The Flying Dutchman - English National Opera, 28 April 2012 (first night)
It seems Jonathan Kent has been watching a few classic German opera DVDs. His new The Flying Dutchman (yes, it's sung in English) for ENO bravely departs from straightforward story telling -but only to recycle some of the weariest cliches in Wagner Oper. Slick West End-worthy production values and a few satisfying musical aspects do not entirely compensate.
Dmitri Tcherniakov’s reputation for radical and thought-provoking productions is solidified by his new Simon Boccanegra for ENO. Unfortunately his ideas are so drably clothed and opaquely executed that the experience is a testing one.
Linking the rise of the Nazis to the Faust tale isn't new - Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus got there a long time ago. But Terry Gilliam's exploration of the seductive power of the dark side is so assured and so brilliantly integrated with Berlioz's music that it's hard to believe this is the first time he's directed an opera - not to mention that he claims to be no great opera fan anyway.
Tosca - English National Opera, 18 May 2010 (first night)
I haven’t always been Ed Gardner’s biggest fan in the past, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not Puccini's either, but his breathtakingly superb conducting has got to be the main reason to catch this new Tosca. 'Revelatory' is a word that's often tossed lazily around, but here it's perfectly justified. This is a Tosca I could listen to over and over again.
Duke Bluebeard’s Castle / The Rite of Spring - ENO, 6 November 2009
Opera and ballet don’t necessarily go as well together in practice as they do in theory - witness Covent Garden’s recent Acis/Dido double bill and Opera Holland Park’s Iolanta. The most compelling argument for the Bluebeard/Rite pairing is the logistical one – you might as well use the massive orchestra Bluebeard demands for something else as well. Perhaps ENO hoped too for some cross-fertilisation of opera and dance audiences. But it’s a brief evening, and I can’t think many would be happy to pay £90 for less than an hour of opera, still less for the half hour of dance which follows. Another special discount must be on its way.
Daniel Kramer’s very graphic Bluebeard won’t please purists, but it’s riveting theatre. The reason for Clive Bayley’s quaint Austrian hunting jacket soon becomes obvious – Bluebeard is a Fritzl-like figure with a Sound of Music fixation and a secret family in the basement. His ultimate kick is to dress up as Captain von Trapp while doing something extremely nasty with a sword to his spreadeagled Julie Andrews, Judith. The grubby slasher movie set is atmospheric if not quite the castle of the soul Bartok had in mind, and its boxy shape helps the voices project over the enlarged orchestra. The dramatic pacing is fantastic – Kramer lets little clues slip here and there, but the ending is still a colossal, queasy shock.
The main drawback is the price of rounding out the enigmatic Bluebeard. In a traditional production Bluebeard’s cryptic personality is open to interpretation. A monster, a myth or simply a man? But here, as his desires and needs gain concrete form, Judith’s attraction to him becomes less and less credible. Put simply, you wonder what she’s doing there with this twitching maniacal psychopath. But it’s a brilliantly-executed alternative to the usual inevitably static alternative if you don’t think too hard. Clive Bayley’s rough around the edges voice suits the speech-like lines and he works hard to keep the demented villainy on the right side of panto. Michaela Martens is a more full-bodied mezzo than usually heard, lending her interpretation a knowing quality that doesn’t sit credibly with the easily duped young bride. But both sang clearly, accurately and loudly – basic requirements that the Coliseum doesn’t always meet.
I was less convinced by Ed Gardner’s conducting. Not on a technical level – the orchestra played excellently. But it didn’t deliver dramatically, something a less breathless production might have exposed. Gardner’s young, and he’s tackling many of the works he conducts at ENO for the first time. A conductor needs to spend time with the score as well as with the orchestra. Is he simply taking on more than he can handle?
His Rite of Spring was more accomplished – the key corners at least sounded thought-out. A pity Fabulous Beast’s dance element was so risible. If a weary parade of bog-trotter clichés didn’t diminish the timeless power of Stravinsky’s score enough, there were twenty todgers jiggling in the breeze to contend with as the male dancers disrobed en masse. To give the much-derided Calixto Bieito his due, he understands the effect of mass male nudity on stage is purely and always comedic - he could teach choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan a lesson. And I was left baffled by the ending, where the Chosen One (female) is surrounded by men in frocks. Men should take women's place? A nice bit of misogyny to go home with.
