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Late 2017, early 2018: Rodelinda at ENO and Rinaldo at the Barbican

photo credit: hdvdarts.com

Now that venues are posting their 2017-2018 offerings it turns out that ENO is bringing out their 2014 production of the beautiful Rodelinda in Oct/Nov, whilst the Barbican is airing Rinaldo on 13 March, with a few features from the Glyndebourne production – Iestyn Davies 1 in the title role and Pisaroni as Argante + the addition of Jane Archibald as Armida. I have to say my £15 was for Pisaroni’s Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto. I hope the trumpets live up to the hype all the way to the balcony. I’m not sure about Rodelinda (Io t’abraccio in English) just yet, I might pull a Partenope-move and book at the last minute if I can’t get it out of my mind long enough.


  1. He sang in the recent revival which I missed because he’s not Prina
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Good times at the opera in 2016

Cotroversial in everyday life and politics, 2016 was a good opera year for yours truly. I went to Vienna again and returned to Paris after two decades, lots of fun! London wasn’t too shabby either, with its mezzo/contralto traffic jams and my love affair with Wigmore Hall only intensified this year ❤ Last but not least, looking over the many shows that sign posted this year I had another opportunity to think about the fine people I shared some of these good times with. Thank you all and a much happier 2017!

January

11 Benjamin Appl | Wigmore Hall: a Schubert start to the year

February

20 L’Etoile | ROH: a bit of a weird romp, but a romp nonetheless (le romp francais). I hope whoever succeeds Holten at ROH sprinkles the seasons with wackiness of this sort.

March

4, 8 Akhnaten | ENO: X-Files meets Aida = most spectacular show of the year! Let’s keep ENO in business for more of the same.

