NWR Opera and classical concert notes

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

  1. A Beethoven piano fest at Wigmore Hall yesterday. Radio3 Lunchtime concert featuring the rather wonderful Andreas Hifliger playing Sonatas Opi 109 & 111 followed by an evening concert of Trios Opus 1 No 1 and Opus 97 “Archduke” with Imogen Cooper, Henning Kraggerud and Adrian Brendel. Terrific playing all round with a very special chemistry between Henning and Adrian, especially during the 97. A real treat of a day.
  2. Saw a truly awful Calixto Bieito production of Carmen at the Opera Bastille a couple of weeks ago. The singing was good (Rachvelishvili, Jean-Francois Borras, Roberto Tagliavini and a lovely Micaela from Nicole Car), and the orchestra and conducting (Lorenzo Viotti) were fine. But the design and direction were dire.

    The necessary Spanish flavour was wholly absent, except where the music alone supplied it. A small frightened child was on stage throughout Acts 2 & 3 under the wing of Mercedes (but no suggestion this was supposed to be her child), which was distracting, wholly unnecessary to the plot, and not suggested AFAIK by the libretto or even by Merimee's play. Ten old bangers were wheeled onstage for the mountains scene in Act 3, serving no purpose and interrupting sightlines from the stalls. A huge cut-out bull dominated the stage for this act, even though there is no appearance by, and I think no reference to, Escamillo in that act, and certainly no bullfighting.

    Worst of all, the entr'acte preceding Act 4 treated us to an uncredited actor coming onstage, slowly removing all his clothes, parading around the stage in the buff periodically slapping his hips and thighs (hiding nothing), and then rushing to collect his clothes and leave when the first singers entered. No-one we spoke to could see what this gratuitous nudity had to do with the opera.

    We were informed by the programme that Calixto Bieito is "one of the great theatre and opera directors of our era ... he leads his actors and singers into the furthest reaches of their characters' psyches". Suffice to say that if he was trying to do that in this production, he wholly failed. Apparently, he has "positioned this production in a relatively abstract spatiotemporal environment. His dramaturgy focuses on the humanity of the characters, and he has jettisoned the folklore and the cliches generally associated with the tale. ... His significant editing of the libretto has left him with raw and concise dramatic material that mirrors this fast-paced temporality". What pretentious claptrap:(!

    Remind me never again to see a production directed by Calixto Bieito.
  3. Prom 34 Agerich and Barenboim
    More tickets released, on royal albert hall website, right now!
    Charles Muttar and Paul Day like this.
  4. We truly do live in the age of the cult of personality, where the man (occasionally woman) rises above all else. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it, though I try not to be too conservative about productions.
  5. Singing is usually excellent at the Paris Opera, but the productions are wildly variable -- from outstanding to the worst of Euro-trash. Although I've never been to La Scala, Paris is the one venue where I've (and more than once) experienced pronounced booing from the audience at the end of the performance. On the plus side, tickets (even the best) are quite modest compared to London and New York.
    Mark Crann and David Crossley like this.
  6. Saw the new Magic Flute at Glyndebourne at the weekend. A lot of the audience clearly loved it, me, I was in two minds. The playing and singing were good (but not exceptional) but the production was muddled and at times downright bizarre. I wont go into too much detail as I know at least one other forum member is off to see it soon, but it seemed that the designers sat in a room and tried to think of as random a group of elements that they could think of to squeeze into the new production. So reasonably enjoyable, and I can certainly see why some of the press reviews were written as they were, but not my favourite production of this opera. Better hopes for Rusalka in a few weeks time!
  7. Yeah, that might be me, and very soon. I saw the last Flute at G and that was a nice production. The one with the large puppet animals. In fact we took the kids and they enjoyed it.