Sure, the glossy Chinese gastropalace and its population of post-modern archetypes look good in pics. That's because the designs are imaginative and meticulously executed. Even if we’ve seen some of the ideas before – the last act’s tiled kitchen from Goold’s Macbeth, the animal masks and typeface projections from his Enron, to name a couple – they’re still original enough to constitute an aesthetic rather than a shortage of ideas.
The problem is they're nothing more than an artsy backdrop to some decidedly old-fashioned stand and deliver action. Goold is used to working with the likes of Michael Gambon and Patrick Stewart. Here he’s saddled with a genre of performers for whom acting skills are a helpful bonus, not than a job requirement. That’s not to say that this cast are bad actors, just that they’re typical singers, and they need more direction than they’ve received here to bring out their best. The principals are left pretty much to their own devices. Amanda Echalaz as Liù reprised the memorable drug-addled victim of her OHP Un ballo in maschera. Kirsten Blanck (Turandot) has clearly seen a few Siouxsie videos. Gwyn Hughes Jones (Calaf) just wanders round in his cheap mac like a lost tourist.
The individually-costumed and fussily-blocked chorus and the superfluous dancers are more of a distraction than a compensation. Perhaps he’s trying to say that even people who consider themselves individuals can become complicit in a murderous regime. Whatever. That’s a side dish – it’s not what Turandot is about. When it comes to telling the real story, what Goold serves up is a concert performance in cool frocks.
The only character Goold shows much interest in is one he's grafted on. 'The Writer' - presumably a reflection of Puccini - is an irritating silent witness and occasional participant. He scribbles away in a book until bloodily despatched at Turandot's command towards the end - not uncoincidentally, at the point Puccini stopped writing. His book is picked up by a pig-headed dancer who writes the last few pages. You couldn't offer a clearer opinion of Alfano’s completion than that, but did we really have to suffer the previous hour and half to get there? To most operagoers, whether they like Turandot or not, Puccini's failure to complete it is simply a footnote, but Goold's staging elevates it to the raison d'etre of the entire production.
Relief came only from a handful of sterling vocal performances in the central roles, chief among them Amanda Echalaz’s thrilling Liù. Gwyn Hughes Jones offered a blank slate of a Calaf, unconvincing in his passion for the ice princess. At least he sang with some ardour and assurance. A more detailed portrayal would make him truly terrific in this part. Kirsten Blanck’s Turandot was heroically powerful, served up in a stern Marlene Dietrich accent with gale force top notes. Benedict Nelson’s Ping was the standout amongst the rest.
Edward Gardner hammered the score into submission as if he was repaying a grudge. It was a loud and dirty fight.
Prom 33: London Sinfonietta / Edward Gardner - Royal Albert Hall, 9 August 2009
Antheil Ballet mécanique John Adams Grand Pianola Music Bartók Sonata for two pianos and percussion Stravinsky Les noces
At least the second Prom of ‘Multiple Pianos’ day, unlike the first, stretched to four pianos for a couple of the works on offer. The impact of Antheil’s now-quaint Ballet mécanique was neutered by performing it in the less jazzy and less relentless 1953 update and confining the more outrageous sound effects (aeroplane propellors are specified) to laptop recordings. And couldn’t Edward Gardner have whipped up a bit more volume? Some early 20th century works still have the power to provoke, but this just came across as machine-age kitsch.
The four pianos were fully staffed again for an acoustically-unbalanced Les noces. Tatiana Monogarova and Elena Manistina managed to sing through the robust orchestration, but Vsevolod Grivnov and Kostas Smoriginas were buried beneath – a shame as their exposed solos were ardently and beautifully delivered. The refined voices of the BBC Singers, stranded way behind, floated over the visceral music more like a commentary than a part of the ecstatic communal celebration. It probably came across better on the radio.
In between came the spare textures of Bartók’s Sonata for two pianos and percussion, disappointingly stranded in the cavernous acoustic, and John Adams’s Grand Pianola Music. Like most of Adams’s non-opera music, there seems to be something missing – a cushion of words, or a movie it could soundtrack. Although this one was, according to the composer’s own programme note, booed for its radicalism on its 1982 premiere, it sounds to me like the sort of thing Sting might write on a day off. Adams serves up the superficial characteristics of Reich-style minimalism – the harmonic repetitions, the rippling arpeggiation - without the formal intelligence. The syrup-bathed first section demonstrates how readily the simple becomes banal if it’s fussed-over. The ironically recycled themes of the livelier second part, a sort of stoner Ride of the Valkyries, owe most of their appeal to subliminal recognition.