12, 14 Ariodante | RCM Britten Hall: students go hardcore Highlands

14 Maria Ostroukhova | St George’s Hanover Sq: Cecca notte!

16 Ekaterina Siurina/Luis Gomes | Wigmore Hall: there is still Belcanto, lest we forgot about it

17 Berenice | St George’s Hanover Sq: hit and miss Handel

21 Boris Godunov | ROH: Terfel, the Welsh Boris(h)

23 Ann Hallenberg | Wigmore Hall: Il pianto di Maria

31 Elpidia | St George’s Hanover Sq: very good singing, so-so pasticcio

April

14 Lucia di Lammermoor | ROH: Damrau is no damsel in distress

27 Lucio Silla | Theater an der Wien: the Arnold Schoenberg Choir! with not that much to sing 😉

28 Il Vologeso | Cadogan Hall: proof that Jommelli rocks

30 Sandrine Piau | Wigmore Hall: super stylish Boroque with La Piau

May

08 Tannhauser | ROH: an opportunity to see Christian Gerhaher sing Wagner lyrically.

23 Ann Hallenberg | Wigmore Hall: 😀

26 Oedipe | ROH: almost as spectacular as Akhnaten

June

24 Werther | ROH: Pappano gets it

29 Sonia Prina | Wigmore Hall: the first of two shows this year; this is the feisty one.

July

02 Nathalie Stutzmann | Wigmore Hall: the smoothest contralto takes on Vivaldi

07 Il trovatore | ROH: Bosch brings his caravan to Verdi

17 JPYA | ROH: ROH students return

August

03 Bluebeard’s Castle | Proms/Royal Albert Hall: there are a few things I will always attend and this is one of them.

September

21 Demetrio (Hasse) | Cadogan Hall: musically not the most exciting

22 Cosi fan tutte | ROH: this one was a bit of a miss…

October

02 Nathalie Stutzmann/Orfeo 55 | Wigmore Hall: oh yea!

05 Anna Bonitatibus | Wigmore Hall: …and yea to Semiramide, too.

21 The Nose | ROH: between this and L’Etoile we covered Eastern and Western wackiness.

November

02 Juditha triumphans | Barbican: the mezzo/contralto fest of the year

05 Dorothea Roschmann | Wigmore Hall: dramatic Roschmann is here

07 Les contes d’Hoffmann | ROH: traditional tales of sexism (with mezzos)

13 Oreste (Handel) | Wilton’s Music Hall: the Atrides in Jack the Ripper’s neighbourhood

20 Luca Pisaroni | Wigmore Hall: Luca sings the Schubert

24 Stuart Jackson/Marcus Farnsworth | Wigmore Hall: more Schubert!

28 La Calisto | Wigmore Hall: Wigmore Hall goes kookoo-funny

30 La finta giardiniera | RCM Britten Hall: students being successfully silly

December

05 Don Giovanni | Theatre des Champs-Elysees: Don Leporello muses in the beautiful surroundings of TCE.

06 Sancta Susanna/Cavalleria rusticana | Opera Bastille: Sancta Susanna = the runner up in the badass production contest of the year

29 Sonia Prina/Roberta Invernizzi | Wigmore Hall: oh so quiet and gentle

Akhnaten take 2 – the subtle takeover (ENO, 8 March 2016)

The brown and gold sands of time dissipate to uncover the shadows of Egyptian dieties slowly twisting into 3D from their customary flat positions. Plastic screen-doors on the bottom tier of the stage half conceal the shrouded body of the late pharao. I like that, plastic + mummy. It is traditional but not completely. People in white coats fuss with the body. It feels like a lost X-Files episode.

akhnaten8march

curtain call with Conductor Karen Kamensek

Last night was my second time seeing Akhnaten live. I liked it more than the first time. The fact that I’ve been obsessively listening to it for the past week might have something to do with it. But perhaps that’s how this one works, it slowly insinuates itself into your awareness (like this).

The 15 March performance will be recorded for BBC3. One hopes there will be a DVD as well? It’s not like the market is crawling with Akhnaten productions.

My interest in the last installment of Glass’s trilogy can be traced back via this blog, the biggest success to date of my Thursday’s Something Else series (on first hearing it I called it “soothing classical music” 😉 ). It’s been a slow burner indeed but constantly at the back of my mind. No wonder people use terms like “mesmerising”. The more you dig, the more there is to discover. As usual, nothing focuses your attention more than a live performance (or two). Perhaps it’s because I’m very visual, but I focus better if I actually see what’s happening. Even watching the bow pulsate over strings makes it all more enjoyable. The cello features heavily and it was a pleasure to watch and listen, as was the brass section, the winds (especially the prominent flute(s) and bass clarinet (ftw!)) and the various percussion – epecially this one.

For this special event I chanced on the £20 “secret seat” twice. I’m so satisfied with my luck that I highly recommend the secret seat scheme. Both seats were in the Dress Circle, the first in row D and the second in row A (no heads in front! and awesome view of the orchestra – did you know Maestra sings along with the chorus?).

Also because it was so special (ENO had last mounted it in 1985) I bought a programme and from it I learned that Hymn to the Sun is a chaconne, Glass making a point of referencing Baroque style writing. The cello obligato part is indeed a thing of beauty. I’m still not sold on the vocal part. It wasn’t helped by the fact that ARC was – here and there – inaudible. Not quite sure what was going on but I don’t remember it from last time. Who knows, memory is very selective. To be fair to him, he soared when called for in his duets/trios with his ladies.

Friday, though, I was under the Balcony overhang which I more or less blamed for whatever was inaudible (mainly bass Clive Bayley as Aye, Nefertiti’s father; barely heard again, kind of annoying, as his part is rather interesting judging by this). Funny thing: this time around the jugglers dropped some of their balls/candles – something else I didn’t remember happening on Friday.

Choreography. The subject matter asks for the opposite kind of acting than what you normally hope for in opera. Namely, not naturalistic. It really feels more like dance than “acting” – underwater dancing, at that. But it works and it adds immensely to the hypnotic nature of the music. I thought Rebecca Bottone as Queen (Mum) Tye had the best knack for this. She looked right at home and (emotionally) moving to boot. She also gets points for great pitch (and ping and stamina) in the insane vocalise during The Temple, when Akhnaten and Tye banish the cult of Amon. In another hark back to Baroque tropes we get ha-ha-ha-has that are actual hahahahas (it feels like they are laughing at the High Priest). Gotta love ’em. Here they came off a lot more comical than in the Stuttgart recording – and what with the jugglers, even playful – so great job all.

Contrasts. It is, I think, unusual in the DVD age to discover an opera via an audio recording. But since this is not a frequently staged opera, I, like most other people, am mainly acquainted with the 1984 Stuttgart version. I enjoyed the Stuttgart Scribe better in the opening recit (Open are the double doors of the horizon, unlocked are its bolts1) because I felt the mythical mood needed a remote, monotonous presentation. But I liked the ENO Scribe (bass Zachary James) better in the recit preceeding The City, the scene that depicts the building of Akhnaten’s new capital, where his lively, theatrical rendition fits the buzz and excitment of the new.

This brings me back to the acting in Hymn to the Sun. I said last time that ARC did not possess the kind of charisma needed to carry this pivotal moment. Well, on seeing it again I think the fault isn’t entirely his (plus he did very well in the comical/violent Temple2 scene). It is true that he has a very ethereal presence – which fits the rest of the performance – but the personnenregie did not help him out here. Along with the two different ways I feel the Scribe should act, I am now convinced that we need both approaches for Akhnaten as well. There are plenty moments of contrast in this opera so I’m sure a production will one day successfully incorporate both.

Jugglers. We had jugglers, who very subtly introduced and carried to the end the ball motif. They started innocuous enough from the getgo, as if humbly providing a bit of pizzazz during the ceremonies. Only later – when they juggle them around the newly crowned Akhnaten – it turns out that their balls are foreshadowing the greatest ball (of fire). Astute detail, as I understand Amenhotep III had already planted the seeds of a revolt against a too powerful clergy. Another neat trick is how they intentionally drop the balls when Akhnaten is attacked and killed. It’s all very simple but it looks great. In the Epilogue, where we have the ghosts of the past the jugglers return pushing the balls on the ground, recalling dung beetles (and tumbleweed). But speaking of the Epilogue, I wonder why Akhnaten and the ladies appear in the afterlife dressed as their pre-Aton-loving selves3?

I had an epilogue of my own: from the side of the Dress Circle there is an exit that spits you out right into the street in 2min flat. I don’t remember ever getting out of a theatre so quickly before. You walk into a sort of loading bay which doubles as homeless shelter by night.

Go and see it if you can, perhaps in Los Angeles, since it’s done in colaboration with LA Opera.


  1. What a great line! 
  2. I especially enjoyed how he crept from the top tier, where the Horuses were flapping their giant wings. His nimble moves reminded me a bit of Dumaux’s scene stealing Tolomeo in the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare
  3. Even stranger is that Akhnaten’s cermonial robe, as well as Nefertiti’s, has many mini skulls sewn into it. By contrast, their (identical) robes from The Family scene are of beautiful white gauze, my favourite of the bunch. 

Akhnaten keeps the mystery (ENO, 4 March 2016)

click to see rehearsal pictures

When I first heard about this new ENO production I hoped it wouldn’t be traditional. Well, it is but I can’t fault it much. It’s got its inner logic and the key moments are done with enough imagination. Visually it’s very close to stunning. I’m not sure why the costumes (all beautiful) mix Victorian style with the more or less abstract Ancient Egyptian. There seems to be an unwritten rule that productions must nod in some way to the country where the opera is being given. The very literal Egyptian “heads” are on the kitsch side but I don’t mind if anyone disagrees. On the other hand the lyrical scene of Akhnaten and Nefertiti’s act II duet was done in a fittingly abstract manner, with just them two on stage entertwining matching red robes.

