NWR Opera and classical concert notes

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Po-yu Sung, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. We saw the Queen of Spades last week - and musically it was very good indeed. Polyakov was a late replacement then also (what is going on?) and he sang well - but I find his voice rather one-dimensional.
    In my opinion the production suffered a lot from the director's need to make his point at whatever cost. I do wish that these guys would leave us to enjoy the music!
  2. The trick with Bruckner 6 is to make the finale work, especially after the magnificent I and II. Not rushing it helps, but it's still a fairly episodic movement. I played in a performance of it a decade a go (community orchestra I belong to: www.kpo.org.au ).
    I wondered why I was so knackered at the end of it until I looked more closely at my 30-odd page part and realised that the first fiddles had no rest of longer than about 20 continuous seconds in the whole piece. Otherwise it was just a bar or two here or there. A very long play indeed.
    I heard your LSO play it in Linz 30 years ago with Mr Tilson Thomas. Not great, I must say...
    Thom Blach likes this.
  3. Not the best era for the LSO, it must be said, nor the kind of music one associates with MTT!
  4. I am not the greatest fan of Sir Roger Norrington but I was very taken by his recording of Bruckner 6
  5. Howard, for comparison you ought to try to see the video of the Met's current production with Diana Damrau, who is truly amazing.
  6. Both Ermonela Jaho and Diana Damrau are amazing, in my book. I heard Jaho for the first time in Madama Butterfly at the ROH two years ago. Quite stunning.
  7. The difference is one is still at her uphill one is probably not.
  8. There was a time when C. Abbado lead the LSO....
  9. I saw her at Glyndebourne doing Suor Angelica (part of il Tritico) as she was absolutely mesmerising.
  10. I’m thrilled to be heading literally over the road tonight (in 15 mins to be precise) to see Purcell’s King Arthur at the Theater an der Wein (or is it “am”?).

    Not very well known but I love this musical dramatic work, having owned the Christie recording since release. It’s not about the legends we tend to know, but about Arthur’s battles with the Saxons, and his bid to release his abducted love (not Guenevere but a blind Cornish princess) from his Saxon enemy, Oswald.

    Some great tunes, but only “fairest isle” is well known.
    Ken Oliver likes this.
  11. Will do Claude ! But I don't think I could stand another tear jerker as intense as that amazing performance for a while at least!
  12. Astonishing and brave adaptation, one of the best stagings of an opera I’ve seen, and took it right out of the baroque.

    I won’t see anything like that for a long time.

    All the recitative in German though, but I didn’t do too badly.
    Ken Oliver likes this.
  13. Tonight at the Palais Garnier, Scarlatti's Il Primo Omicido conducted by one of the grand old men of 17th and 18th century music, René Jacobs. (The finest production of Così Fan Tutte I've ever seen was one his troupe put on at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées about 20 years ago.) The orchestra was superb, the singing very good to excellent, and there is some beautiful music. But the piece was written as an oratorio, and while I have seen some superb stagings of oratorios/oratori (e.g., Handel's Saul at Glyndebourne a few years ago), in this case I think it would have been better left as an oratorio, despite heroic and creative staging efforts. The work just doesn't have the dramatic interest to merit staging. But it's always sheer delight to be in the Garnier and to look at the crowd (which is considerably more diverse than at the Bastille, or the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, for that matter).

    One serious problem, the first time I've ever encountered it: the cretin next to me who kept on checking his cellphone throughout the performance.

    Tomorrow night: Les Troyens at the Bastille.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  14. Bon courage!
  15. We saw it in San Francisco a couple of years ago and loved it (interesting, because Berlioz's Damnation of Faust and Roméo et Juliette have never been very attractive to me).
  16. I disagree (respectfully), Thom. Yes, it is over long, but as someone who has mixed feelings about Berlioz’s music, it certainly has a lot to recommend it. I would certainly see it.

    As for oratorios, of course King Arthur is not an opera (not an oratorio) but a staged work nevertheless. Following conventions of the time, the main characters don’t sing, just act. They are sung to by the chorus, or individual chorus members, unless they are metaphysical characters (sprites etc) or when a main character is drunk.

