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Thread: Our own reviews of operas we've attended

  1. #91
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Die Walkure
    Berwick Festival Opera
    Berwick-Upon-Tweed
    4-Sep-2015

    This was a concert performance with a derisory and under-utilised screen projection behind. The orchestra had 22 players, performing Jonathan Dove's rearrangement for 18 players made for the Birmingham Opera Company in 1990. He also trimmed more than an hour off the running time.

    The orchestra strikes up the notable drama of the Act I prelude and I immediately know we're not going to be luxuriating in Wagner's sensual strings this evening. Siegmund stumbles breathlessly onto the stage. Ronald Samm is a man of fuller figure from Trinidad. His is a fine voice and one can easily imagine his signature Otello. Semi-staged it might be, but he's keen to act out. His 'twin', the fragrant blonde Janice Watson, appears from the other side. Yes, I know. No smirking please. The important thing is they both sing well. Simon Wilding as Hunding cuts a fine figure with a powerful voice but I don't care for the bass-baritone oscillation. Act I is over in 40 minutes which feels about right if you're going to do cuts, and here comes a point of contention, the Act II prelude is segued with the Act I finale. I see what Dove was trying to do, but for me, Wagner's act openings and closures are such a great pleasure that I felt denied. Brunnhilde and Wotan very promptly appear for their first scene. Miriam Murphy has the pipes and frame to make a big impression, but to me Paul Carey Jones as the dapper Wotan was the class act with a fine tone and presence, kind of like the Donald MacIntyre Wotan I have on DVD. Andrea Baker's vivacious Fricka also makes a good impression. The first half of the opera ends in the lull after B & W's middle scene. It's kind of awkward and was left to me to start the applause. Maybe Dove should have worked in a little cadence to get us to a more fitting point?

    The second part (unlike the program I'm not going to call it Act II) uses the same device of seguing Act II and III together. It works well enough if you don't mind missing quite a few bars of the Act II outro. Fricka (with the aid of nothing by her rearranged shawl) has become Waltraute, and is joined by voices from the back of the hall. The other two Valkyries - Helmwige and Rossweisse - sing as they walk up the side isles to the stage. The three of them are vampishly attired and most fetching (from a male viewer's point of view). It proved a hard act to follow although Wotan sung his parts very well and the orchestra did its best to blaze and shimmer.

    My conclusions: Wagner needs more strings than this. 8 string players plus a double bass simply isn't enough to convey the glory of the music. Secondly, if you're going to have a film image backdrop, do something useful with it! There were no titles, but I think (and have thought before for semi staged) that the screen should be used for simple commentary, such as 'With Wotan's approval Hunding kills Siegmund', 'Wotan banishes Brunnhilde to live on a rock surrounded by fire'.

    An even more rambling version of this text including travelog is on my forum blog
    http://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/d...-festival.html

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  3. #92
    Senior Member Belowpar's Avatar
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    Thank you Don F. Two Saturdays ago we stopped at "South" Berwick for a light lunch and liked the vibe very much. However I didn't see any fliers for this event. I have seen many 'reduced' Opera performances and as long as the venue is also scaled down I usually have no trouble making allowances and enjoying myself, but your point about the strings is well made and understood. Without wishing to go over old sores I generally prefer this approach than attempting to present Grand Opera on limited resources. It seem that the singers were well chosen.

    So that makes two Forum members you've made the acquantance of this year, who both denied being axe murderers. Be afraid...

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  5. #93
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Yes, Berwick is a great little town. What with the culture and the golf opportunities I wouldn't mind moving there. I guess I have some affinity with the anglo-scots heritage too.

    The singers were pretty much first rate international standard, well beyond what one might have expected in such a small venue. As for smaller productions, the most important thing is to do it well. I don't usually need a big orchestra. Sometimes a smaller group of well-drilled musicians gives a more pleasing sound. Similarly with the staging; clarity is far more important than elaboration. I felt the Black Cat Opera Co.'s Falstaff was more enjoyable than Covent Garden one I'd seen the previous month.