Akhnaten: Anthony Roth Costanzo
Nefertiti: Emma Carrington
Tye: Rebecca Bottone
Horemhab: James Cleverton
Aye: Clive Bayley
High Priest of Amon: Colin Judson
Scribe: Zachary James
the 6 daughters of Akhnaten and Nefertiti: Clare Eggington/ Alexa Mason/ Rosie Lomas/ Anna Huntley/ Katie Bray/ Victoria Gray
young Tutankhamun: Joshua Simpson
Conductor: Karen Kamensek | ENO Orchestra and Chorus

The libretto has a basic plot (Akhnaten’s rise and fall from power) but there’s plenty abstract stuff, especially in act II which is about Akhnaten’s implementation of his new cultural/political vision. Because it’s “out there” for his time it’s of course rich in symbols. On the other hand Amenhotep III’s funeral (which starts the proceedings) is a high tech version of “as literal as it gets”. Interesting for those curious about Ancient Egyptian royal funerary rituals, probably very informative for some people on my row who wondered aloud why did (the new and improved) Akhnaten have breasts. Nobody seemed to wonder why Akhnaten was written as a countertenor but that would’ve partly answered their question.

Glass, Minimalism – this is not the kind of opera you want to sit through if you can’t take repetition. It certainly needs subtlety in handling the transitions from one musical phrase to the next and in conveying the lyricism of act II, as I wouldn’t say Glass is a titan at writing vocal music. Maestra did a pretty good job with all this. The chorus added a lot of pizzazz with its very engaging interventions. It baffles the mind that the powers that be want to trim it down when everybody agrees it’s one of the main assets of the ENO.

Regardless of what one thinks of repetition, the endless arpeggios do fit the subject matter and the direction was centred on slowness of movement which added to the hypnotic nature of the thing. You settle into something as close to a trance-like state as possible without chemical help (though it would be interesting to experience it with the help of “street meds”) and just let music and visuals do their work, whatever that may be. It doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that needs overthinking on our part.

It being the first night I suppose some things need some tweaking – such as the orchestra covering the vocals during Amenhotep III’s funeral, which is drum/brass heavy. The three mains – Akhnaten, Nefertiti (his wife) and Tye (his mum) needed a bit of time to adjust to each other during their trio in the Window of Appearances but worked well afterwards.

Naturally Akhnaten has the chunkiest bit to sing. I found ARC rather on the bleaty side and really wondered how Sabadus would’ve sounded in this role, as it’s very high and his beautiful tone would work with the otherworldliness that Akhnaten needs to project throughout and especially during his act II hymn. Dramatically that is a pivotal moment in the opera, calling for a singer of considerable charisma. I wasn’t convinced ARC posses that level of charisma or the versatility needed to switch from the highly stylised to the engagingly realistic.

During the first and third acts Akhnaten acts in a hieratic manner but act II (especially the hymn) is the moment where we get a glimpse of the real him. So to say “real him”, as I personally don’t see Akhnaten so much as a person, rather as something. That something being autocracy, personal independence – a proto-Romantic ideal. The hymn is a moment of realness amidst pose and ritual.

The interesting thing that art history teaches us about Akhnaten is that his cultural revolution included an overhaul of the way pharaos were depicted visually, namely more realistic than before or after. But not too realistic, as he indeed was pictured with some feminine features, hence the breasts in this production. In that sense I think it was telling that he first appears on stage in the nude which thus leaves no doubt about his gender, only to have his appearence stylised after his reinvention as Akhnaten. I don’t think this curious change in image was explained by art historians but this production offers some ideas. Aside from the beginning when he ascends to the throne, Akhnaten is seen almost always in the company of women, which he seems to identify with. It is implied he has no interest in war and spends all his time with his family, which includes 6 daughters and wants the same for his kingdom.

The ending had a rather neat twist: the Scribe (the ancient narrator who keeps us abreast of plot development during the opera, now a history lecturer) talks to a class of not very interested students about how Akhnaten’s image and name was erased from history and his city has survived only in very poor condition to the point there’s not much to visit. Pretty piss poor job at erasing his name and image if 3600 years later we’re attending an opera based on his life… so the “ghosts” of Akhnaten and his ladies are lurking.

There’s more to say – of course – but I’ll leave that for next week, when I’m seeing it again.

Good times at the opera in 2015

venues2015

Chez dehggi, 2015 shall go down as the year of smashing opera trips abroad and the full Monteverdi. I’ve also visited new (to me) local venues such as the Roundhouse and Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe. I had a boatload of Baroque and recitals from some of my top favourites but all periods were included. Also I had the chance to catch Operalia in its first stop to London. The one glaring miss this year was Glyndebourne.

January

L’Orfeo | Roundhouse: very moving performance and surprisingly fitting venue. It’s not for nothing I started the year on a Monteverdi high, I went on to see live his other two great works, in chronological order no less.

February

Farinelli and the King | Wanamaker Playhouse: a play with music, kinda like an opera but with less music, though the music got the most applause, so… 🙂

L’Ormindo (Cavalli) | Wanamaker Playhouse: not quite Monteverdi but silly as hell

March

VK Handel Recital | Karlsruhe Handel Fest: when the Baroquemobile shifts into turbo gear

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny | ROH: film noir meets mezzos

Semele | London Handel Festival: if I persist in listening, Sem’le I shall adore

Catone in Utica | London Handel Festival: new gen gets whimsical with pasticcio

April

St Matthew Passion | Barbican: the Passion of Mr Oboe and the Coughing Squad

Ben Johnson | Wigmore Hall: Mr Oronte sings zany stuff

JDD Masterclass | Milton Court/Barbican: shut up and learn to trill!

Adriano in Siria (JC Bach) | Britten Hall, RCM: a traditional production!

Il turco in Italia | ROH: introducing Aleksandra Kurzak’s chutzpah

May

Roschmann/Uchida | Wigmore Hall: when very serious and not so serious meet

VK’s Cleopatre | Stadscasino Basel: in which la forza del cleavage defeats dehggi

La forza del destino | Bayersiche Staatsoper: la forza del bad libretto vs. the Temple of Music

Krol Roger | ROH: mesmerising stuff

Sara Mingardo | Wigmore Hall: wrist slashing music done with elegance and… calm

Jessica Pratt | Wigmore Hall: major fun but should come with silencer

June

La voix humaine/Bluebeard’s Castle | Wiesbaden: women battling demons on a hot, sunny day

Queen of Spades | ENO: the least suspected mezzo tour de force (thanks (I think?!), David Alden)

Don Giovanni | ROH: all hail La Roschmann’s Donna Elvira!

July

Guillaume Tell | ROH: Gerry Finley acting mighty morose

JPYA Summer Performance | ROH: mixed bag with young singers

Operalia | ROH: high quality contestants

Roberta Invernizzi | Wigmore Hall: finally fearless Invernizzi

August

Daphne | Grimeborn: unplugged Strauss

September

La voix humaine/La dame de Monte Carlo | Wigmore Hall: la voix de la merveilleuse dame Antonacci

Adriano in Siria (Pergolesi) | Cadogan Hall: Farnaspe in love

Orphee et Eurydice | ROH: the Monteverdi Choir tames the furies

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria | Barbican: il triunfale ritorno d’AAC to Barbican

October

Ariadne auf Naxos | ROH: Mattila does it again

Leo Nucci | Cadogan Hall: old skool Italian

Xerse (Cavalli) | Theater an der Wien: Emmanuelle Haim and Le Concert d’Astrée at work

L’incoronazione di Poppea | Theater an der Wien: Metastasio, tornado of concepts and chatting about opera

November

Franco Fagioli recital | Wigmore Hall: sweetly done and Dopo notte!

December

Orontea (Cesti) | Wigmore Hall: shambolic early Baroque

Hard to wish for more excitement after this romp but, as usual, you never know. What I do wish is to hang out again with the fine folks I had such good opera times this year. Half the fun was you 🙂

The Queen of Spades (ENO, 17 June 2015)

Today I should’ve been at Glyndebourne for Die Entfuhrung but I was schythed down by a merciless cold so I’m finishing up this write-up instead. Luckily, there’s quite a bit of Mozartean influence. But Tchaikovsky himself isn’t a slouch at spinning a tune either.

