Le nozze di Figaro - Royal Opera House, 16 September 2013
Now this is more like it. After the disappointing start to the ROH season with Turandot comes the best revival yet of David McVicar's 2006 production. The comedy sparkles, the social satire bites, and three and a half hours pass in no time.
German shepherds Major and Codex and collie-cross Alia have been listening to rehearsals this week to prepare themselves for Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain. A lot of the preparation is done at home by trainer Reinhold Steingruber, pictured above with Major and Codex. But the dogs have to get used to potential distractions - audience, orchestra, singers, even costumes - so the more exposure they get, the better.
Each night the trio will perform, off and on, for two and a half hours - or about 17 hours in doggy years.
Their tasks are challenging. At the end of the first act they feast on human remains - or at least that's what director Alvis Hermanis wants you to think. In fact they will eat meat paste from a specially shaped silicone belly. The dead bodies will be played by the dogs' owners, which should help make sure none of them go barking up the wrong tree. In the second act, the dogs are on stage for fifteen minutes straight, a test of concentration that is rewarded by plenty of food and treats.
Paul Barton, a piano teacher based in Thailand, has performed many times for
elephants in a local sanctuary, and says he enjoys watching the their reactions
to different tunes. While he was playing Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag recently, a ten-year-old male named Peter decided to join in.
Pelly's cosy Cath Kidston faux-50s perspective is not a patch on Jonathan Miller's edgier ENO production for wit, warmth and vitality. And what Pelly hasn't sucked out, Bruno Campanella's connoisseurly savouring of every last note drained down to the dregs. Luckily, this is the best cast it's had so far, and the superb individual performances make it a show worth seeing.