  6. #94
    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    It's a good idea to collect all the reviews in one thread, so here's my latest:

    Don Giovanni in Paris Bastille Opera.

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  8. #95
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    Rossini - Barber of Seville - English National Opera

    My first opera of the new season. And what a hilarious evening. Never thought a 200 year old opera could be so funny. Great gags about the nature of modern music. Being the ENO this was sung in English that gave it an immediacy to the humour.

    This is the 12th revival of the Jonathan Miller production, and is a "traditional" one. The sets and cast look like they have stepped out of a Hogarth painting.

    The cast were all excellent in acting and in singing. The standout was Andrew Shore as Dr Bartolo, showing once again why he is such great comic actor. You get to hear him sing falsetto too. . Kathryn Rudge as Rosina sung a wonderful Una voce poco fa. Mexican tenor Eleazar Rodriguez as Almaviva, who really shone when he impersonated the music teacher. We have Australian baratone, Morgan Pearse as Figaro. With a nice big resonant voice, his Figaro aria is very funny when sung in English, full of braggadocio. Must not forget the amazing Katherine Broderick who I saw as a Valkyrie two years ago and made a big impression. Here she brought the house down with the housekeeper aria.

    And the orchestra conducted by Christopher Allen, full of energy as it should be. If you have a chance try and see it, a really fun night out.
    Last edited by Loge; Oct-04-2015 at 15:54.

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  10. #96
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review Loge. Glad you enjoyed it. This production was actually my very first opera, back in 1988. It shows the great value of designing a handsome production that can be revived, even over decades.

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  12. #97
    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Il Trovatore, Amsterdam October 11th

    New production set in WWI. Not very impressed, let's just say it could have been worse. The end was ok, the soldiers throwing a body in a grave during the Miserere was just tasteless and even got some laughs from the audience.

    The singing was quite good, too bad the singers did not get a conductor that was on the same page as theirs. Maurizio Benini is not a rookie and I was surprised how bad the support for the singers was, so many moments were just messy. The worst was the choir scenes, especially the anvil chorus was all over the place. In my seat I could see the conductor, and I couldn't make anything out of his gestures... I wonder if the singers and musiciens had the same experience.

    Our Leonora (Carmen Giannattasio) was good, but lacked some power at some points, and maybe some finesse during her big aria's especially the D'amor sull'ali rosee. Her voice has a very attractive timbre and when needed there is power, but only barely enough. Some parts were drowned in the orchestra sounds, again not so nice of the meastro.

    Di Luna (Simone Piazzola) has a very sweet baritone, I heard him before and he seemed a little under the weather. Still his Il balen del suo sorriso was one of the highlights of the performance. He looks a little lost on the stage and doesn't really show us the manic obsessed character he is.

    Azucena (Violeta Urmana) was great. Voice, acting, perfect match. Her low notes are hair raising.

    Manrico (Francesco Meli) was the star of the matinee. He was in excellent shape, better than the Salzburg 2014 performance, and he has that typical Italian tenor, sweet and bright, he can push it to great extend and effect and his voice just soares and his cabaletta's are sensational. He looks very comfortable in his role in this production and really convinces with his acting.

    The choir and orchestra did sound very good, too bad they were not inspired by the meastro. Also, some tempi were so uncomfortable. Leonora's part just before the Miserere was too slow to my taste.

    At the end the 4 leads appeared at the curtain and were awarded with a standing ovation from the stalls, seconds later all of the audiance got on their feet, Azucena and Manrico being their favourites.
    Last edited by Dongiovanni; Oct-11-2015 at 19:49.

