Jonas Kaufmann wasn't ill; Anja Harteros turned up. Given that she'd marked half her lines at the general rehearsal earlier in the week (every singer's prerogative of course, but rare here) I had wondered. If success is defined as exceeding expectations, then the opening night of this third revival was a winner even before a note was sung.
Antonio Pappano had a fierce word or three for singers who pull out of productions at today's Royal Opera House press conference. Reuters reports:
"It happens a lot," he told reporters, referring to cancellations. "It
happens more and more. There's something about this generation of singers, that
they are weaker in their bodies or don't care.
"I don't know what it is, but it's something that is very very frustrating
for me personally."
Asked afterwards to expand on his remarks, he explained it was partly a
health issue, with common colds tending to last longer than, say, 10 years
"You can imagine singers. That's a real problem. And there's so much
travelling involved now with good singing. I think that people are overbooked,
they're over-committed, too many new things, the stress on them and the amount
"I mean (for Spanish tenor Placido) Domingo to cancel, (he) would have to be
on his death bed. It's just a different generation.
"It's taken much more lightly today, the idea of contract, the idea of a
commitment. It's true."
He called on opera stars to take longer rest periods between roles to cut
down on the risk of illness and exhaustion.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) today awarded its 2012 Distinguished Musician award to Sir Antonio Pappano in recognition of his outstanding contribution to musical life in the UK. He joins a roster of some of the greatest names in music - previous
recipients have included Dame Janet Baker, Pierre Boulez,
Jacqueline du Pre, Sir William Walton, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis and Sir Peter
Suzi Digby OBE, President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said: ‘In offering Sir Antonio Pappano its Distinguished Musician Award for 2012, the ISM is acknowledging the immense contribution he has made and continues to make to the UK’s musical life.”
In the ISM's press release Sir Tony said:
“When I perused the list of previous ISM Award recipients I gulped! To be included in such an illustrious pantheon is an honour. The Society does crucial work to keep classical music alive, well and relevant in this country, especially for young people, so I am very proud indeed to be associated with it” - sentiments he reiterated when he was presented with the treble clef-shaped award earlier this evening at the Royal Opera House.
He did have one question though: "Is there a bass-shaped one for bad musicians as well?"
The Royal Opera House report the maestro is suffering from "acute tendonitis in his right elbow" - aka tennis elbow - following a string of heavy-duty engagements including Otello, Les Troyens, several concerts with his Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and of course The Ring. This means he has to pull out of the ROH revival of The Minotaur in the new year, to be replaced by Ryan Wigglesworth.
Die Walküre - Royal Opera House, 26 September 2012
Is unintentional humour the most authentic element of any
modern Ring production? After all, 19th century Bayreuth audiences split their corsets
guffawing at the sadly literal ‘special effects’ sanctioned by Wagner himself. Brünnhilde’s entrance in Wednesday’s
Die Walküre continued the tradition.
Das Rheingold - Royal Opera House, 24 September 2012
What a way to open the season. The Covent Garden Ring is back, reworked and repolished
by its original director. Five years after its last showing, Keith Warner has
scaled down some of the clutter and arcane symbolism in favour of a more
character-driven approach. There are still suitcases that won’t open, ropes
that won’t untie, tittersomely inept transformations and a resolutely-ignored dead
giant on the patio. But the fumbles are fewer, and less distracting in the face
of uniformly superb acting (and slightly less uniform singing).
The gentlemen of the Royal Opera House orchestra made the earth move for me more times than I can remember this week. I couldn't see much from my stage-side seat. But I could certainly feel the massive opening drum roll thundering out beneath me, rattling my innards with its seismic power. Good job I hadn't eaten first.
Les Troyens - Royal Opera House, 25 June 2012 (first night)
Covent Garden’s new production of this difficult opera falls short of an unblemished triumph, with a tendency to emphasise the work’s inherent weaknesses. But some high-quality singing and a couple of stunning coups de théâtre did much to compensate for a shortage of musical and visual coherence rooted in the score itself.
Król Roger, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Guillaume Tell, Manon Lescaut, Andrea Chénier and Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci are a few of the operas we can expect to see at Covent Garden in future seasons.
The impeccable source? Sir Antonio Pappano, who clearly surprised interviewer Tom Service on Radio 3 by answering the standard upcoming productions question with actual names. You can listen to the full interview, which includes a tirade against 'petulant' singers who don't turn up, on the iPlayer.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Royal Opera House, 19 December 2011 (first night)
The scene above is the most imaginative one in a production that otherwise sticks doggedly to the letter of the text. As midsummer madness or Wahn grips the Nuremburgers at the end of Act II, the featureless walls are suddenly pocked with openings. Bodies froth out from high, low, and even above the stage. The boundaries are breached; the city can no longer contain the human activity within. It's subtler than it looks.
Il trittico - Royal Opera House, 14 September 2011
How do you handle a death in the family? Try to blot it out in sex without love (Giorgetta in Il tabarro)? Seek solace in religion without faith (Suor Angelica)? Or do you just treat it as a business opportunity, money without scruples (Gianni Schicchi)?
And just look who's saving the ROH a few quid. While CEO Tony Hall continues to extract over £390,000 a year for a job that leaves him enough time to chair an Olympics committee and float around the House of Lords, Tony Pappano has taken a pay cut.