Prom 61: Hänsel and Gretel - LPO / Robin Ticciati - Royal Albert Hall, 31 August 2010
Glyndebourne's annual excursion to South Ken gets more elaborate each year. Only the attenuated but ingeniously rethought sets (the highlight - an Albert Hall-shaped gingerbread house) separated this semi-staging from a full performance. We even got a bonus on-trend immersive experience as the Father (William Dazely) made his entrance through the promming throng in the arena, dumping his carrier bags with a percussionist before clambering on to the raised stage behind the orchestra.
After several outings at Glyndebourne itself this summer, music and action were well-oiled and confident. Robin Ticciati's conducting was so assured he didn't even need a score, and he never let the work drag as it sometimes can. His thoughtful attention to balance and colour highlighted even the smallest detail. There was little shade behind the relentless sunshine though, and he might have served the drama better by varying his nippy pacing and steady dynamic more boldly and more often.
overture (sound only):
Some thought a concert performance might have been preferable. I'm not certain that the cast would have stood up to that degree of aural scrutiny. Only Alice Coote (Hänsel) and Irmgard Vilsmaier (Mother) offered consistently solid vocals. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke's alarming and committed drag act deservedly earned him all the right sort of boos for his Witch, but his singing was about as attractive as the sagging flesh of his fat suit. And though I suspect Lydia Teuscher sang Gretel well, I simply couldn't hear her lower register in the dreadful Albert Hall acoustic.
Some of the original production's anti-consumerist message inevitably evaporated in the transition to a smaller scale. But the grotesquely obese children who waddled on for the final chorus provided an all too recognisable bitter pill to end the sugar-coated evening.