Verdi's Requiem - Royal Opera House, 13 March 2009
Antonio Pappano followed Verdi's opening instruction for his Requiem - il più piano possible - to the letter. The hushed voices of the chorus hovered barely audible above the muted strings. I held my breath. It was the only time in 90 straight minutes I needed to. From where I sat near the front of the stalls, the ear-bludgeoning loudness of what followed masked everything, including what appeared to be a full-blown conversation between the elderly couple in front of me.
I suppose too much noise is better than not enough, but the range of dynamic nuance between f and fff permitted little subtlety. Marked only by a slight shift in volume, the Dies Irae lost its terror. Each time Sir Colin Davis launched into it with the LSO a few weeks ago, I nearly leapt out of my seat. Here I simply shrunk back a little further. The acoustic reflecting panels boxed around the orchestra on stage may have been rather more effective than the ROH realised.
For a reading leaning firmly to the secular, theatrical side, there were surprisingly few dramatic moments, though the trumpets blaring from the side boxes on high in the Tuba Mirum certainly grabbed the attention.
But that said, it was accurately played, perfectly co-ordinated, and there were plenty of compensations in the singing.
Micaela Carosi, a late sub for Barbara Frittoli, looked understandably tentative. A few wobbles at the top aside, she sang confidently and firmly, though I couldn't find her any more engaging than I did in last year's Tosca.
It was almost enough that serial canceller Olga Borodina actually turned up for a change. Her voice was lush and firm, her manner coolly imposing. Worth the wait.
The otherwise reliable Piotr Beczala cracked on the opening note of the Hostias. (Quick, cue the career death announcement!) The most impressive solo singing came from the Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov in his ROH debut, solid and dignified, but the immaculately prepared Royal Opera House chorus took home the vocal honours.
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