Hermann: Peter Hoare
Lisa: Giselle Allen
Countess: Felicity Palmer
Prince Yeletsky: Nicholas Pallesen
Count Tomsky: Gregory Dahl
Pauline: Catherine Young
Tchenkalinsky: Colin Judson
Sourin: Wyn Pencarreg
Governess: Valerie Reid
Mascha: Katie Bird
Tchaplitsky: Peter Van Hulle
Narumov: Charles Johnston
Conductor: Edward Gardner | ENO Choir and Orchestra | Co-production with Fondazione Teatro La Fenice di Venezia
Director: David Alden

Part I

The Ace of Spades

This production is as cynical as it gets. By contrast, Hoare’s lyric Hermann appears in an unsually favourable light. Alden uses the weirdly cheerful prologue of children at play to establish that reality is frequently intruded upon by Hermann’s hallucinations. You know he’s getting unsettled whenever a rectangle in the back wall opens to show a musically and visually intrusive scene. Interestingly, the Countess and Liza first enter through that same rectangle.

Gardner’s conducting ephasised the contrasts to the point the sound verged on disjointed. It made sense, considering the route taken by the direction. As such, the Mozartness of certain parts (the ball in scene 1 of act II) was way obvious. Good thing, too, as the chorus that starts act II is strongly reminiscent of Idomeneo’s Nettuno s’onori. The masque presented at Yeletsky’s party, cheerfully out of place with the heartbreak of the romantic score, gives Alden the opportunity to get silly. I suppose the choreography centred on tossing stuffed animal heads in the air illustrates that Hermann is beyond upset with Liza’s engagement to Yeletsky. Happy endings where the girl goes for the poor but loving suitor (the masque’s plot) appear to him as utterly ludicrous.

Having not read the short story there is something crucial I never quite got. He unexpectedly learns that the woman he hopelessly loves actually returns his feelings. Why does he then suddenly make a sharp turn and starts getting more interested in The Countess’ secret? My only explaination is he thought that even though Liza loved him they couldn’t possibly marry considering he was poor. He needed a plan to get rich pronto. Or maybe it’s just the curse of many an opera libretto: sense, what sense? Or, you know, he’s gay. The woman you’ve been pining for is throwing herself at you and you’re like so how’s your grandmother, hon?

Liza: Hermann, take the key to my grandmother’s room. From there you can enter mine. I’ve decided to lose my virginity to you tomorrow night.
Hermann: tomorrow? I must get to the Countess’ room tonight!
Liza: tonight? Uh… ok, I guess I could lose my virginity sooner than planned because I really love you, although that’s a really big deal for a girl, especially before the 1960s, you know.
Hermann: yes, I must get the secret tonight!

Who said romance was dead? Still, good job Hoare for never coming off like a heartless dickhead. He brings out the addict’s tragedy in the last scene. Excellent performance.

Considering this opera is named after the mysterious old countess you’d think she has a lot to sing. She doesn’t. She usually lurks around as a thought in Hermann’s feverish mind. The scene where she reminisces about the past is the only one where she has centre stage. She appears a typical old woman: grumpy and lacking patience with the younger generation, who as ever, doesn’t measure up to the good old days. She sings a sentimental tune from her youth. The legend around her secret is most likely just that. Count de St. Germain – or someone like him – probably lent her the money she lost at cards. Or something equally as mundane. But Hermann of course imagines fabulous things were at play. He scares her to death and later on his guilty conscience coupled with his already obsessed mind brings her back as a hallucination where she tells him her supposed secret.

Felicity Palmer does a subtle job with the atmospheric moment when the Countess, now alone, sings a happy/sad version of Grétry’s Je crains de lui parler la nuit. It feels like a window into another world, creepy more by virtue of sounding so old fashioned and coming from an old woman. In spite of her age Palmer isn’t shrill. I like how she keeps it subtle throught to express the Countess’ almost otherwordly nature. There’s also an elegance to her singing that convinces us that she was once a high society beauty who could have made the notoriously elusive Count of St. Germain share a secret with her.

I like this moment a lot in the same way I like cover versions. Taking liberties with an existing piece digs out surprising new meanings when done successfully. Also Tchaikovsky’s playing with different styles is one my favourite things about this opera. We’ve got this, we have the Mozart pastiche, the traditional Russian songs, the Orthodox church music, the whiff of belcanto that runs through most of the 19th century Russian opera, the late Romantic influences. It takes a special talent to makes it all work.

