Looking back at the notes I made after The Minotaur's first outing in 2008, little in this first revival challenges my initial impressions. The principal cast and staging remain virtually identical, with a new conductor the only significant change. After a bout of tendinitis forced Pappano out, Ryan Wigglesworth has taken over baton duties with a light touch and a flair for clarity.
This time round it is even more apparent what a generous gift of a role the man-beast is for Sir John Tomlinson. Celebrating his 35th year at Covent Garden, an event marked with on-stage cake and speeches after the show, he remains a peerless dramatic force and the benchmark of clear diction. The increasingly stentorian quality of Tomlinson's voice, criticised in some quarters, is positively celebrated in the lowing lines Birtwistle has created for him. It is impossible to imagine another singer making so much of the role. Birtwistle's ability to find exactly the right texture for each note is also apparent in his sparing and precise instrumental writing.
The brutal economy of Stephen Langridge's well-rehearsed production (enhanced by a revised lighting scheme, I wonder?) once again echoes perfectly the savagery of Birtwistle's score.
curtain call photos (below) - intermezzo.typepad.com