Friday, 9 March 2007

In this month's Opera magazine

Gleanings from this month's Opera magazine.

There is an interview with David Fielding, partly to commemorate the fact that Fielding is doing Strauss's Egyptian Helen at the Met - based on his Garsington production. In the text (by Andrew Clark) both Clark and Fielding give due weight not only to Fielding's work at Garsington but also at Grange Park (where he's doing Prokofiev's The Gambler this summer). But somehow, in the layout of the article, the curse of Opera Magazine happened again (after all they did once describe Grange Park as the most unnecessary of the UK's opera festivals). The pictures include 3 of Fielding's ENO productions, 5 of his Garsington productions but none of his Grange Park one's. Or perhaps I'm being churlish and the Grange Park pictures failed to arrive!

An interesting comment in the Letters, an audience member from the Theatre Royal in Glasgow who sat in the balcony found that the counter tenors in Scottish Opera's Tamerlano were perfectly audible, whilst the critics (sitting in the stalls) found them too quiet. I've always rather liked sitting upstairs and often found the sound quality can be better in some theatres (and I've sat in the Theatre Royal balcony many times).

George Benjamin's new opera, Into the Little Hill was premièred in Paris as part of the Festival d'Automne, along with 2 other Benjamin events. The production is travelling to Amsterdam, New York and Frankfurt, but guess what? There are no solid plans for it to come to London - though it might get to Liverpool. The opera uses just 2 singers and Judith Weir-like, Benjamin conjures a whole cast from them. As one of the singers was the ever wonderful Hilary Summers, I bet the performance was terrific. Though Paul Driver describes her as mannish-sounding.

Another first opera, this time by Bruno Mantovani, premièred in Strasbourg by Opera National du Rhin. (Berlioz Troyens and a première in the same season).

Rodion Shchedrin's new opera Boyarina Morozova uses just chorus, soloists and 3 instrumentalists. The chorus are used instrumentally to accompany the soloists - its very Orthodox Church Music influenced. Sounds fascinating.

It seems that the Berlin Philharmonic has never performed Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel complete. Surprisingly, they got Mark Elder to do it with them and the results sound to have been fabulous. John Allison comments on how Elder reined thing in in the pit (v. necessary in this opera), but its not how I remember him from his Coliseum days when the orchestra frequently were too loud for the singers words to come across. One nice point in the presentation of the opera; the witch (Jane Henschel) sat incognito in the audience through the first scenes and started her performance by cackling from her seat. Startling if you were sitting next to her!

Meanwhile in Turin Luana de Vol sang Turandot at the age of 64 - something of a record. The production was mega-simple. Cost cutting meant that there was no money for sets, but Luca Ronconi seems to have turned up trumps with just people, lighting and the stage machinery. Shows what you can do when pushed. I wish more theatres would consider this.

It was good to see Sally Matthews garnering plaudits for her Amsterdam Cosi (even if the production was not liked).

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia a self-propelling yellow Hoover seems to have been one of the stars of the new production of Cenerentola, updated to the 50's (again). Reviewer David Shengold complains of updating fatigue, having already seen Semele as Marilyn Monroe, Nemorino as James Dean in Giant and Didno as Evita!

But in Seattle, the new Italiana in Algeri also updates, but wittily makes aviatrix Isabella crash land here aeroplane in North Africa.

In London, Rodney Milnes though that Dawn French, as the Duchess of Crackentorp in La Fille du Regiment marginally underplayed her role - really!

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