Part II

Mezzosopranos – the bass players of the opera world

Mezzos are like blenders: you know you need one but you’re never too sure why.

Giuseppe Verdi*

Almost invariably a rock band includes a bass player but 9 times out of 10 his work is pushed back in the final mix. There are leading mezzo roles in the repertoire. But most are just there to provide the harmony to the soprano’s melody. Otherwise known as the trusty companion/best friend/old nurse/mother/auntie/other wise women. Sometimes – especially if they clean up nicely in a suit – they get drafted to sing the boy roles that tenors (and sometimes countertenors) can’t cope with. Other times they take one for the team/get lucky (depending on inclination) and play the town slut/evil woman. So spoiled for choice! The best kept secret: the mezzo role rarely meets an untimely death. While sopranos and tenors get felled left and right and baritones and basses have to live ever after with their evil deed-stained souls, the worldly mezzo digs her heels in and lives to tell the tale (as a wise old woman).

This production offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for a versatile mezzo to score a 3 in 1: from the cheerful and musically inclined best friend of act I to the lucky in love cheeky shepherd in the act II masque to the party animal of the gambling scene there’s nothing she can’t do. Except it’s the the soprano who gets all the applause. Or in the case of this opera, the tenor.

Young does it all quite valiantly, though I thought her acting as good friend Pauline was rather odd. Or maybe that was the personenregie, which here could be summed up as: no matter what you do, act OTT. The scene with Liza, Pauline and the other girls goes like this: Liza and Pauline sing a song about brooklets in the evening (a lied, eh?). Then Liza asks Pauline to sing one alone. She obliges and sings a proper Russian dirge about being unlucky in love, which she says is Liza’s favourite song. Forshadow city; the tune is later recalled in the countess’ song – oddly, in a happier manner. But after this they all sing the only cheerful Russian tune known to man (and woman)! What a treasure this opera is 😉

There is really nothing in this scene that calls for OTT-ness. It’s girls singing and some undertow but that can be done in an innocent manner. Maybe that’s it, this production doesn’t know innocence. I guess we need to allow for this being in English but the dirge’s specific flavour of Russian wistfulness didn’t come out as strongly as it could. Talking about OTT, whatever one thinks about feeling rotten, you need to raise it up a few notches if you’ve got a Russian character.

In conclusion: it’s a beautiful, sophisticated score, that makes typical Italian or German opera sound provincial. It’s got some wonderful tunes for the winds and all that was served very well by this performance. I wasn’t all that taken by Allen’s tone though I can’t say she didn’t do her job. The singers in the smaller roles were fine enough. I’d have liked less cynicism (!) but the production did make sense after all.

* it appears the quote is apocryphal… 😉

Tito and Akhnaten sitting in a tree

  • We often hear singers talk about their roles, but most of us aren’t aware of what accompanying instrumentalists think. Today I found this snippet in which Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill talks about that amazing gorgeous sexy beautiful moment in Tito known to us as Parto:

  • In other news, let me remind you that tickets for ENO’s Akhnaten have gone on general sale yesterday. As usual I got enthusiastic and decided to go for two Secret Seats (4 and 8 March). I’m almost as curious about what seats I get as about the production! I also have a feeling thadieu can’t wait to book her seat for La forza del destino 😉

Yes! ENO re-stages Akhnaten in 2016

😀 😀 😀 YES! Score! Rock on ENO etc. I’m very curious what they will do with it because I have my own staging ideas. Here’s an opera ripe for arcane symbolism. I hope it’s wildly out there, by which I mean nothing like this.

19/05/15 edit: general sale starts on 27/05/15.

ROH knows what you’re after

ROH: Dear dehggi, our oracle has predicted you will like our Mini Package B: Amphitheatre (10% discount).
dehggi: Blimey ROH, that’s exactly what I was going to book this Spring, unique snowflake that I am! Your oracle rocks.

