Eugene Onegin - Metropolitan Opera, 23 September 2013
Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera is more about the occasion than the opera. There were gowns galore, celebrities of varying wattage, roped-off VIP areas and even the odd genuine opera singer to add to the festive vibe. Outside on Lincoln Center Plaza, orderly rows of seats were set up for a big screen relay. Inside there were extended intervals, formal wear in the cheap seats and the occasional glimpse of Heather Graham holding court amongst the glittering visitors.
Don Pasquale, Metropolitan Opera, 10 November 2010
The Met's Don Pasqualeis all about Anna Netrebko. Otto Schenk's Met-by-numbers production is a mere four years old, though you'd be forgiven for guessing fifty-four. The other singers are, with one exception, merely competent - and what sort of conductor would boast of his Donizetti? It's Anna's minxy, knowing Norina that sets the stage on fire.
Here first! - a full list of all the Royal Opera House's main stage productions for the 2009/10 season.
The 2009/10 Covent Garden season opens with neither bang nor whimper but with a credit-crunching concert performance on 7 September (repeated on 14 September). Makes a change from last year's Sun readers' special I suppose.
The opera in question is Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, and the conductor is bel canto genius Mark Elder. The cast includes potential Next Big Things Stephen Costello, Eglise Gutierrez and Luciano Botelho, plus the incomparable Alessandro Corbelli, the first of several welcome appearances this season.
The first staged opera of the season is Nicholas Hytner's lego-loving Don Carlo, with - OMG!- Jonas Kaufmann !!! in the title role. John Tomlinson joins him as the Grand Inquisitor, and the rest of the cast is lifted straight from the first run - Marina Poplavskaya, Simon Keenlyside, fans' favourite Ferruccio Furlanetto, Sonia Ganassi and Pumeza Matshikiza.The conductor is Semyon Bychkov.
This season's contribution to the 2013 Wagnerversary is a new Christof Loy production of Tristan und Isolde. Antonio Pappano conducts Ben Heppner, Nina Stemme, Matti Salminen, Michael Volle and Sophie Koch.
Neigh! Francesco Zambello's ghastly Carmen returns in October, with the latest Covent Garden favourite Elina Garanca back for the title role, fighting off Roberto Alagna, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, and a farmyard full of furry friends. Bertrand de Billy conducts. It's resuscitated again in June 2010 with a distinctly 'B' cast.
October also sees one of Richard Jones's more subtle and effective efforts back on stage - and attractively cast. The shouldn't-work-but-it-does double bill of Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole (Christine Rice, Yann Beuron, Christopher Maltman, Andrew Shore and Bonaventura Bottone) and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (Thomas Allen, Maria Bengtsson and Stephen Costello) is conducted by Pappano.
Francesco Zambello steps into Tchaikovsky's The Slippers in November. The new production will be conducted by Alexander Polianichko and features some serious talent fresh from the Mariinsky - Olga Guryakova, Vsevolod Grivnov, Larissa Diadkova, Vladimir Matorin and Maxim Mikhailov.
John Schlesinger's elderly Der Rosenkavalier is dusted off in December. Kirill Petrenko conducts and the cast includes Soile Isokoski, Sophie Koch, Thomas Allen and Lucy Crowe.
Littering the December and January schedules is the inevitable La Bohème. This time Andris Nelsons conducts most of the double-cast performances, which begin with Piotr Beczala and Hibla Gerzmava and end with not a few tbc's.
Robert Lepage's intermittently effective Rake's Progress returns in January 2010. Ingo Metzmacher, Toby Spence (a Tom Rakewell tdf), Kate Royal, Kyle Ketelsen and Stephanie Blythe promise much on the musical side.
Female conductor alert! Top Lisboan Julia Jones wields the baton over Jonathan Miller's Cosi fan Tutte in January. The cast includes Charles Castronovo and Sally Matthews.
A new Richard Jones production of Prokofiev's The Gambler in February is conducted by Pappano, with a cast including Roberto Sacca, Angela Denoke, John Tomlinson and Jurgita Adamonyte.
Plácido Domingo's first appearance of the season is as a tenor. Graham Vick's acclaimed production of Handel's Tamerlano(recorded in Madrid and availableon DVD con Plácido) makes its first visit to Covent Garden in March with Christianne Stoijn, Sara Mingardo and Christine Schäfer. Baroque specialist Ivor Bolton conducts.