It was easily the best-performed (and received) work of the evening, but then the Royal Albert Hall acoustic finds it harder to defeat a full orchestra. Another reason to hate the 80s.
These are perhaps not the recipients the professional critics would have chosen (Partenope's reviews were mixed to say the least). But with half their judging panel made up of enthusiastic theatre and opera-goers, the Oliviers reflect public taste better than most.
La Clemenza di Tito - OAE/Gardner - Barbican, 26 July 2008
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment immediately sounded a lot better on this outing than they do at their native South Bank, confirming my suspicion that however questionable the Barbican acoustics might be, the Royal Festival Hall's are (despite the refurb) still worse.
As for the rest of the evening, this concert performance knocked the spots off David McVicar's recent ninja yawnathon for ENO (in which conductor Ed Gardner and Alice Coote also featured).
The OAE were immaculately prepared - perhaps a repeat performance this weekend at the Lincoln Center , marking Gardner's New York debut, justified a little extra rehearsal time. They were on thrilling form, playing as if their lives depended on it.
Even though the daily ENO grind is turning Gardner prematurely grey, his floppy-fringed cuteness endures. If only that was enough to move orchestras. I've found his ENO efforts patchy - too often pallid and uninspired - but he surprised me tonight, working up a sweat on the podium and a fire on the stage.
Tito seems to have built up a chorus of apologists recently, all ready to proclaim that it's unjustifiably sidelined, one of Mozart's finest, etc. But it's not. Unlike Die Zauberflöte, so eminently resistant to even the most cack-handed of treatments, when Tito's given a second-rate performance, it sounds like a second-rate opera. This is the first time I've heard it dispatched with the sort of passion and commitment that do it justice.
Of course the soloists played a huge part in this, none more so than Alice Coote, who gave so much more than just singing. In the central role of Sesto, agonisingly torn between self-destructive love for the selfish, ambitious Vitellia and loyalty to the Emperor Tito, she inhabited her part fearlessly and totally. This was a concert performance, but nothing except the music stand gave a hint that this was anything less than Coote would deliver on the opera house stage. She looked utterly spent as she sank back into her plastic chair at the end of each aria.
Toby Spence as Tito was dressed for St Moritz in January with his white polo neck and thick velvet jacket. But this was London in July, with British (i.e. rubbish) aircon. When he whipped the jacket off and sat astride his chair (to the apparent surprise of the other performers) as he started to interrogate Coote aria-style, I wondered if it was a spot of heat exhaustion. But no - dramatic licence (and very effective) - he put it straight back on again afterwards.
There was a range to his performance that suggested experiment as much as expressive breadth. Not all of it came off - in particular I felt he stressed Tito's benevolence at the expense of his authority - but it was clear he has an ever-growing range of vocal tools, not to mention the ability to keep an audience on the edge of their seats.
Next to the white-hot intensity of these two, Hillevi Martinpelto's studied and refined portrayal of Vitellia inevitably paled a little. Vitellia's mean streak needed a harder edge. But she sang beautifully, every note appropriately shaded, the voice still lustrous and almost girlish. It was 'Mozart singing' in the classic sense, and a pleasure to listen too.
Sarah Tynan was wonderfully cast as the sweet Servilia, the plaintive innocent, and Fiona Murphy too as the doughty Annio.
Matthew Rose's Publio seemed rather lugubrious in comparison to the spirited performances elsewhere, but there's something of that in the character anyway, and his sonorous bass was impressively mobile in the faster passages.
The Clare College Cambridge Choir were enthusiastic and crisply drilled - a textbook rendition, if not an especially sensitive one, to nitpick.
This concert was announced relatively late, and the Proms always provide stiff competition at this time of year. Even so, it surprised me, given the casting, that it was far from sold out - the whole balcony closed, and empty seats here and there elsewhere. The Barbican sometimes offers up some rather dodgy programming in its annual summer Mozart festival, but this was an overwhelming exception.
Here's one she made earlier: Hillevi Martinpelto sings Deh seh piacer mi vuoi for Charles Mackerras:
The Rake's Progress - Opéra Garnier, Paris, 5 March 2008
I have no idea whether Parsifal director Krysztof Warlikowski and Rake's Progress director Oliver Py had a quiet chat at some point, but there were an interesting couple of coincidences in their productions.
