Tony Pappano's Opera Italia series ended with the maestro zooming through Tuscany in a flash car to investigate 'The Triumph of Puccini' with the help of Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, Thomas Allen and the legendary Renata Scotto.
I've already posted the first and and second episodes of the three part series, and now here's the whole of the final one, as kindly uploaded by teresa59:
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.
La Bohème - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater, Munich, 30 December 2009
Otto Schenk's Munich Bohème, which recently celebrated its fortieth birthday, proves that a traditional production if thoughtfully crafted needn't have a sell-by date. From a glance at the photos, it doesn't look that different from Covent Garden's slightly younger yet markedly more tired effort. What sets it apart are the details. It's sensitive to the emotional temperature of the music, attentive to the text, and doesn't indulge in gratuitous additions. Nobody just stands there and barks out their lines across the stage. When Rodolfo and Mimi fall in love, they move closer together. When she's in bed dying, his arm supports her.
What is particularly successful is that even on the packed stage of the second act, the eye is unerringly directed towards the action. Not earth-shattering stuff but it takes great skill. A novice could follow the action without understanding the words or knowing the plot. The production illustrates the story, which is the one and only selling point of the traditional style. Otherwise it's just a concert performance with a twee backdrop. Mentioning no names.
Under Asher Fisch the orchestra were sleekly assured. Not the most detailed or dramatically exhilarating performance I've ever heard, but a beautifully balanced and mature reading.
This particular run is outstandingly well-cast, and there were some superb performances. All were slow to find their voices - we had to wait until the third act for Anja Harteros's wobbles to settle and her sweet and touching Mimi to blossom. I could forgive a little shoutiness from Levente Molnár's big-hearted joy of a Marcello, and Musetta's petulant charm was captured perfectly in the beautiful silvery soprano of Elena Tsallagova, a name to watch out for. But Massimo Giordano's Rodolfo stole the show, a reminder that the real tragedy in La Bohème is not Mimi's death, but Rodolfo's loss. Giordano's grief radiated across the auditorium - I wonder if anyone managed to stem a tear.
I was crying at the end of this Bohème alright. With laughter. Had Musetta sacrificed more than her earrings for Mimì? Let's just say the resemblance between the proffered fluffy white muff and her show-stealing Act 2 canine companion* was a striking one. (*'Pickle' the German Spitz, per programme).
But it's the least of this dreadful old production's problems. Where do I start? The artist who can't afford to eat but can pay a nude model? The door which supposedly leads to a staircase placed in what is clearly an external wall ? The wagon which rocks throughout the Act 3 prelude then spills out a flustered couple at its end (a 'colourful' addition unsupported by either music or libretto)? The vast distance between Rodolfo and Mimì as he sings of gazing on her face? Even the welcome sight of Kostas Smoriginas in his underpants was, on mature and objective reflection, gratuitous, though it pains me to admit it. I won't go on. Cinematic style realism, which is this production's aim, relies on getting the details right - all of them. No amount of gasp-inducing fake snow can cover that up.
Some productions are traditional in a good sense. They respect the music and the words, and deal with both honestly if unimaginatively. But this one is simply tired, lazy and past it. I can only guess at what sort of internal politics keep it on the schedules.
The music was some compensation for the torture of the visuals. Andris Nelsons, on the third of his five nights, began brilliantly. The first two acts displayed a chamber-like grasp of colour and detail. Every single note mattered. His dynamic range was broad and bold, his daring luftpausen perfectly judged to highlight what followed without losing track of what had passed. The orchestra played beautifully for him, as well as they have for Pappano and Bychkov in recent months. Something changed after the interval though. The exuberance had faded, the lustrous detail was blurred. Still perfectly good, just not quite as emotionally gripping. I didn't, incidentally, notice any of the pit/stage co-ordination problems some of the first night reviewers commented on.
The cast too is a solid one. Although there was an air of routine to Piotr Beczala's Rodolfo, he stepped up a gear to project his big numbers with more ardour. Hibla Gerzmava was a strong Mimì, perhaps too robust to be entirely sympathetic. Gabriele Viviani (Marcello), Inna Dukach (Musetta), Jacques Imbrailo (Schaunard) and Kostas Smoriginas (Colline) completed the well-rounded central ensemble, the only small complaint being a certain similarity between the voices of Hibla Gerzmava and Inna Dukach. They deserve a better show.
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........