Thadieu: Arquez is the best Juditha ever!
Everyone else: Confermo!
That is all.
… doesn’t do it with Pikovaya Dama.
The Queen of Spades review – Herheim puts Tchaikovsky centre stage for stimulating frustration
2 / 5 stars 2 out of 5 stars.
[Herheim} is not half as interested in the story of Pushkin’s novella and Tchaikovsky’s opera as he is in the story of Tchaikovsky himself. In fact, forget Pushkin; this is all about Tchaikovsky. The composer was the toast of musical Russia; he was also a depressive, a gay man who had a breakdown following a disastrous marriage, someone who could plausibly have drunk the cholera-infected water that killed him in full awareness that it was contaminated. Knowledge of all this is crucial to understanding the next three hours on stage, and Herheim concedes us a few projected lines of explanation at the very start.
Herheim has projected Tchaikovsky into the character of Yeletsky, the dull old prince who offers heroine Liza love and security only for her to gamble her honour and sanity on flaky antihero Gherman instead.
brandishing glasses half full of iridescent cholera water.
Yeletsky is normally a bit part, singing little except one of Tchaikovsky’s most ravishing arias – how beautifully Tchaikovsky wrote for the boring men in his operas, and how he must have craved ordinariness for himself!
miming away at the piano like some 19th-century version of Animal from The Muppets, or disrupting any intimate scene between other characters.
The Royal Opera has not recently been a stranger to stagings about operas rather than of them: Barrie Kosky’s Carmen was a breath of fresh air.
Eva-Maria Westbroek’s soprano misses the ideal innocence for Liza, and Aleksandrs Antonenko sings Gherman with a scything tenor that’s a blunt instrument, too often veering off pitch.
and Felicity Palmer, mesmerising as the Old Countess. If this is indeed this remarkable singer’s last stage role, it’s a fittingly memorable one.
The new, state of the art London music venue is coming to a roundabout near… well, not you, probably. Near the City of London, which is not the same as London. You know those intersecting circles? It’s that kind of a thing here. Or London > the City of London.
The City of London is that ugly bit in East London (as opposed to the beautiful bits of East London… err, anyway!) most famous around here for the Barbican. There is a roundabout there with a subway (as in: underground passageway) and a bunch of skyscrapers squeezed in for that special NYC Financial District feel, because, well, it is the financial heart of London. An ideal spot for a swanky music venue, don’t you agree? That’s exactly where they want to build it (you really want to see the roundabout).
The concept includes a pedestrian plaza and foyer above which would sit an “acoustically perfect” 2,000-seat concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). (from The Guardian, see link at top)
Pedestrian plaza = good.
Rising further would be four floors of commercial space
Yay, commercialism sitting on top of music! Grinding it down?
a destination restaurant
I’m not posh enough to know what that means. Swanky, in any case.
at the top, a more intimate venue for jazz and other performances
Diller [the architect] said the wooden concert hall, in which the audience would wrap around the orchestra, was inspired by geological formations of layered strata. It would be quite steep so every seat in the house would have a good view. There would also be breakout areas for musicians to perform within the audience.
OK, pretty much like all modern music venues. Breakout areas = that sounds rather ominous = the soprano broke ranks! Catch her if you can. Haha. But if the acoustics is perfect, you can hear her from every position. Or they’ll have to spin around like at Elbie?
Where the money comes from remains to be seen. “We are working with a number of major, potential donors,” said Kathryn McDowell, the LSO’s managing director. “We are in the early stages but we are making good progress.”
Evil money, as usual, thus furthering the idea that classical music = for the rich, because probably quite rightly the public would bulk at £288m being taken from the public purse for a musical venue in a city that already has several.
The £288m figure is a large one, although much less than Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie, which opened two years ago. It was originally estimated at €450m (£395m) and ended up costing €866m, most of it public money. Jean Nouvel’s publicly funded concert hall in Paris came in at €390m, three times over budget.
Sir Nicholas Kenyon, the managing director of the Barbican, pointed to the success of both concert halls in creating new demand for music.