    Purcell wrote this as a straight ArthurianSaxon conflict, albeit with wizards and suchlike, but this production melded this story with a WW2 setting (grandfather reading story to grandchild). Some imperfections but fascinating stuff.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  17. I wasn't suggesting anything negative, David, merely hoping that Claude's sitzfleisch is in prime condition! I am a great fan of Berlioz.
  18. The seats at the Bastille are not bad. Last night’s were somewhat hard, though my main worry over three-and-a-half hours was that I had eaten rather too much to feel wholly comfortable.
  19. Les Troyens tonight: Great music, outstanding orchestra (Philippe Jordan à la baguette, as they say here), fabulous chorus, super Cassandre by Stéphanie d'Oustrac, mostly otherwise very good singing. So that's the good.

    The production is set in contemporary time. It worked very convincingly for the first part, The Taking of Troy.

    The second part, The Trojans in Carthage, is set in a contemporary, very dreary institution for PTSD war victims, which include Queen Dido and eventually Énée (Aeneas) as patients. It's somewhat like the wonderful movie Queen of Hearts starring Alan Bates. Only this is supposed to be a recounting of one of the noblest stories in our canon, especially for Berlioz's time, the Aeneid, not a cute comedy. As a result, it's all trivialized as, for example, Dido's final rage as Aeneas parts for Italy is turned into a nervous breakdown. There was a lot of booing (and some cheering) when the director/set designer came out for the curtain call . It felt a bit like the premiere of The Rite of Spring must have been; I didn't see any fisticuffs tonight, but there was a quite sharp verbal exchange between a couple of youngish (35-45) Germans and some French people, the French probably rightly pointing out that the Germans didn't know the work and what it was supposed to be (given the length and other demands, Les Troyens is not much performed outside of France).

    This is not the first time I've heard booing like this at the Bastille. Three years or so ago we saw Aida with sets that look like they were designed for a Donald Trump production in Las Vegas -- gold and still more gold. But the singing, led by Sondra Radvanovsky and Anita Rachvelishvili, was fabulous and, unlike tonight, the sets did not affect the overall presentation of the opera.

    Still, if you can snag a ticket, it's worth coming down from London because of the rarity of Les Troyens, the great music, and the good singing. What you'll save compared to what a similar weekend in London would cost will pay all your expenses, not just for the opera, but also (if you select wisely) a very good restaurant, great wine, and the amazing Cubism show at the Pompidou.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  20. Claude, have a look at this Les Troyens - Wikipedia. It's not clear here but I am almost sure the first complete performance anywhere was given at Covent Garden under Colin Davis who was a pioneering performer of Berlioz at a time when France continued its perpetual neglect of the composer and I think it has been more often performed in London than in Paris. It is not true to suggest that it has always been part of the French canon by any means, though it is very pleasing that modern France has at last woken up to one of its greatest composers.
  21. The ROH's Les Troyens a couple of years back had very good reviews - I missed it then but hope it makes a comeback soon.

    I am also a great admirer of surely one of the most original of all composers - the Symphonie Fantastique is an amazing work to come out of the blue and Wagner was evidently greatly influenced by Romeo et Juliette - that observation was brought home to me only yesterday listening to the rather rough and ready but stylish old Monteux recording.
  22. It does appear to have a long history of appreciation and performance in England, Tom. I had not realized that the opera had such a following there, but one British writer even called it "the greatest opera ever written." And curiously, the English language Wikipedia is much more complete than the French-language one.

    Back to the English-language Wikipedia page, there have been some amazing casts over the years.
  23. My wife informs me that it was some Germans, not Brits, who liked the production. (Maybe that explains why their English was so good ;).) I've corrected it above.
  24. That article, as does French Wikipedia, states that the first complete performance of Les Troyens took place at Karlsruhe in 1890 on two successive nights. It seems true, though, that Berlioz has had more enthusiastic advocates in the UK, particularly Beecham and Davis, than in France until recently.

    France seems to undervalue its great composers. AFAIK none are buried at the Panthéon where, however, there are the remains of many writers. A proposal to transfer Berlioz's remains there was turned down by Chirac. It was rumoured that socialists objected to some aspects of Berlioz which were not "Politically Correct". Apparently there is a new proposal coming up for Macron's approval. I have doubts whether he will agree at a time when he is trying to appear more a man of the people.

    Debussy would also get my vote to go to the Panthéon.
  25. At the Barbican last night, to hear Diana Damrau singing Strauss' Four Last Songs. Quite marvellous, with outstanding support from Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. And Ein Heldenben after the interval. Rather short programming but one cares less when the playing and singing is of this quality. And they did throw in two encores.
    David Crossley likes this.

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