"Marina felt that she had to withdraw from Robert le diable due
to a medical condition and on the advice of her doctor. She wanted to
make the decision swiftly in order to accommodate the difficult task of
finding a replacement as early as possible.
However, after further consultations and examinations, she has
been advised that it will be possible for her to continue with the
rehearsals and performances of Robert le diable after all without any risk, and that any necessary treatment can carry on meanwhile or be postponed."
Don't worry if you missed this performance - there are another 21 to go. Yes, it's safe to say that if you're fond of La traviata, Covent Garden is the place to be this autumn. With three casts, three conductors, two separate revival directors and a couple of bonus appearances from Anna Netrebko, you'll be spoilt for choice.
The Tsar's Bride - Royal Opera House, 20 April 2011
When Covent Garden tackled Prokofiev's The Gambler last year, ticket prices were pegged at a maximum of £50. It sold out - bringing in many first time visitors in the process. Despite the opera's obscurity, its unstarry cast and equivocal reviews. Did the Royal Opera House learn anything from that? Obviously not.
Simon Boccanegra - Royal Opera House, 29 June 2010
With Berlin, Milan and New York under his belt, Placido Domingo’s now done enough Boccanegras for everyone to realise that him turning into a true baritone was always about as likely as England getting anywhere in the World Cup. True, he has all the notes, but the tenorial burnish is as it ever was. Interestingly, he only strained (a teeny bit) at the very top of his range - a studied attempt at baritonal authenticity, I wonder?
But this is academic territory. What matters is that regardless of theoretical vocal fit, he gave a truly monumental performance by any standard in the opening night of the Royal Opera House's latest run.
Turandot - Metropolitan Opera New York, 28 October 2009
I caught Lise Lindstrom's Met debut and you didn't. With the house's resident screamer Maria Guleghina out with a cold, 'B' cast Lindstrom was brought in to make her first Met appearance a few days earlier than scheduled. She's played Turandot to great acclaim around Europe recently; this was New York's chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Did she nail it - yes she did! One could quibble whether her voice is the biggest or the best or the most beautiful, but its silvered laser is perfect for the role. And it's accurately pitched without a hint of wobble, indecently flexible and never showed any sign of strain. Within the limits of the ancient Zeffirelli production, which seems to have been choreographed rather than directed, she gave a more than acceptable dramatic performance too, cold and brittle to begin with, melting at the end.
Points must be deducted for her reaction to the warm applause she received at the second act curtain call. In conduct unbecoming a diva, she acted like she'd gone through to the next round of American Idol.
The audience seemed to enjoy the gushing and arm-waving. But then they'd not only applauded the Act 2 scenery (like a gladiator bathhouse from a gay p0rno) but also prematurely ovated on several occasions, ejaculating all over bars and bars of Maestro Nelsons' lovingly detailed score. There was even one knob who yelled out "Viva Puccini" before the Alfano completion started up
What a change from Ed Gardner's rampant decibels at the ENO last week. Nelsons - another Met debutant tonight - never took an extreme path, but subtly highlighted the music's complex layering, teasing out lines I'd never really heard before. And he paced it beautifully, never losing momentum, but not tempted to race either. No conductor is ever remembered for the greatness of their Turandot, but still, it's a tough test. I could see his score from where I was sitting - carefully marked up, and heavily rumpled, as if it had been dropped in the bath then left to dry. Clearly he's been doing his homework.
Vulnerability and determination were convincingly combined in Marina Poplavskaya's Liù. Not easy to pull off but she did it. Pitching issues (worse than usual tonight) and a desperately thin top detract, but not as much as they might with some other singers. Her musicality and conviction and sheer charisma carry her a long way.
Good old reliable Marcello Giordani was the unexciting Calaf. Moving lumpishly as if he'd had no rehearsals whatsoever (which may of course be the case) and mumbling through his lower register, he nevertheless managed to pull together some impressively ringing top notes. Nessun dorma of course brought the house down - some classy Bs the trigger. But for me the effect was diminished by having heard Pavarotti tackle it in the Met shop before the show. There's efficiency and then there's magic.
more photos tomorrow...........maybe.......if I can be........zzzzzzz........
Don Carlo - Royal Opera House, 27 September 2009 and 18 September 2009
Every singer (except Plácido) gets sick now and again, and I got Jonas Kaufmann for two out of the three Don Carlo performances I went too, plus the rehearsal, so I can't complain too much. It was clear at the time of Kaufmann's restrained, mostly marked rehearsal performance that Don Carlo lies at the limits of his capacities. He was wise not to put his voice in jeopardy by attempting the part in anything less than 100% health.
But I can't deny it was a major disappointment to arrive at the Sunday matinee and find he'd been replaced by Alfred Kim, who'd played the part recently in Oslo. Kim is competent and likeable. He hits all the notes cleanly, projects well, acts industriously, and truth be told has a much more Italianate and objectively appropriate voice for the part than either Kaufmann or his predecessor Rolando Villazón.