I know the adage “build and they will come”, though I’m never quite sure how it applies here, other than how it applied to Elbie = all star superstar concerts of see and be seen public vs interesting music programming.
She [the architect] admitted that the location, in the middle of a busy city of London roundabout, was not the most dignified spot for a landmark building. “It is quite a moat.”
But she said it provided huge potential and would bring a southern entrance to the Barbican site which was “transparent, porous and welcoming. Basically everything that the north entrance is not.”
Heh, at least she’s admitting to the ugliness of the Barbican.
There you go, apparently something to look forward to after Brexit. Sort of.
Well, is it?
It depends. It’s certainly rather too long. The story has potential not matched by the librettist’s skills. The mezzo hopeful doesn’t have access to any arias on the level of Parto or Deh, per questo…
But there is a ravishing duet that does often include a mezzo and there is Fuor del mar for the Mozart tenor. Most famous of all is Elettra’s showstopper. And lest we forget, the choruses, which do rival Tito‘s (I have been quoted in the past saying they are better. Again, it depends on who’s conducting/singing). Also, Mozart himself was very excited to write it and there are many letter back-and-forths between him and his father to document the (not particularly smooth – due to external forces -) process.
Conclusion: mixed bag. Definitely worth a listen but pick your conductor/singers/chorus combo wisely. Make sure your Idamante is a mezzo, the other options simply fall short here.
I have nothing particularly operatic to comment on right now but I thought I would share a few snow pictures, since I have been hunting for good ones for years, what with usually being parked in London at this time of the year.
Although snow was supposed to have come down hard for the past week, it only happened since the day before yesterday afternoon. Yesterday I went for a hike in the woods and it looked like this:
I am a sucker for the winter colour palette and fluffy, heavy snow in general:
Since London does not have this kind of wooded hills:
The woods are quite dense and the terrain is rough, though I do not think you can easily get lost (turn around and down and you are back in town). There was good number of other people (couples, mostly) about. Around here hanging out in the woods, regardless of weather, is very common. There is little else to do 🙂 That being said, the strong and fresh air and the specific quiet of the woods (even with other people around, birds cawing, dogs barking like the house is on fire) was out of this world invigorating. Whilst I was there I wondered if there is anything better in life than the woods during a snowfall. Today is a gorgeously clear, cold day, yet I am still wondering.
Back to town:
So Venice has started a fight to cull tourist numbers by way of making your pay a flat daily* (?) fee when entering the lagoon. I can sorta kinda understand where they are coming from (re: gazillions of tourists, mostly parked by Rialto-San Marco; these people are apparently their target). BUT:
these people usually stay at the lagoon hotels per se, so who you are segregating against? Me!
*Is the daily fee a once a day entry fee, or does it allow multiple daily entries? It would affect tourists who stay in the outer boroughs and may have reason to go back and forth during the day.
GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!
They want to divert people to lesser known destinations, like the islands.
Idea: make the vaporetti or whatever takes you there cheaper. I WANT to go to the islands, Lido, whatever – why would I want to see Rialto over and over? I want to take cooler panoramic pictures and I just bet drones are banned.
BRIDGE, WHAT BRIDGE?
But you have another issue: there are only so many bridges that link the many islands. Make more bridges? So many people use the Rialto Bridge because there is no other bloody bridge to get you to the other side for miles. I too was sick and tired to have to use that route again and again but that is the most direct one right now.
A MAZE OF WINDING ROADS
Alternatively, sign post the lesser known streets better, so tourists who are willing to take the scenic route do not have to fear getting lost and waste time chasing their tails. The only properly signed area is the most notorious one.
RUBBISH, I SAY
Apparently there is a lot of littering. I have to say I was not struck by Venice being particularly dirty. But if this is such a problem, install a hefty fine and enforce it.
FUN IN THE SUN ON THE CRUISE SHIP AND OTHER ANNOYANCES
Interesting debate on an older article, this time about tourism in Spain (another country railing against their current source of revenue):
Cruise ships, coaches, even RVs are ways of “doing” the popular or interesting bits of a particular location without really leaving very much behind to the benefit of the area you are visiting. Cruise passengers mainly want to “do” Venice – they do not particularly want to interact with any Venetians.
