Tuesday 27 March 2007

Disappearing casts

The Barbican Centre has generated a niche for itself by bringing over the casts of various French operatic productions to delight their audiences. William Christie is, inevitably, often involved but others also. This procedure, though, is fraught with difficulties; what is actually delivered is sometimes a bit different to what is promised.

There were probably sighs of relief when, a few years ago, Handel's Serse was done in concert with Anne Sofie von Otter, after first night reviews of the production came out. But when Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea came over from Paris there were notable absences in the cast so that the sense of ensemble coming from an established team, was marred. The newcomers were noticeably wedded to their scores.

Now something similar is happening to tonight's Ariodante at the Barbican. Also hailing from Paris, where performances were staged. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo and Sandrine Piau have dropped out, to be replaced by singers who have actually appeared in the Paris production, so at least the sense of ensemble will not be marred (at least one hopes not). Now, Angelika Kirschlager, in the title role, has dropped out through illness - something that cannot be legislated for.

The problem is that the Barbican's Great Performers season is in danger of getting a reputation for not delivering the casts that are promised.

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