Friday, 22 September 2006

La Juive - Part 1 (the moans and groans)

We went to see the Royal Opera House's concert performance of Fromental Halevy's La Juive at the Barbican last night. A full review will appear in a subsquent post, but the performance, welcome though it was, revealed rather a number of niggles about the way it was mounted.

First on, it was at the Barbican rather than the Royal Opera House which meant that the stage was full to bursting with the huge chorus, orchestra and soloists. In fact the stage had beene extended forward, thus taking out 2 rows of seats and meaning that our seats, usually perfectly decent if not wonderful, gave us a side view of the soloists (someone commented that we got a good view of their shoes). The performance was so involving that this didn't matter.

The opera is notoriously long, all the French grands operas are long. In fact, on the first night it ran from 7pm to 12.30am, but was subsequently cut. The Paris Opera employed an interesting form of democracy when it came to cuts, the first night of operas was pretty uncut, then after that the least popular bits were cut!

The Royal Opera's production was advertised as starting at 6.30pm; so we assumed we were in for a long evening. Getting to the Barbican for 6.30pm can be tricky and D. did not manage it, which meant that at the end of Act 1, when he could reasonably be expected to be let in to his seat, he and the other late comers were coralled into the balcony instead. Annoying but not disastrous.

The performance was advertised as being in 2 halves, Acts 1 and 2 (running time 90 minutes), 25 minute interval, Acts 3, 4 and 5 (running time 85 minutes). In fact it went on a little longer but was finished by 10pm. So why on earth did they start the show at 6.30pm, 7.00pm would have been far better.

Someone in the management was obviously worried about what time the show finished. The show was cut; I could see the orchestral parts and there was barely a page without some pasting over. But they even dropped numbers which were mentionned in the programme (Princess Eudoxie and Rachel's Act 3 duet, the opening chorus and funeral march of Act 5). The programme also mentionned that there would have been a 2nd interval after Act 4.

By my calculations, they could quite easily have run the show exactly as it was performed but starting at 7.00pm and finishing at 10.30pm, surely kinder to the punters. Or, even better, start at 6.30pm , finish at 10.30pm, have 2 intervals (20 minute and 15 minutes) and open a few of the cuts.

The programme book was excellent but nowhere did we learn the rationale behind the version that we were hearing.

Oh and one more thing, for such a long opera, why not a Saturday performance.

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