But he just didn't possess that elusive factor that catches your eye when someone walks on stage and draws your ear to their every word. It's something to do with singing from inside the role rather than merely playing it, and it excuses all sorts of other issues. It's why every single major opera house rushes round chasing after the same 20 or so singers, why nothing (except the recent Barbiere - a miracle) is ever ideally cast.
Alfred Kim (top) and Jonas Kaufmann (below) with Ferruccio Furlanetto:
It’s little more than a year since the Royal Opera House premiered this production, but already the temperature has dropped a few degrees.
The main reason is Semyon Bychkov. Pappano was all heart; Bychkov is all head. Where Pappano offered untrammelled passion, Bychkov’s Don Carlo is thoughtfully structured, scrupulously detailed and immaculately performed (the last time the ROH played this well was in Lohengrin for – Semyon Bychkov). His weighty attentions serve the music well, the drama less so. The issue isn't the idiosyncratic tempos – sometimes super attenuated, sometimes dangerously pacy. At least these make you listen in a new way.The real problem is a lack of flexibility and dramatic response. The music feels superimposed on the drama, when it should be the other way round. The great Carlos/Posa freedom duet was more dutiful than ardent; Philip’s ruminative Act 4 monologue had the air of a prepared speech. There is much to admire – and to think about - but I rarely felt drawn in.
The other big change is in the title role. Rolando Villazon’s Carlos was an impetuous boy; Jonas Kaufmann’s is brooding, serious and totally grown-up. Kaufmann’s Carlos has no hesitation in placing his duty to Flanders above his personal desires. But this is the five act version, whose first act narrates the brief meeting of Carlos and Elisabetta. The first act does so much more than contextualise Carlos’s later moping. It changes the story. His joy (Elisabetta's too) is seen as real, but his later obsession as delusory, while her acceptance of her duty is the only pragmatic solution. Playing out the love story diminishes it. We see it ourselves for what it is, a moment of happiness, and not as Carlos presents it, the pivot of his destiny. And then we see the discrepancy between our view and his, and Carlos too is diminished in our eyes. He is merely evading his responsibilities, even if he doesn't realise it.
Jonas Kaufmann has chosen to emphasise the political and idealistic side of Carlos, and while that's right for the four act version, I don't think it works here (for one thing, it makes the first act into a tacked-on appendage). But having said that, and first act simpering aside, he follows through brilliantly. He is every inch the rebel prince, and his singing was out of this world. His ravishingly beautiful mezza voce was used to great effect, but he could turn up the power too. And who else could look that hawt in puffball shorts and pixie boots?
Inevitably this Carlos has more chemistry with Posa than with Marina Poplavskaya’s Elisabetta. She is much improved from last year's outing. Perhaps she really was indisposed all those times she claimed. Her steel-coated power was complemented this time round by smooth grained tone and accurate (if hard earned) top notes, lending Elisabetta's dutiful sacrifice a noble cast.
Simon Keenlyside sounded better than I have heard him for some time. Evidently a summer's rest has done him good. He is not and never will be a Verdi baritone - the heft and depth simply aren't there. Pairing him with the baritonal tenor of Jonas Kaufmann unfortunately emphasises this. But he compensates intelligently and with unquestionable commitment.
Marianne Cornetti is definitely a Verdi singer, but I doubt if Eboli is her best role. She wobbled gamely through the Veil Song, but her voice is simply too weighty to navigate it with the required agility. O don fatale was quite lovely though, and she has the warmth to generate sympathy. Couldn't the make up department have glammed her up a bit more though? - the revelation that Carlos has mistaken her for Elisabetta raised an understandable laugh from the audience.
The most satisfying performance came of course from Ferruccio Furlanetto as Philip. Near-perfect. Every note, every gesture conveys absolute authority. He perhaps more than anyone suffered from Bychkov's counter-intuitive pacing though. Unable to linger or rush where the emotions demanded, he was sometimes less convincing than I know he can be. And his showdown with John Tomlinson's unscary Grand Inquisitor didn't pack the wallop it should have done.
Amongst the smaller parts, Robert Anthony Gardiner as the Conte di Lerma really stood out. His singing, most of it terrifyingly exposed, was bright, accurate and rock-solid, and his presence aristocratically relaxed.
I'm going to see a couple more performances, and I'll write more about the production itself then. But suffice to say for now I was surprised at the stagey gesticulation of some of the principals, and at how much fussy micro-managed movement had been imposed on crowd scenes (the auto-da-fé scene was the most egregious example of extraneous chat, clatter and fidgeting). A case of the director working with what was available perhaps, but not quite what you'd expect from Nicholas Hytner.