    We are also going to Rinaldo in a few weeks. I'm rather thinking we made some errors in our choices this year, not least because in order to see anything we don't know really well and have seen enough times already we will have to go for yet another Handel (Alcina) next year, along with Poulenc's "Carmelites". At least the story in Alcina lends itself to a quite magical production with the potential for period stage effects. I mean, I enjoy Handel a lot, but there's a world of opera out there.

    FWIW I'd have liked to have seen Rusalka, and Cendrillon. But it's always a compromise here and K has more "classical" tastes, perhaps. We shall see.
    Andrew Blunsden likes this.
  8. Monaco Philharmonic Orchestra at the Palace., on Sunday.
    Kazuki Yamada - conductor
    Nelson Freire - piano

    Great performance!




  9. Andrew, just been talking to a good friend who has seen Barber (he said good), Faust (he said amazing, better than thought it would be) and Flute, which he called “ludicrous”. At least I like the music.
    Andrew Blunsden likes this.
  10. Faust was fantastic. As was Barber. Couldn’t get tickets for Flute. Fidelio at Garsington was very fun and totally frivolous. I think Garsington also has the edge when it comes to a beautiful space to picnic and wander round. It just isn’t as busy and intense as Glynebourne.
  11. I’m due to go on Sunday so I’ll try to keep an open mind!
  12. I have two advantages when it comes to Glyndebourne, proximity (I live close) and membership. Old Garsington was old school. I’ve not been to “New Garsington”, so I can’t compare, but I hope I’ll get there one day.

    As I get older I do long to widen my experience. The repertoire at Glyndebourne seemed so exciting a few years ago but this season (and next) just seems less inspired. The danger is if they always to pick well known operas and to jazz them up via the production. I suspect Glyndebourne is feeling the pinch a bit as I know they are on a drive to recruit new associate members (offers of inducements to recommend people).
    Gareth Powell likes this.
  13. I was at the opening night of this production. The music and singing were adequate, if well below Glyndebourne’s usual standard. However, it was the grotesque staging which spoiled the evening. This was an abject failure to recognise that in opera, the words and music are supreme. The audience were assailed with distractions (puppets) and irrelevant moral messages (‘votes for women’) which degraded the music and reduced the experience to pantomime. The self-indulgent idiots who dreamed up this pretentious garbage have much to answer for. If Glyndebourne needs lightweight opera to recruit new members, they should try Offenbach or G & S rather than Mozart or Wagner.
    Andrew Blunsden likes this.
  14. We saw Flute this evening. I understand what the naysayers mean. As I think I’ve said before, a good friend who’d already seen it called it ludicrous. I’ve seen a good few Flutes (not just spanning my 25 years at Glyndebourne but in other houses as well) and I’d say it was far from being the worst sung. I also actually found it quite entertaining. More so than any Flutes I’ve seen at the ROH. Perhaps the last Glyndebourne production was better, although that had stylised wild animals.

    Perhaps the fact that it was being filmed for live broadcast spurred the cast but I thought Papageno, Pamina and Sarastro were well sung, particularly Papageno. Pamina was wooden but good voice. Sarastro is just a part limited to singing with no action.

    FWIW I do agree that Glyndebourne seems desperate to recruit new Associate Members (Society Members are being offered inducements to help). But equally, as someone who loves Wagner and would never go so see G&S, nor Offenbach, I just sort of allowed myself to enjoy the fun. The joke wasn’t all that funny, but it was a joke (comparing Freemasonry to the orders of French Chefs presumably allowing for the running apron gag). In answer to Frank Zappa’s question, yes, humor (sic) does belong in Music.

    Remember that Flute as a work was denigrated at the time as being inferior to the great works which preceded it. That is absolute rubbish. The libretto might be more pedestrian than not, but much of the music is sublime.