Firstly and critically, the underpants issue. Christopher Ventris only dropped his trousers once in Parsifal, but Toby Spence could barely keep his on here. Again, what was revealed were sensible M&S whities, of the type the Parisian imagination can readily accomodate to all English tenors. And it wasn't gratuitous either - without the benefit of curtains here, Spence's numerous onstage trouser swaps provided a neat transition between scenes.
Py, like Warlikowski, also invented a child, absent from the libretto. In the year and a day of Tom Rakewell's 'progress' there was a rupture of the time/space continuum that in England would bring Daleks flying from the ceiling. Instead here it allowed Anne Trulove to spawn a six year old child in the space of little over twelve months. This enabled an heartwarming ending around the family table, a curious echo of the similarly engineered finale to Warlikowski's Parsifal.
But Py's main theme was rather more basic. In the ingeniously adaptable scaffold-like set, the one constant was the frequently-used bed, home to a succession of cavortings, and eventually to Rakewell's final insanity.
Py really milked every possibility of the second act brothel scene. The chorus, wigged and suspendered like Crazy Horse dancers, were supplemented with an array of top shelf flesh. Unlike the Royal Opera House, which issues nipple alerts at the faintest whiff of nudity, there was no warning at all the Paris Opera programme information. The two Japanese children I saw going in with their parents seemed to have disappeared by the interval, so who knows what happened there.
And just for good measure, he introduced an acrobat, a pair of strongmen and a painted dwarf to illustrate the cornucopia of London life. Just like Covent Garden on a Saturday afternoon, minus the human statue.
An unfortunate consequence of the staging was that the singers were often performing from high on the scaffolding, far back on the stage. The acoustic made it difficult to hear even strong singers like Toby Spence from this perspective, although all were clear from stage level.
It was a shame, because there were no weak performances here, starting with Laura Claycomb's cool and crystalline Anne Trulove. Laurent Naouri was a dark and powerful Nick Shadow, perhaps more camp than truly menacing, but then that was the tone of the production. And his English diction (he's French) was absolutely flawless. As Baba the Turk, Jane Henschel opened all the stops and let rip with a fearless and hysterically funny portrayal that made full use of every colour in her voice.
With an efficient, if rather pallid, performance in the pit from Edward Gardner, ill-matched to Py's high-octane farce, it was Toby Spence's Tom Rakewell who really held the performance together. He negotiated every step, from farce to pathos, with honesty and commitment. In the past I've sometimes felt he's allowed his natural vocal gifts to compensate for less than total preparation and application, but this role fits a singer of his versatility like a glove and every moment was truthful. Py's splashy stage-cramming theatrics lent spectacle to the production, but Spence cracked its brittle chill and gave it a heart.
This Aida's pre-production buzz focussed on the costume and set designs of Zandra Rhodes (right - check out her fab perspex strippah platforms).
And they didn't disappoint. As if April's Houston staging wasn't bright enough, the psychedelic butterfly colours of the updated ENO version scream even louder. Design elements are unified by the bold overlay of Zandra's trademark hieroglyphics, which provide a neat and natural complement to the ancient Egyptian theme.
The constraints of the typical ENO microbudget are not at all obvious in the sumptuous-looking costumes, cheaply but effectively based on lavish quantities of economical sari fabrics, and accessorised with bucketloads of body paint. (More pics and comments below).
The sets though do suffer from a cheap flatpack look which even splash-bright paint can't quite conceal. The curiously amateurish lighting tended to expose this, while failing to illuminate the singers adequately at key moments. This wasn't so obvious from the stalls, but people in the balcony were complaining afterwards about how dim and dingy a lot of scenes appeared.
Director Jo Davies claimed to have focussed her attention on the intimate episodes of the work, but these were stiffly presented, anonymous, devoid of the psychological or political insight which is just begging to be exploited in Aida. It was the big crowd scenes, especially the central triumphal march (expertly choreographed and complete with sail-eared sari fabric elephant) which really impressed.
If only Edward Gardner's conducting had been as colourful as Zandra's costumes. Despite rattling along at a fair clip it was a largely workmanlike performance, with few moments of either exuberance or sensitivity. Again, the bigger numbers worked well, but a few more reflective moments would have been welcome.
