Simon Keenlyside / Angelika Kirchschlager / Marc Minkowski / Les Musiciens du Louvre - Barbican, 3 November 2008
Johann Strauß IIÄgyptischer Marsch
Franz von Suppé (BOCCACCIO): Hab’ ich nur deine Liebe; Mia bella fiorentina (Florenz hat schöne Frauen)
Franz Lehár (EVA): Zwanzinette
Emmerich Kalman (DAS VEILCHEN VON MONTMARTRE): Heut' nacht hab' ich geträumt von Dir
Johann Strauß II (DIE TÄNZERIN FANNY ELSSLER): Draußen in Sievering blüht schon der Flieder
Franz Lehár: Gold und Silber
Franz Lehár (GIUDITTA): Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiß
Emmerich Kálmán (DIE ZIRKUSPRINZESSIN): Wieder hinaus ins strahlende Licht
Johann Strauß II (Die Fledermaus): Ouverture
Franz Lehár (ZIGEUNERLIEBE): Nur die Liebe macht uns jung
Emmerich Kálmán (DIE CSARDASFÜRSTIN): Weißt du es noch
Viennese operetta is like the morris dancing of Austria - deeply ingrained in the cultural heritage, ineffably inexplicable and best enjoyed at source. For Angelika Kirchschlager the attraction is obvious but what Simon Keenlyside's doing is anybody's guess (clues here). It sounds like mating music for teddy bears. Still, it has plenty of fans, and they were out in full gushing force at the Barbican.
La Kirchschlager accomodated herself to the medium successfully. This kind of thing plays to her assets - the charm, the warmth, the almost conversational way with words - without drawing too much attention to her - oops - threadbare lower register. She looked yummy in the same purple satin frock she'd worn at the Proms and cavorted girlishly around the first violins, sounding pearlescently perfect up top.
Simon Keenlyside on the other hand was like a Ferrari in a 30mph zone. He was clearly having a great deal of fun with the physical side of the performance - not least when he got a message from a bottle as his beery prop suddenly spurted forth. He couldn't wait to obliterate the unwanted froth (I'd had enough of it by then, too), crouching down and mopping up with his hanky as he sang.
But Simon's qualities rest in elegance and nobility, and too much of the material was the opposite. Not to mention shoved down from higher keys - to its detriment. The worst culprit was his encore, Lehár's Dein ist mein ganzes Herz - it just cries out for a big, ringing tenor.
The sweetly bonkers Marc Minkowski and his mostly French band sounded out of place too, lumpish and coarse where they should have been crisp as Strudel and unctuous as Schlagobers. There's only one way to play this music, and it's the way handed down by unbroken performance tradition in Vienna.
It is only fair to say that I was very much the mouse pewp in the chocolate box- every number was rapturously received by the vast majority of the audience. I just hope it's a diversion for Simon Keenlyside, not a new career direction .