    But this is just my own experience tonight. I can see why people of a different disposition might get upset. Remington, this remark is emphatically not aimed at you, but I can’t help but quote that excellent steampunk band, The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing: “Votes for Women, F*cking Get Over It!” (Doing it for the Whigs).
    Andrew Blunsden likes this.
  15. I was also at Sunday's performance. I enjoyed the performance overall, though I think I also enjoyed the last Glyndebourne production slightly more. I've browsed a few reviews and I think I'm coming down much more on the side of the Guardian rather than the Telegraph...
    David Crossley likes this.
  16. I was at Rinaldo yesterday, and although the staging was, like Flute, quite whacky, I felt it worked. It's not a new production, but a first for me. Maybe the drama outshone the music? Rinaldo was written when Handel was pretty young, and it doesn't match some of his later dramas, yet there are sublime moments, and all of the singing cast rose to the task. I think a more pedestrian production would have done the opera (Handel's first for London) a disservice.

    I wondered whether any ambulances would be called, caused by the fine latex and leather gear (plus riding crop) worn by Armida (sung by Kristina Mkhitaryan). Or maybe heart attacks could have been occasioned by all those school girls and boys gyrating? Giulia Semenzato was a lovely Almirena, taking her set piece aria beautifully. Rinaldo was superb, the part taken by Jakub Jozef Orlinski after Elizabeth de Shong dropped out. Orlinsky has a voice reminiscent of Andreas Scholl, who I first saw in his first ever opera role, in Rodelinda at Glyndebourne (and in recital at The Brighton Pavilion). He's not quite up to Scholl at his finest, yet he is young and will get there. Thrilling stuff.

    That's it for the 2019 Festival for us. I'd jump at returns for Rusalka (Andrew!!) but I don't think we have a window.

    I have a question...I've never seen anyone mention Nevill Holt Opera here. I know it’s where Grange Park was before moving to Surrey (am I right?). It's not that far from where my parents live and I was thinking of maybe giving it a go next season (it’s just DG being performed, I think). Has anyone here been, or know someone who has? My dad, whose career was in civil engineering, sent me an article about the new opera house there, which has won a RIBA Award, and looks stunning, for a small 400 seat theatre. Must admit that the founder of Car Phone Warehouse seemed an unlikely benefactor of opera, but that just shows I'm not as lacking in prejudice as I like to make out.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
    Charles Muttar likes this.
  17. I have various colleagues who play up there, I've only heard good things...
    David Crossley likes this.
  18. Thanks, Charles. I need to discover whether tickets are readily available to non-members. I do like to try new places, though DG is an opera I’ve seen so many times that I have no desire to see a mediocre production.
  19. Sorry David, went to Rusalka on Friday and it was wonderful. Not an opera I know but lovely music, some good singing (and acting by Sally Matthews in the lead) and few gimmicks. Enjoyed seeing Ticciati conducting. All round very enjoyable. I'm glad you enjoyed Rinaldo David. We have seen it a couple of times and very much enjoyed it.

    Lovely to see another counter tenor performing well. As you say not as good as Scholl (yet) but very encouraging. I have had a couple of listens to his CD and it is good.

    Looking forward to next years season (hoping for the Rakes progress plus one other tbd).
  20. Agerich and Barenboim...

    There are many reviews available around, just very short impression:
    I really like the Schubert No.8. It's not a heavy texture one, but it's not modern in a sense of 'classical period' phrasing. I don't see conductors do Schubert like this anymore, not even 90 years old Blomstedt or late Abbado, let alone Rattle etc. It's rather in a style of...romantic, or 60s?? Guardian review says it's 'Bruckner' style, I am not sure I would link that with Bruckner, but the way music phrases were sung, was actually quite *refreshingly* old style.
    The total control of Barenboim on his young people orchestra, pretty much go against what everyone said about him in Chicago: he was a bad orchestra trainer. Even my Taiwanese friend who was doing PhD in Uni Chicago at that time, complained to me: whenever Barenboim conducted, the orchestra sounded messy and greasy; when the conductor was Boulez or Haitink the orch sounded much better. I heard people from Chicago said he 'ruined' the orchestra.
    However, you don't have that problem when he conducts European orchestra. Regardless top independent orch like Berliner Phil (his three Mozart Da Ponte opera in Erato was brilliant) or Wiener Phil, the emsemble of Berliner Staatskapelle is also fine, this WEDO sounds totally clear and clean. Maybe it's more because American musicians didn't suit his style?