At first it looked as if the singing would be a major disappointment. Initially Claire Rutter (Aida), Jane Dutton (Amneris) and John Hudson (Radamès) simply disappeared beneath the orchestra. Rutter and Dutton had worked up some volume by the third act, but it was a problem Hudson, despite his neatly-placed notes, never quite overcame. It was thrown into sharp relief by the Coliseum-filling voice of Andrew Rees as Messenger, attractively bright, ringing and open.
Brindley Sherratt as Ramfis and Gwynne Howell as the King had an appropriately sonorous dignity, though, in this production, rather a backseat role. Iain Paterson as Amonasro impressed most, a commanding voice and dramatic presence. And not to forget the ENO Chorus, who were effortlessly superb throughout with a driving energy and commitment, not to mention clear diction. These performances were the real highlights of a production which for all its design accomplishments didn't have much else to linger in the memory.
Some curtain call pics:
Below - Claire Rutter (Aida) in her black and gold final act costume. The arm bracelets are painted on. Before she was revealed as a king's daughter, she wore a simpler beige and orange dress.
Below - Brindley Sherratt (Ramfis) and Gwynne Howell (King). Ramfis wears a crinolined skirt of gold pleated lame and a bald cap painted with bold blue stripes. His 'leopard' wrap is made of painted leather. The other priests wore the same skirt, but went bare chested. The turquoise and gold colour scheme was used for the whole court. The King wears golden bracelets, but most of the cast had their jewellery painted on.
Below - Ethiopians. These costumes were inspired by African tribal wear. The other costumes are based on Egyptian funerary paintings. Behind the Ethiopians are the priestesses in their turquoise and gold, each costume subtly different.
Below - Ramfis, Amneris, Aida, Radamès and Amonasro. Amneris wore a towering dreadlock wig to indicate her rank. Both Amneris and Radamès sport huge mirrored pendants (by Andrew Logan) which sparkled and caught the light. Poor Radamès suffers a mad sk8er goatee for that authentic whatevah-BC look.
La Clemenza di Tito (dress rehearsal) - ENO, 5 June 2007
Photo: Laurie Lewis
I didn't catch this much-hyped production when it debuted a couple of years ago. But I came away today feeling I hadn't missed much.
Not at all the fault of the singers - although it was only a dress rehearsal, there was little to criticise here. Alice Coote's impassioned Sesto was a highlight despite the fact that she was recovering from a cold. The part of Vitellia demands a broad tessitura, and poor Emma Bell was forced to growl the deepest notes in an otherwise thrilling and lucid performance. Paul Nilon brought a human side to the rather baldly drawn role of Tito, though he didn't have that truly imperial charisma, and was vocally rather constricted at times. And the secondary roles were handled with energy and conviction. The orchestra too, led by Edward Gardner, were elegant and precise, with some beautiful clarinet work. Only the chorus, singing from the pit, sounded rather limp.
The design was more problematical. It begins with a nearly bare set in shadowed gloom. Curved orientalist panels are cleverly set into the stage revolve and periodically slid and twisted into various configurations. These surround a stunted little garden centre tree. The construction is ingenious but the concept ultimately too banal to retain interest for the entire performance. And I loathe a darkened stage, so I was dying for someone to turn the lights up, but it never happened.
The only visual break from the tedious glide of panels across stage were a couple of strange dancer interludes. In the first, the imperial guard in the form of a gang of baton twirling ninjas prance across the stage in formation, then disappear. They pop up again later, this time a portentous plod with a tray of nightlights. Immaculately executed and admittedly entertaining on both counts, but really nothing to do with the music or the drama.
The crepuscular minimalism of the design should have at least focussed attention on the performers, but they were largely static and often inadequately spotlit, holding attention only with the quality of their singing. A couple of nights back I saw Cheek by Jowl's Cymbeline at the Barbican, where a lot more is done with a lot less, simply by keeping the action moving fluidly and intelligently, and, most importantly, framing it in an overall structure. This Tito had nothing to say - it was just a moment we'd walked in on and walked away from. Mozart gave it a clear beginning and end, moments of great drama and moments of intimacy, which simply weren't reflected in David McVicar's one-note production. Only the fabulous musical performances made it worth seeing.
Standing in the centre of the above pic is the real star of tonight's production, lighting designer Jean Kalman. With sparsely furnished sets, conjuring up the magic of La Serenissima largely fell to him. Ripples of light traversing the entire stage like reflections in a pool were a recurring effect. Sulphurous yellow fog, a bold orange sunrise, threatening shadows came and went. Without his brilliant effects there would have been nothing much to look at except a bunch of chairs. Speaking of which - I hadn't registered in the dress rehearsal how cleverly the seating was used. Poor frail-looking Ian Bostridge was on stage for pretty much the whole opera. But he regularly plonked himself down in the conveniently-placed chair which found its way into most scenes, helping himself to the artfully worked-in drink, and even a couple of cigs.