ROH also knows its public likes Cuban music to go with all that Verdi and Puccini and booked the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club for one hot (July) date only. Speaking of hot, my favourite BVSC tune.

ENO, on the other hand, is running The Queen of Spades in June/July. Pikovaya dama in English 😀 I guess three cards! sounds about right.

Good times at the opera in 2014

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2014 turned out to be a fun, busy year. I hit most eras, from Monteverdi to Adams, lieder and Masterclasses, the Proms, two festivals and a good number of local venues, many of them for the first time. I ended up changing my mind about ROH’s starry cast Ballo but apparently it wasn’t such a bad decision on my part. Skipping L’elisir because I didn’t like Grigolo was the worse idea, judging by the rather fun broadcast. Oops.

February

Theodora | Barbican – concert performance – live Handel at last.
Don Giovanni | ROH – rather controversial production at the time but Veronique Gens was lovely to listen to.

March

Brigitte Fassbaender | Wigmore Hall/Masterclass – lieder singing introduction from one of the lieder legends.
La fille du regiment | ROH – old, still fun. I like Ciofi a lot. Ewa Podles and Dame Kiri were cameo-ing as well.
Die Frau ohne Schatten | ROH – what a monster: staggering noise level, tremendous music and Guth’s production really appealed to me.

April

Ann Hallenberg | Wigmore Hall/Farinelli recital – the woman owns this repertoire.
La traviata | ROH – Damrau’s fault.

May

Le nozze di Figaro | ROH – this one was Boni’s fault but I’m glad I heard Gerald Finley as well.

June

Der Rosenkavalier | Glyndebourne – like with Le nozze, nobody needs an excuse to go. Plus the very funny Erraught.
Dorothea Roschmann | Wigmore Hall/lieder recital – what a goddess!

July

Anne Sofie von Otter | Wigmore Hall/song recital – semi-legendary lyric mezzo = yes, please.
Ariadne auf Naxos | ROH – dude, Ariadne. Matilla and Donose were very good.
Maria Stuarda | ROH – this one has grown on me enormously since then. It’s silly, it’s fun. JDD and Giannatassio sparing ftw.
JPYP | ROH youth – should we hope for the future? We should.

August

Coronation of Poppea | Grimeborn Festival – who knew Poppea in English would be so much fun? Clever staging as well.
Salome | Proms concert performance – Strauss, Nina Stemme and Rattle for £5.

September

Anna Nicole | ROH – colourful! And sometimes they even sang 😉
Griselda | Cadogan Hall – concert performance – Griselda is up there with the best of Baroque opera.
Franco Fagioli | Wigmore Hall/Porpora recital – you should hear Franco live if you enjoy the Baroque repertoire.
Xerxes | ENO – in English, of course; that old production everyone knows; Alice Coote acting like a brat. All around winner.

October

L’incoronazione di Poppea | Barbican – concert performance – no self respecting lyric mezzo lover misses Sarah Connolly in a fun Baroque role.
Alcina (part I and part II) | Barbican – concert performance – 3 mezzos in Alcina! Mind = blown.
Il mondo della luna | Hackney Empire – hilarious ETO production.
Ottone | Hackney Empire – excellently performed Handel.
I due Foscari | ROH – Domingo, nuff said.
Lawrence Zazzo | RCM/Masterclass – Zazzo is one funny chap.

November

Idomeneo 3 November and 24 November | ROH – controversy! Mozart opera seria!
Judas Maccabaeus – Handel oratorios need no recommendation. I think one can just press the book ticket button.
La mort de Cléopâtre and other French sh…tuff | Bozar, Brussels – Cléopâtre, VK and an outing abroad = just what the mood doctor ordered for mid November.
La clemenza di Tito | St. John’s at Waterloo/Midsummer Opera – I scoured the internet hoping when I realised I’d missed the concert performance at Cadogan Hall earlier in the year. You know I loved it.
The Gospel according to the other Mary | ENO – a lot more engrossing than I thought.

December

Messiah | Wigmore Hall – cosy, lovely performance.

I’ll be very happy if 2015 will be just as much fun 🙂