Wednesday's Werther, the third night of the run, found Rolando Villazon more relaxed than he was on opening night, and singing a lot better as a result. Next to the big, easy voice of Sophie Koch he still sounded underpowered, but he found a better balance between control and tension.
The orchestra again played brilliantly. Pappano kept them on a tighter leash this time, which helped Rolando - and the splashing fountain was banished, hopefully never to return.
I found the view from the right hand side of the auditorium more expansive than the left, where I sat on the first night (both restricted view). Not much of a bonus with sets this bland, though.
Set your opera alarm for Tuesday 26 January 7.30 (20.35 CET), when there's a *free* webcast of Paris National Opera's 'new' production of Werther (which is actually the Royal Opera's dodgy old one - well done whichever Covent Garden chappie fobbed it off on Johnny Frenchie).
In the title role is Jonas Kaufmann, who has received ecstatic reviews from a swooning French press. The cast also includes the splendid Sophie Koch as Charlotte and the mahogany baritone/mahogany acting skillz of Ludovic Tézier as Albert.
There are three different sites you can watch from: Paris Opera's own, ARTE TV's and Medici.tv. If you're in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium or Switzerland you won't be able to access Medici until 3 Feb, but you will of course be able to watch ARTE's live TV broadcast.
After the live broadcast, the video will be available on demand for 60 days. So you can watch Jonas over and over and over again..............
To whet your appetite, this was apparently recorded at a recent Paris performance:
The tired old tinselled macaroon production is the least of the problems, even making allowances for the unfinished nature of the rehearsal product. I haven't heard the ROH orchestra play this badly all year. Scrappy ensemble, poor intonation, deranged brass - it would shame a school band. The curtain-down preludes were a real trial. Were there any orchestra rehearsals at all beforehand? It certainly didn't sound like it. Kirill Petrenko really has his work cut out to knock it into shape before Monday's opening.
And I was disappointed in Soile Isokoski's Marschallin. I can understand why she wanted to conserve her voice for most of the rehearsal, but charisma doesn't wear out if it's exercised. Her presence barely registered. And her makeup was positively unkind - couldn't they at least give her some brows?
Sophie Koch's Octavian too failed to sparkle, though at least she sang out. As to why a seventeen year old boy might be interested in knocking off a flour-faced gran (and vice versa) the production imparts no clues. It's rare that any of the characters even look at each other outside the comic knockabouts, and so the Marschallin's beautifully-written soul-searching passes unexplored.
So the sideshow became the star - the delightfully oafish Baron Ochs of Peter Rose, whose less than elegant singing works in this case to the character's advantage. Thomas Allen's Faninal too was wonderfully drawn in the few lines allotted.
But it was Lucy Crowe who left the most positive impression overall, a Sophie as defiant and spirited as Baron Ochs claims. Some of those top notes sounded dangerously squeezed, but the rest was liquid silver, and her stroppy charm made a long four and half hours pass less slowly.