Bostridge's performance was the highlight, as it had to be. His singing was absolutely faultless. As the repressed, frustrated Aschenbach struggling to escape his creative block, his portrayal was perfectly pitched, and free of the physical mannerisms which can dog his work. His moustache was a masterly touch - it made it easier to believe we were looking at someone other than Bostridge, even if it failed to make him look older as I believe was intended. It was partly the strength of his performance which made Peter Coleman-Wright's Traveller fade a little further into the background than maybe he should have, though he was a great deal livelier than he had been at the dress rehearsal, and camped up the more comic characters deliciously. Iestyn Davies was the other great singer, a lush, sweet countertenor in the Robin Blaze mould.
Edward Gardner's (below) official conducting debut couldn't have gone better. The gamelan-esque percussion in particular was terrific, and the energy levels never seemed to drop. I was sitting right behind him at the front (and STILL only managed to get cr@p fuzzy photos, o my trembling hands). His light economical style wasn't hugely exciting to watch, but then only about five people outside the pit could see that, so it was hardly the point.
Fashion notes - defying the summery temperatures, director Deborah Warner wore a long black asymmetric dress and jacket with knee boots. Fiona Shaw looked more seasonal in a grey cotton jersey gathered waist dress with flat strappy sandals. Saffron Burrows was massively glamorous in a dark green sleeveless gathered grecian-type dress, again with the flat strappy sandals. Leader of the opposition Tony Pappano was accessorised with the lovely Mrs Tony and said hello to everyone. The best dressed though was a random femme d'un certain age in a Gucci butterfly print silk dress with matching scarf, shoes and headband.
The cast for a change actually looked better than the audience, in their elegant monochrome edwardian style clothes:
Death in Venice (Dress Rehearsal) - Coliseum, 22 May 2007
A musically stunning production with no controversy-sparking surprises. The monochrome production design makes maximum use of very plain sets, relying heavily on imaginative ever-changing lighting and rear projection to evoke the Venetian settings in a fairly literal way. It looks as if more of the budget went on the crowds and their turn of the century costuming, also monochrome. The stage flooring is split into textured horizontal panels - glassy, rough, boarded - which serve as water, beach, graveyard, whatever is required. Repeated musical themes are echoed in lighting changes - white text projected on to a black background for Aschenbach's piano-accompanied recitatives, cloudy sulphurous all-infusing yellow for the boiling brass of the coming plague. Rattan chairs and potted palms hint at the hotel interior, a single pole is a gondola, flat cutout hut shapes become the beach.
The big pre-show question was whether Ian Bostridge is too young to play the middle aged Aschenbach. The production doesn't really address the age issue. His specially-cultivated moustache hints at Thomas Mann's own, without adding adding anything to the calendar. The appearance, the deportment, and particularly the voice suggest he's in the prime of his life rather than the autumn of his years, even when he's cholera-stricken and on his way out. It's the fat lady issue again - do you hire someone who looks the part, or someone who can sing it attractively? I think it's something you may have to take or leave as you please - the drama is one of psychological crisis, not physical frailty, after all, and personally if I have to listen to someone for nearly three hours, Ian Bostridge will do nicely, thank you. I can't help comparing with Philip Langridge's stunning concert performance with the Philharmonia at the QEH a few months back - though it's questionable whether there's anyone else of Langridge's years who could give quite such a remarkable performance, world-weariness without actual weariness.
Peter Coleman-Wright in the baritone parts gave a relatively subdued performance, but of course this was only a rehearsal so I don't want to read too much into that. I do hope more of the humour comes out in the finished version - this is a work that needs its moments of levity. Iestyn Davies as Apollo has the most beautiful even and bell-like tone, projecting exceptionally by countertenor standards. Each brief time he appeared was, appropriately, like the sun coming out.
One thing I didn't really understand was the decision to costume and choreograph Tadzio very similarly to the other boys in the cast. Combined with his (pleasant enough but) naturally unarresting looks, it made him blend into the background rather. It became a challenge to accept that Aschenbach could see him as his muse, the personification of beauty - even just picking him out amongst the other dancers was hard enough.