourne and the Proms, so there will be a lot of Tito talk around here, like in the good old days.
In the meanwhile, somebody graciously informed me that the Aspen Music Festival is running three Tito dates this August, so if you can get there check it out. I would love to see Tito in that kind of landscape (I’m from a mountain town myself).
Woman at Ground Zero. The show happened on Thursday, before my blocked ear wahala. I loved it! It’s the kind of contemporary opera project I can happily get behind. Post to come.
The Love for Three Oranges. Just for fun 🙂
This is, I think, the first production of Mitridate I watched on yt, early on in my opera days. Because it’s so old (1993) I didn’t think I would get to see it in the house but here we are! Thanks a lot to whoever had the idea this fun production of a very early Mozart opera should be unearthed 🙂
As we all know, this is one of Mozart’s first (the first?) important commissions and he got to conduct it in Milan, one month shy of his 15th birthday. They really did things differently back in ye olde 1700s. I mean 14 olds were surely more mature then, perhaps more like 17-18 year olds nowadays, but still.
Last night’s performance was recorded by BBC3 and you can listen to it here on 8 July.
Mitridate: Michael Spyres
Albina Shagimuratova Vlada Borovko
Sifare: Salome Jicia
Farnace: Bejun Mehta
Ismene: Lucy Crowe
Marzio: Rupert Charlesworth
Jennifer Davis Francesca Chiejina
Conductor: Christophe Rousset | Orchestra and Choir of the ROH
Director: Graham Vick
As you can glean from my scratches, we had some cast changes. The two above were last minute ones. But there were actually more. You may remember Anett Fritsch was first scheduled to sing Sifare, but she pulled out with time to spare. Marzio was initially meant to be sung by Andrew Tortise.
We ended up with a bunch of young singers. The lady next to me lamented aloud at the announcement about Shagimuratova. I, not being Shagi’s biggest fan (though she has plenty technical skills, as I saw with her Donna Anna here and heard with her Semiramide at last year’s Proms), was happy for the youngsters to get breaks. Borovko is a Jette Parker Artist here at ROH and has already had smaller roles on the main stage but this is surely a big break for her. You may remember Chiejina from the Guildhall Masterclass with JDD where she sang Donna Elvira’s Ah, chi mi dice mai (a dehggi favourite). I think she’s on the way to great things, lovely full voice and very amiable presence – she fit right in and her diction in Arbate’s recits was not bad at all. “We” know Charlesworth from many Baroque outings in town and elsewhere and were likewise happy for him.
Borovko had a steep night ahead of her, especially as Aspasia has the first aria. She showed strong nerves indeed, as she navigated it with poise and sang without a hitch. The public was very happy for her, lots of applause. As the night progressed her voice clouded but it’s unsurprising, given the tough task at hand. I was wondering if she covered or pushed a bit – she has a very plum voice so young – or if it was the nerves seeping through – but I really liked her pluck. A commendable effort. It’s very unusual to see such a young singer as Aspasia, as young Mozart was ruthless and in no way makes it easy for the singer. Rousset, on the other hand, went very gently on his singers, much more so than Minkowski did with Idomeneo.
Speaking of possible nerves and something that sounded like covering, I heard that in Charlesworth’s case too. No need, really. He has a beautiful, ringing tenor that projects well. His Marzio had a bit of Mighty Boosh going on, which was rather amusing. I can’t remember if this was the case in the previous runs.
Aside from some rambunctiousness from the brass side, the orchestra “behaved” in its supporting role, as much as a non-HIP orchestra will with this type of music (they really have a come a long way from that 1963 night with Karajan).
Another reason the singers were lucky with this production is its very stylised nature, spilling into stage movement, which doesn’t give one much room for spontaneous acting. Normally you’d think it a block but when you’re busy focusing on your very difficult arias it’s surely a blessing.
Nonetheless, Mehta and Crowe, matched again as a couple shortly after the gorgeous Rodelinda in Madrid, found ways to sneak spontaneity into their acting, to the delight of the packed auditorium. Yes, even an early Mozart sells ROH out, such is the Salzburg runt’s legacy.
This is one of my favourite ROH productions, matching two qualities dear to my heart: simplicity and imagination. At no time there is anything on stage that has no function, symbolic or otherwise. Vick had the good sense to make the red velvet side panels movable so when singers had a particularly important aria the walls moved closer and the sound was not lost backstage. You probably can’t make this out in the video but it was both practical and effective regarding stage action. The rectangle shape of the walls fit the abstract design too.
The costumes, though taking their cue from crinolines, were a lively take on the design, with striking bright colours in pleasing hues, adorned with intricate patters. I bet they were a fun challenge for the costume department!