Bill Bryden's family-friendly The Cunning Little Vixen returns in March with Emma Matthews, Christopher Maltman and Emma Bell, though the presence of Charles Mackerras on the podium has to be the main draw.
Caurier and Leiser's lovely Il Turco in Italia is back in April, with Maurizio Benini conducting, and Aleksandra Kursak, Colin Lee, Alessandro Corbelli, Thomas Allen and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo in the cast.
Aida is subjected to the David McVicar magic in April. His new production is conducted by Nicola Luisotti and features Micaela Carosi, Marcelo Alvarez and Luciana D'Intino. Bare naked elephants?
The last of the Big Three, Richard Eyre's subtly intelligent La Traviata, makes its annual appearance in May and July. This time her name's in the programme - Our first Lady of the Camellias is the fabulous former Netrebko sub Ermonela Jaho. Joining her in her long-awaited return to Covent Garden in May are Saimir Pirgu and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. July's 'B' Violetta is Angela Gheorghiu, who makes do with James Valenti and Zeljko Lucic. Yves Abel conducts.
Laurent Pelly's now-legendary La Fille du Régiment returns in May with the unbeatable original cast of Juan Diego Flórez, Natalie Dessay, Alessandro Corbelli and Felicity Palmer back in place. Bruno Campanella conducts.
What would tempt Sir Colin Davis back into the pit? How about David McVicar's Le Nozze di Figaro? Erwin Schrott, Camilla Tilling, Maruisz Kwiecen. Annette Dasch, Soile Isokoski and Christine Schäfer head the strong cast.
Antonio Pappano conducts Laurent Pelly's new Manon, coming to Covent Garden in June with the announced cast including Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón. Anyone fancy a bet?
In one of those rare operatic fairy stories, June sees a baritone with less than a year's experience thrust into a leading role at Covent Garden. Yes, it's Plácido Domingo again, and this time he's Simon Boccanegra. Antonio Pappano conducts a strong cast including Marina Poplavskaya, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Joseph Calleja. It's the 1991 Elijah Moshinsky production by the way, not the Ian Judge one seen last year.
The season ends in July 2010 with the first revival of David McVicar's controversial Salome. Angela Denoke takes the central role, with Johan Reuter as Jokanaan. Hartmut Haenchen conducts.
Pologies for not writing about this sooner, but truly, Mariusz Kwiecien, hawtest Don Giovanni since Erwin Schrott, burned up my SD storage so bad I've only just been able to rescue the precious pixels. His Don is not the cerebral manipulator that Simon Keenlyside offered us in the earlier cast of this production. Instead, "He has something that fits in every woman," as Mariusz explained his feral chancer in a highly entertaining ROH pre-match interview - where, incidentally, he noted his preference as a listener for live performance (yay!) over CDS - "if I see something good, I copy it!". But that's one of the great things about Mozart's conception of Don Giovanni - a hundred different approaches will all work, in their own way.
With this less aristocratic Don came a less sharply-drawn contrast between the noble seducer and his craven aide, Leporello. This didn't work to the advantage of Alex Esposito, whose performance wasn't always as focused as it could have been - tentative with the brash physical comedy and not always totally in line with the orchestra. But he's not without talent, and I suspect he'd impress more in a production less reliant on brainless vulgarity than this one.
The tiny Patrizia Ciofi simply didn't have the clout, physically or vocally, to make anything much of the steely Donna Anna, pretty though her singing was. A miscast. Ian Bostridge, on the other hand, was a near-perfect Don Ottavio. He has famously complained that Mozart tenor roles are 'boring', and his performance led me to agree. But shouldn't Don Ottavio be dull? We need some reason to find Donna Anna's ultimate rejection of him credible. Beautifully sung, anyhow.
The best physical casting came with the pairing of the huge, lumbering Levente Molnár as Masetto and petite Rebecca Evans as Zerlina. They didn't have the knowing chemistry of Robert Gleadow and Miah Persson in the earlier cast - this was a much more traditional interpretation. But Rebecca Evans was winningly sweet and technically faultless, a delight to listen to, and Molnár convincingly lunkish.
Emma Bell's Donna Elvira was convincing in hysterical fury, less so in contrition, and didn't quite make all the notes. But where in the earlier casting the inevitable focus on Joyce DiDonato's stunning Donna Elvira had perhaps not worked to the advantage of the show as a whole, here the balance was redressed, and it became Don Giovanni's story once more.