If, when visiting a place, you stay in a local hotel, eat in local restaurants and spend in local shops you are at least contributing to the local economy; increasing the prosperity of the places you are visiting. All the cruise ships do is add to congestion without contributing very much to the places they are visiting.
The answer is either to restrict the number of such short term visitors, or force them to pay more for their visits e.g. through greatly increased parking / berthing fees.
Here is one who wants to pay the fee, for the sake of the local marble:
I agree we were in Venice this spring and I felt very strongly that we should have been charged an entry fee. Also having your suitcase transported (rather than lugging it around yourself) should be an offence as well, I saw people with insanely large and heavy suitcases trying to pull them up the steps of these delicate marble old bridges it was infuriating.
Surprisingly, other cities seem to have come up with a solution:
They could have special luggage boats and small electric vehicles to transport them when there isn’t a canal handy. Split and Hvar have these wee electric vehicles to move things around in the city centre.
But one thing that we may be momentarily forgetting is the traditional disorganisation at administrative level and good ole corruption. I suspect that Venice is only making a profit (if it is) due to the said humongous number of tourists.
Eventually proposed tourists will probably take all this aboard and not go. If enough of them feel unwelcome then they may end up with not enough tourists. My very easy going nephew said that Venice was extremely unwelcoming, expensive and highly over rated.
I must be SUPER extremely easy going as I did not feel any of that (except that gelato should not exceed 2 Euros / 2 scoops). But the poster has a point: I was taken aback by this proposed fee and having been there twice I may think about other destinations in the future before I decide on a high fee period.
Riga, not my city but I stayed there, has trouble with the notorious stag/hen weekenders who come (from the UK notably) for cheap booze and screws then trash the place. All brought courtesy of low cost airlines.
All brought courtesy of the disparity of income and cultural attitudes between First World
ex-Colonial Empires and the rest of the world. Local admin raw greed and spinelessness as well, of course.
Let us return to cruise ships for a moment, as other from the Adriatic region complain:
And the cruise ships. Don’t forget the damn ships. They’re ten thousand times worse than AirBnB could ever be.
Here in Dalmatia, they dump human and industrial waste with impunity, ruining the water and fouling the beaches. And the class of tourist they disgorge represents a net cost to the communities they disembark in.
Every boat belches out at least a few thousand shambling, shouting, penny-pinching, insensitive tourists who desecrate holy sites, erode ancient roads and buildings, and overwhelm basic utilities. They get drunk and smash up local businesses or start fights with locals. They jam up our underfunded emergency services, then skip out on the bill in time to catch their boat. Most leave without having spent more than a handful of euros on land.
And so it’s an economic disaster here. Study after study shows cruise ship tourism to be a massive net loss to the local economy. Locals are priced out of their communities by sky-high living costs during the high season. Availability and quality of public services drop precipitously as the public sector sags under the load. And there’s barely any assistance from our EU “partners”, who are nevertheless more than happy to privatize and rent our infrastructure back to us when it serves them.
Nice jab at the EU partners as well, which is common thing in ye olde (South) Eastern Europe. Not to say that the local partners are not happy to pawn off their country resources for their sole benefit, screw the local economy.
This is the same idiot who wanted to be taxed earlier:
I think travelling has become too cheap.
Still, the post gets a comeback:
Ah, for the days when aviation was a gentleman’s pursuit back before every Joe sweat sock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray and jet off to Raleigh-Durham.
Which is basically the crux of the problem: wealthy tourists = ok, poor ones = stay at home.
I know — I live in the center of Brussels… — how awful it is to be taken over by masses of tourists but I still think some kind of touristing can be mutually interesting. Life would be pretty boring staying in each one’s backyard.
Sensible view. The usual anger makes it sound like we should all stay at home, which, in a (first) world of disposable income and increasingly freer travel, sounds really odd. Then people complain of tribalism/racism/xenophobia etc. Surely there can be a middle way?
