Capriccio (concert version) - Royal Opera House, 19 July 1013
The star of this low-key end to Covent Garden's up-and-down season had to be Renee Fleming's frock. The silvery sequinned Vivienne Westwood couture gown, not unlike the one she sported for her 2011 Met run, shimmered enticingly against the mens' drab concert garb.
No interval meant no time for a frock swap. Instead Renee slipped out for a minute. Off came the trademark mosquito net shawl, up went the hair, and on went a voluminous gold brocade coat. New jewels too - this diva knows exactly what her public expects. Beige patent platforms were the only faux pas.
Judging by the applause, nobody seemed to mind she had a bit of an off-night vocally. The first half hour's cluckings and cooings might be kindly described as 'warming up'. She continued to struggle off and on - it was clearly just 'one of those nights', and probably not helped by either the testing heat or Dame Viv's legendary corseting.
Help was at hand. Christian Gerhaher, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner and Andrew Staples provided lyrical singing, Peter Rose and Bo Skovhus some expressive acting, and 'Italian singers' Barry Banks and Mary Plazas the vital comic relief.
Andrew Davis gave a cultivated if unadventurous account of Strauss's least flamboyant score, humanised by the odd orchestral blooper. It was not enough to prevent a surprising number of mid-show departures - were people truly bored, or was the interval-free two and half hours simply too much of a strain on the bladder?
And here's what the curtain call looked like - with thanks to Kyoko:
*UPDATE* Adding an 'official' photo to show how The Gown was worn in the first half: