The Royal Opera
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Wednesday 16 September 2009
The heat generated by this scorching revival of Verdi’s Don Carlo had little to do with burning heretics or indeed any aspect of Nicholas Hytner’s lucid if rather passive staging but rather the conducting of Semyon Bychkov whose drive and patience ensured that both the urgency and weight of history defining this great score were magnificently served.
Tuesday 15 September 2009
The prospect of four solid hours of un-staged opera is enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most zealous of opera-fans, yet the Royal Opera House’s brief two-performance fling this week with Donizetti’s lesser known masterpiece is an absolute delight.
Thursday 30 July 2009
The overture to 'Das Rheingold' is one of classical music's boldest strokes, as a single bass note slowly expands upwards into a vast major chord, whose eddying ramifications remain static and unchanged for 136 bars. Under Valery Gergiev's febrile beat, the Mariinsky orchestra beautifully realises this effect, and for the next 150 minutes faithfully reflects every colour-shift in this opera's majestic musical journey.
Wednesday 15 July 2009
Ted Downes had a formidable love and knowledge of opera – particularly Russian opera – and his pebbly glasses made him look like Shostakovich, who was one of Ted's great heroes. He was a huge Verdi man and was instrumental in creating the Verdi festival in London's Covent Garden in the 1990s. I remember when he and David McVicar came for the 2001 production of Rigoletto. I had to introduce them to each other and wondered how they would get on. But Ted was marvellous with younger people and very interested in their ideas, and this senior conductor and rising director got on fantastically well. The revival of this production of Rigoletto in 2005 was one of the last things Ted was able to conduct.
Wednesday 15 July 2009
Sunday 05 July 2009
Rossini’s Barber of Seville is packed with showstoppers; but when did we last see it cast at such strength, sung with such tongue and vocal chord twisting relish, and conducted with such panache that every number did just that – stopped the show? Answer: the current revival of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s wild and wacky staging at the Royal Opera House.
Wednesday 01 July 2009
Only the Royal Opera House could lose one star (the indisposed Dmitri Hvorostovsky) and find three others; well, five actually since Antonio Pappano, the evening's inspired accompanist, brought with him his orchestra's concert master, Vasko Vassilev, serenading us with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in so homespun a manner as to turn a public concert into a private soirée.
Monday 22 June 2009
Sometimes the first bar of music will tell you what kind of evening is in prospect.
Friday 19 June 2009
Sometimes the first bar of music will tell you what kind of evening is in prospect. And so it was here with Antonio Pappano, in his first Traviata for the Royal Opera, infusing the prelude with a sepia glow in remembrance of times past - better times for Violetta whose childhood photographs speak of an innocence long lost but never forgotten.
Friday 05 June 2009
It’s taken the best part of a century to achieve the transition of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu from femme fatale to victim.
Purcell Dido and Aeneas/ Handel Acis and Galatea, Royal Opera/ Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
Wednesday 01 April 2009
It’s probably apocryphal, but a member of the Covent Garden elite was once heard to exclaim: “What is it tonight, darling, singing or dancing?” Well, both actually.
Wednesday 18 March 2009
Who knows if it really makes a difference or not when Verdi's Requiem is performed in the opera house but Antonio Pappano's vivid performance for the Royal Opera certainly had the whiff of theatricality about it. Churchy it was not – though you might imagine that the Royal Opera Chorus had been advised that their murmured repetitions of the words Requiem aeternam at the outset must sound almost indivisible from the mournful cello descent, as if emanating from deep inside some dark Italian cathedral.
Tuesday 24 February 2009
You knew from the palpable fizz of those open fifths in tremolando violins and the cut and thrust of the horns that conductor Marc Albrecht was very much at the helm of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman and that he’d started exactly as he meant to go on.
Tuesday 27 January 2009
You could experience a momentary double-take walking into the Royal Opera's Linbury Studio Theatre – thinking you've taken a wrong turn into the main house, as a cross-section of the ornate balconies and familiar red curtains of the latter confronts you. John Gay's original The Beggar's Opera was so successful that it laid the foundations for the theatre that is now the Royal Opera House.
Wednesday 24 December 2008
How ironic that the one Puccini opera left unfinished at his death should end with what has become the greatest of his hits – "Nessun Dorma". Mind you, Turandot is big on irony, most of it dispensed by Ping, Pang, and Pong, the jolly trio from old Peking's ministry of executions, and in Andrei Serban's now almost legendary Royal Opera staging, given here on the very day of the composer's 150th anniversary, they are very much the life and soul of the party.
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