I left a while back, it’s unlivable in Amsterdam. You cannot do simple things on summer evenings, like getting to appointments on time; sitting down for a drink with friends; booking a restaurant. Even cycling your bike becomes a pain with tourists drunk and stupid on their rental bikes.
That is kind of interesting, as I feared for my life when trying to cross the street – not because of cars but because of cyclists in Amsterdam – and you know what a big drunk I am 😉 Nowhere else have I seen such aggressive cyclists, and that is saying something, re: London Olympic cyclists. But perhaps they are just fed up with tourists.
I also do not go to Oxford Circus unless I have to (Wigmore Hall visits, so that adds up to a few times a month). In London you do not have to meet friends in tourist central for drinks but maybe it is because London is so much bigger… I do remember having a nice dinner at a local Turkish restaurant in an anonymous neighbourhood of Amsterdam when I last visited.
I also had to move further afield from Central(ish) London – but due to the more traditional forms of gentrification. Maybe London has its particular challenges, with the centre deserted after being sold off as assets to foreign oligarchs who live elsewhere, so nobody is actually disturbed by tourists because nobody lives where they congregate.
I cannot say that I had a dreaded airbnb near to wherever I have lived in the past 11 years I have been a resident here (or there, as it where, at this very moment). Then again, thank you riots, North London may still be feared by tourists 😉 This could be the answer: organise a local riot in this or that neighbourhood and scare the potential intruders off.
HOW HAVE WE GOT HERE?
It occurs to me, though, that we should ask why have all cities with something to show for become such tourist magnets? Open up a paper or check out the adverts in the tube and you will see lots of adverts for this or that destination. One assumes that these adverts are paid for by the tourism boards in those cities/countries.
Here in ye olde (S)EE the reason every scenic area is turned into bandb paradise is BECAUSE there is no other economy to speak of. The country produces nothing, it lives on the money sent home by work migrants and local services. Can it be the same (minus migrant work for First World
ex-Colonial Empires) for all these other fabulous destinations?
But, you know, blame the tourists. You entice them to come and then you complain that they have come. Kinda like with migrant work, innit?
the behemoth cruise ships that chug through the Grand Canal, emitting fumes and disgorging thousands of people into the crowded streets – on some days as many as 44,000. It was announced in November last year that the largest vessels would be diverted from the city centre, but the plan is yet to be officially approved by the national government. (from this article on the subject)
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
This year the festive season is extra fabulous, what with having had the chance to visit both Venice in the pre-Christmas season and Salzburg, which is Christmas-y year round. In heathenly fashion, I’m going to have two Christmas posts 😉
Greetings to all of you I’ve met and had a lovely time at the opera this year, as well as those who may just be reading 🙂 Enjoy yourselves, from now into the new year – and beyond, of course, right about until it’s time to return to the grind 😉
Remember that traditional childhood Christmas? I am quite the fan of those old school glass baubles with a painted story:
Hope you’ve all been good this year 😉 and are having a relaxing time with your loved ones during this festive period. This year I’m all about the visuals – time to immerse yourself in the story (and not overthink the details).
Some new faces, some old, plus the return of von Otter:
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo it’s that thing he did twice (among the other things he did twice) 😉
Matthew Rose from the “let no Spring pass without a bass recital” rule book
Senna festegiante (with Emöke Baráth)
Katarina Karnéus let’s see what she’s up to
St John Passion my fave Passion
Anne Sophie von Otter she’s baack! And again, after hours.
Paula Murrihy I have no idea how she sounds like, so I should go and hear for myself, right?
Sumi Jo Masterclass Sumi Jo!
L’Arpegiatta I’m not really a fan but sometimes it’s tempting to go against your own grain
The Bangash Brothers who doesn’t love the sarod?!
Mafi and Morison in “Lieder fan tutte” – sounds like it could be a hoot(-hoot at Paulton’s Park)
Gerald Finley I somehow never saw him in recital
Simon Keenlyside singing Americana – he made such a good impression on my soaked trainers, I am buying what he’s selling even so late in the season