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  14. #98
    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I got back a little while ago from the Met's "Live in HD" TANNHAUSER, which was my first live performance of this opera. The period production from 1977 has beautiful costumes but is generally looking "clunky" and dated. The singing, however, was so wonderful (at least to my inexperienced Wagnerian ears) that the production didn't matter so much. The cast included Johan Botha as Tannhauser, Eva Marie Westerbroek (sp) as Elisabeth, Michelle de Young as Venus, and Peter Mattei as Wolfram. Mattei's beautifully sung and touchingly acted Wolfram was, for me, the main attraction; yet Botha, in great voice, acted much better than I was predicting he would (though I'd never seen him before I'd heard people say that he's a dull actor). His Tannhauser was truly tormented, especially in the Rome Narrative. It was rather sad to see James Levine conducting from a wheelchair, but time and infirmity have not seemed to diminish his ability. The ending was very powerful. I would like to see the Met get a new TANNHAUSER -- nothing post-modern, just a new period production. In the meantime, I'm glad to have finally seen TANNHAUSER live.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Nov-01-2015 at 00:30.

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  16. #99
    Senior Member gardibolt's Avatar
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    I thought Botha was quite good, though it took a while to get used to his voice, which seemed very nasal in the first Act. Act III, which I find ridiculous on CD, came across very well and was quite moving (Tannhäuser still dies far too abruptly). Unfortunately the projector at our theatre crapped out twice during Act III for a few minutes but it was a fine performance. I was glad to see it was a traditional production; too many presentations of Wagner seem to want to be all about the new bizarre staging.
    Hours of unrecorded, unpublished and unknown Beethoven works at The Unheard Beethoven

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  18. #100
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I got back a little while ago from the Met's "Live in HD" TANNHAUSER, which was my first live performance of this opera. The period production from 1977 has beautiful costumes but is generally looking "clunky" and dated. The singing, however, was so wonderful (at least to my inexperienced Wagnerian ears) that the production didn't matter so much. The cast included Johan Botha as Tannhauser, Eva Marie Westerbroek (sp) as Elisabeth, Michelle de Young as Venus, and Peter Mattei as Wolfram. Mattei's beautifully sung and touchingly acted Wolfram was, for me, the main attraction; yet Botha, in great voice, acted much better than I was predicting he would (though I'd never seen him before I'd heard people say that he's a dull actor). His Tannhauser was truly tormented, especially in the Rome Narrative. It was rather sad to see James Levine conducting from a wheelchair, but time and infirmity have not seemed to diminish his ability. The ending was very powerful. would like to see the Met get a new TANNHAUSER -- nothing post-modern, just a new period production. In the meantime, I'm glad to have finally seen TANNHAUSER live.
    Except from the "New" Tannhauser I agree with you.
    I just ordered tickets for March to see a reprise on a Sunday
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    "Mahatma Gandhi"

  19. #101
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Missed the Tannhauser in favour of the rugby World Cup final. Glad I did as the game was electrifying. Maybe catch up with RW if there is a repeat.

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  21. #102
    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gardibolt View Post
    I thought Botha was quite good, though it took a while to get used to his voice, which seemed very nasal in the first Act. Act III, which I find ridiculous on CD, came across very well and was quite moving (Tannhäuser still dies far too abruptly). Unfortunately the projector at our theatre crapped out twice during Act III for a few minutes but it was a fine performance. I was glad to see it was a traditional production; too many presentations of Wagner seem to want to be all about the new bizarre staging.
    Though "nasal" didn't come to my mind, I did think Botha took the first scene or so to get warmed up. For a new production I'd definitely want a traditional one; I see no reason to update this opera.

  22. #103
    Senior Member Belowpar's Avatar
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    The Royal Academy of Music Concert Hall is having some work done so they decamped to the lovely Hackney Empire this weekend for four performances of The Marriage of Figaro.

    I don’t have time for a full review but agree with the following.
    https://bachtrack.com/review-nozze-d...y-october-2015


    A couple of other points. The lighting for this production seemed brighter than the current vogue where everything gets lit as if it were a film noir. This means that facial expression is often something only the Conductor can appreciate. This time we could see the actors interact, the action came alive, the comedy sparkled and it’s been a long time since I enjoyed Mozart so much.

    The Older characters seemed to be harder for the cast to portray well. In particular the Count seemed a one dimensional figure of fun.