The choreography added another positive accent. There are times when you – especially me, who don’t quite feel dance – aren’t sure why choreography is there but put up with it anyway. In this case the dancing fell to the attendants of this and that character – though in arias the singers sometimes were called to join in – who also acted like a silent chorus, marveling at or approving whatever else was happening on stage. This has the potential to be too much but not in this case, as it was done in a playful manner, which took a bit off the very earnest atmosphere of the libretto.
I like the plot quite a bit but it’s solidly post-Baroque what with a large amount of lamenting one’s harsh fate – I was happy for any levity. How can anyone not like Mitridate’s personal guards who look scary to the point of parody? But the OTT-ness felt to me in perfect keeping with the Baroque-Classical idea of entertainment (it’s opera, not a history lesson).
The quintessential stars of the evening were Lucy Crowe as Ismene and Bejun Mehta as Farnace, both of whom showed simply wonderful artistry and style. Still, for the “kick” arias in a large venue I feel the edge of a mezzo’s voice would add an extra oomph and evilness, yet I greatly enjoyed his sense of style (gorgeous dialogue with the orchestra) and the little, presumably spontaneous (once or twice just tossed off) trills he added on occasion.
It’s always great to see a role veteran at work, from the moment Farnace walzes in with feigned carelessness and asks Aspasia to stop rejecting him (or else), through Va, l’errore mio palesa, when he comically bumps Ismene out of the way, to his U-turn in Gia dagli occhi, which was taken super slow and the audience broke into applause before the last repeat of the A section – and I actually joined them! though I’m very well acquainted with this aria in its extended version. To quote the Emperor, too many notes, Wolfie. Seriously, when I overheard my very young seatmate sigh before the third repeat I couldn’t fault her for it. It goes on and on. Ffwd to 1791 and Mozart’s super brief take on opera seria – worlds away. Then again, not fair comparing a 14 year old with a seasoned 35.
But the audience was right to applaud, Mehta’s soft singing is buttah. His interaction with Crowe was some of the best stuff of the evening, you could feel the connection the characters are supposed to have beyond the momentary rough patch.
The first time Crowe genuinely impressed me was the above mentioned Rodelinda, where she sung the title role. I am very happy to report she continues to rock. She had the best night vocally (and likely otherwise), with all the (many) trills flowing effortlessly and her sense of Mozart style was fabulous. On top of this, she, as I said above, managed to act through the stylised choreography, making it a springboard for a dialogue with the public. This works for Ismene, who, as the second woman, is the wise character, always acting in diplomatic ways that ultimately restore order. We know Mitridate, his sons and Aspasia have to reconcile their differences; she is the one character who shares our knowledge that things can’t be as bad as everyone else laments they are.
I can’t say I was convinced by Jicia as Sifare. Her performance was patchy as far as I can tell – sometimes the voice was really on, flowing beautifully in difficult passages, at other times it seemed blighted by… something I can’t quite put into words. Almost as an old AM radio going in and out of proper reception. Her acting was pretty much what the stylised production required, nothing more, nothing less. I obviously don’t know about her interaction with Shagi but with Borovko it was rather cold – possibly understandably so. Still, as this is the main romantic relationship of the opera it felt underwhelming.
Michael Spyres in the title role was solid. He’s already sinking his claws into this role but to me he’s no Bruce Ford (the veteran of the ROH production). I’ve even sampled Richard Croft’s take on the role and I still think Bruce Ford is Mitridate. Even though both Croft and Spyres have more elasticity, that typical resonance and the spcific type of characterisation in Ford’s voice wins it for me1.
Out of the three, Spyres’ is the least recognisable voice, with a bit of Rossinian fervour seeping through. He was also struck by a bad case of nerves in his first aria but carried on without batting an eyelash and things got much better. He has the stage presence and the capacity to navigate the runs, yes, and his work with dynamics isn’t bad at all, but I didn’t feel the same level of musicality and Mozart-feeling as with Crowe and Mehta.
Genderwise, it’s interesting how they cast this opera nowadays, with a soprano as the good son and a countertenor as the sexually forceful villain. Make of that what you will.
The night was, objectively speaking, a mixed bag. But as far as I was concerned I had a swell time, because of the top drawer job Crowe and Mehta did and because this production is, to me, a thing of beauty2. It makes me smile, it suits my sense of design and I am really happy to have seen it in the house, especially in the company of these musicians.
It’s so OTT that it can still deliver even though times have changed so much since 1993 and only last year we’ve had those two game changing productions of Mitridate. It’s also probably lucked out – at least with me – that it returned to the stage in 2017 rather than last year, to compete with the very topical productions from Paris and Brussels. Post Brexit the focus has shifted yet again.
I may have finally stepped into the current decade as I found out today that ROH also provides wifi (duh, I know; please be patient with me 😉 ) and it’s very strong to boot. Expect a long entry about Mitridate, which is a lot of things – good (I really like this old but very stylish, Ponnellesque production and it’s official Lucy Crowe is enjoying a splendid season) and occasionally less so (stricken with a large number of cast changes – two just for today, which include our original Aspasia).