    Everyone went to this concert for Agerich. Many people left at the interval. As a 78 years old, she still amazed people. The thing is, people who like her would like her, people who think she's lacking depth etc etc would hate her when she was young. I agree with Paul, her 2nd movement, just like her performance of other concerto in recent concerts, was sensational. Still, her speed in 3rd mv was quite a miracle to witness.

    I was sitting at the front row of a box at about same level of other near-area seats. Before the interval, some people gave standing ovation to the pianist. A lady in pink right in front of my box also standed. There was an old white hair lady next to me in the box, who kept her angry face from the beginning, got very upset and pinched the standing lady 'sit down! you sit down! I can't see anything!' The standing lady ignored her, so she pinched again and again. After the artists went away, the pink lady turned around and said 'It's very rude you pinched me like that, I was just doing everyone else did!' and the old lady plus a group of women behind her started to attack: 'your body blocked all the view! you are rude!'
    OK that lady in pink was not slim. But they didn't really need to make reference on her body. Nor the old woman should physically pinch people. In concert hall, if people's standing ovation blocks you view, I am afraid you got to stand, too, despite you don't really like it that much! They started to shout at each other, not a good vibe. So me and my friend just ran out the scene to meet Paul, for a glass of pink LP champagne!

    I don't have much to say about 2nd half of concert, besides I studied Egmont overture score in student time for sitting in a conducting course, so it called back many memories.

    To finish the nasty ladies story, the white hair angry old woman was gone when we came back from champagne break. Apparently her mood was influenced and she 'doesn't know the piece' so she decided to leave. Well, well. I guess the people behind her who previously said the pink lady was rude also didn't like the piece: they were talking when music was playing. I had to turn around to give them a look to stop them. The other woman was using a fan, a cheap one, making lots of 'tsa tsa tsa' noise. At that point I gave up, just tried my best to focus on the music.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
    Charles Muttar likes this.
  21. We have seen the Hockney Rake twice, and love it. We plan to see Alcina and Carmelites, but daughter/son-in-law will be over at some point and may take them to Rake.
  22. There are returns for Flute (Saturday) and Rinaldo (Sunday)...just received email this minute.
    Charles Muttar likes this.
  23. I was in Royal Albert Hall last night. Haitink was having his farewell concert with Wiener Phil.
    There's no press review yet, what I can say is, you will still have top quality of Wiener Phil performing Bruckner in the future, but I can't imagine the same crystal clear texture combined with soft phrasing being heard from other conductors anymore. What a life-time experience and bravo to mastero Haitink's brilliant career.
  24. Last evening Yuja Wang showed her superb technique in Rachmaninov no. 3, but was she a bit too free on speed?

    Myung-Whun Chung and Staatskapelle Dresden was doing very well with Brahms no.2, but my mind is still at the Bruckner no. 7 with Haitink and Wiener Phil two days ahead. One is a good performance but another is divine. BBC should publish that Bruckner in CD format, and if you missed it, it's still online to listen to.

    Mr Chung and Dresdeners gave the best Brahms Hungarian dance I have ever heard: we heard that for encore piece for hundreds times, but this one was really good. Go online listen by yourself.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
  25. Vienna Staatsoper tonight for Verdi's Don Carlo -- first time I've ever seen the four-act version. Riveting, great performances by all singers, wonderful house, one of the greatest operas by one of the two (IMO) greatest opera composers, so by definition, one of the very great operas.

    I've never seen the French version either, but I think it's in this season at the Paris Opera, so maybe I'll do two Don Carlo(s)s in one season.
    Mark Crann, Po-yu Sung and Thom Blach like this.

Share This Page