    Impossible not to speculate who has the brightest future. ON this showing the Susanna of Charlotte Schoeters was both pleasing to watch and beautifully sung. But the star of the evening was the Figaro, Božidar Smiljanic. I really enjoyed his portrayal both his fine voice with lovely diction and charismatic acting.

    I will be on the lookout for their productions in future. Entertainment like this for £20. Marvelous.

    In fact I enjoyed it so much I’m going to stop typing, get on with my job and with a little luck see the alternate cast tonight.

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  24. #104
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belowpar View Post
    The Royal Academy of Music Concert Hall is having some work done so they decamped to the lovely Hackney Empire this weekend for four performances of The Marriage of Figaro.

    I don’t have time for a full review but agree with the following.
    https://bachtrack.com/review-nozze-d...y-october-2015


    A couple of other points. The lighting for this production seemed brighter than the current vogue where everything gets lit as if it were a film noir. This means that facial expression is often something only the Conductor can appreciate. This time we could see the actors interact, the action came alive, the comedy sparkled and it’s been a long time since I enjoyed Mozart so much.

    The Older characters seemed to be harder for the cast to portray well. In particular the Count seemed a one dimensional figure of fun.

    Impossible not to speculate who has the brightest future. ON this showing the Susanna of Charlotte Schoeters was both pleasing to watch and beautifully sung. But the star of the evening was the Figaro, Božidar Smiljanic. I really enjoyed his portrayal both his fine voice with lovely diction and charismatic acting.

    I will be on the lookout for their productions in future. Entertainment like this for £20. Marvellous.

    In fact I enjoyed it so much I’m going to stop typing, get on with my job and with a little luck see the alternate cast tonight.
    Very envious! Have fun.
    Ann

  25. #105
    Senior Member Belowpar's Avatar
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    Ok Take 2

    I expected the 4th performance being a Monday night would be scarcely attended, so I was a little surprised that the only ticket available was on the third tier for £12. I'd not seen an Opera form higher in the Theatre before but the sound was expertly balanced and it's not a large theatre with great sightlines, so far so good.

    The Upper Circle was full of students who judging by the queue at the other window were all on complimentary tickets. Was a little surprised to overhear one young student of RCM tell her friend from The Guildhall SoM that they'd been having lectures on the The Chimp Paradox, a book much favoured by high performing British Sportsmen like Padraig Harrington and Chris Hoy. For whatever reason the performance was 15 minutes late starting and it became clear that not all student are the most attentive Opera audience in the world. Add to that the woman directly in fornt of me started an intermittent deep cough during Voi che sapate and kept her thrilling solo up to the interval. I considered going home and contacting the Guinness Book of Records. But they sell wine and allow you to bring it in to the auditorium and then the most amazing thing happened. The magic arrived. The restless audience craned forward, the drama meant something and I can report I went home happy.



    The stand out performance this time were
    pretty much all the smaller parts but Dominic Bowe and Robert Garland deserve mention. I should have mentioned the Friday Cherubino, Katherine Aitken and in a part made for students Laura Zigmantaite also pleased. The most enjoyable contrast however was with the two Susanna's. Nika Goric had a more rounded 'mature' voice and despite wearing the same costumes made the part her own in a different way – just as you'd hope for. The Countess of Eve Daniell had more presence and Haobin Wang was more successful with the Count.

    As for the first time production by Janet Suzman, it always kept your attention and the students must have benefited from her vast experience in the Theatre. Liveliness and engagement without artifice are all strenghts of the production . But seeing it twice in 4 day highlighted the short comings of her decidedly feminist approach. With no attempt at balance there seemed little that either Count could do to keep us interested in what became of him. And when he groped the fainted Susanna the students though it was funny! The ending however worked. The music didn’t sound that celebratory and as the chorus sang, the surtitles read (something like) “Choose happiness”, the Countess stepped forward and removed the gift of the ring and handed it back to the Count, before exiting the stage. Curtain.


    As I said I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend this to everyone. Will look out for next years production in their own hall a short walk from Baker St tube.
    Last edited by Belowpar; Nov-09-2015 at 22:00.

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