Archive | August, 2012

Marketing: Part 2 – unnecessary claims

25 Aug

And while I’m on the subject of marketing, the publicity surrounding the recent Proms performance of ENO’s Peter Grimes has been seriously irritating me.
I quote from the programme:

“Britten’s psychological drama… was first produced in 1945 by Sadler’s Wells Opera, the precursor to ENO, and it has remained central to the company’s repertory ever since.”

Really?  What definition of “central” are ENO and the BBC using here?

Grimes was indeed first produced by Sadler’s Wells in 1945 and it stayed in the repertory for a couple of years.  It wasn’t then done by the company until 1963 in a production that hung around for five or six years.  It wasn’t done again until the Tim Albery production in 1991.  That was revived in 1994.  Then David Alden’s production came along in 2009.  Put it another way, the company tends to allow 15 or 20 years to elapse between the last performance of one staging and first of a new one.  Or, out of opera’s 65 year old life, it doesn’t perform it in at least 50 of those years.  That doesn’t strike me as being “central” to the repertory.

It goes further.  The company’s website says “Britten remains at the heart of ENO’s repertoire…”.  That suggests to me that Britten’s operas have been a strong feature of the repertory of the company throughout its history.  Frankly, it hasn’t.  After Grimes, Britten never wrote another opera for the company and the politicking surrounding its production made him form the English Opera Group because he couldn’t stand the atmosphere at Sadler’s Wells.  Apart from Grimes, the company didn’t perform another Britten opera until 1968 when it looked at Gloriana and, even after that, the company’s interest was at best fitful until the last decade.  Until the last decade, if you wanted to hear Britten, the place to go was the Royal Opera House, with the Welsh and Scots doing more than respectably.  In fact, looking back over its history, Janácek and, possibly, Handel have been far more central to ENO’s repertory than ever Britten was.

This isn’t anything to be particularly ashamed of – there was a limited public for Britten’s operas and the ROH had cornered the market.  What ENO has done spectacularly well in recent years is to carry forward a new generation of productions and approaches to the operas with pretty much uniformly outstanding results.  Can’t they just claim that rather than some sort of history of performing Britten’s works which simply hasn’t existed?

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Marketing. Part 1 of another likely series

25 Aug

I tend to associate the sides of buses with marketing for films that I don’t really want to see, rather than for operas that I might, so I was slightly startled when I saw the ENO advertising their revival of Magic Flute on two consecutive London buses that passed me yesterday.  I was even more startled by the content.  There was a picture of, I assume, Pamina, beside the word “Babe”.  Next came a picture of, I think, one of the animals that Tamino tames, beside the word “Beast”.  Finally there was a picture of the Queen of the Night next to “The Magic Flute”.  I’ve been trying to work out the point of it all.

The first thing which struck me was puzzlement.  I thought that the inference that most people, not knowing anything about the opera, would draw is likely to be that it’s about a young woman and a beast with the flute either rescuing the woman from the beast or turning itor her into something different.  At any rate you’d think that the beast might play some sort of major part in the opera.  The last time I saw the opera (and, indeed, the last time I saw the ENO’s production), it didn’t.  The second thought was a recognition that there was sort of Disney-esque quality to the opera that might support that sort of marketing.  The third was of how unbelievably tacky it was, together with disappointment (though not surprise) at ENO marketing opera like this.

So who is this aimed at?  Well, one thing I can be sure about is that it wasn’t me.  But ENO doesn’t need to aim this at me.  It has other ways of telling me that Flute is on and they can be pretty sure that this advertising is unlikely to make any difference to my decision not to go (I think the production is probably the best all-round Flute I’ve seen, but I’ve seen it rather a lot of times and there are other priorities in my life).  They can also be pretty sure that, even if I do think it’s tacky, that’s not going to stop me coming to see the operas at ENO that I do want to see (though it might be something else to stop me joining their Friends).

I suppose that it might serve the purpose of telling the occasional opera goer who doesn’t keep a particular eye on the listings that this opera is on.  And that sort of person might well be interested to going, but I think they might know a bit about Magic Flute and be puzzled by the content.  They might also find it a bit tacky – such people tend to be quite conservative in their tastes.

Is it aimed it at people who don’t go to opera at all?  Possibly. I suppose that advertising on buses makes opera seem more “accessible”.  And using Disney-esque language makes it seem less frightening.  Can someone remind me where the distinction between “accessibility” and “dumbing down” is, because I have a funny feeling that we may be crossing it somewhere round here?  It certainly won’t appeal to the “cool” or “hip” generation, or whatever they call themselves.  Now the Hytner Flute strikes me as a really accessible production with some enchanting moments in it, but it’s not exactly Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Beauty and the Beast (it isn’t particularly “cool” or “hip” either, I suppose).  If I went expecting something like that, possibly with my kids and assuming that I’d got past the prices that ENO now charges, I might be a tad disappointed that it’s not a bit more like what the ads had led me to expect.  It’s possible that I might be so enchanted by it that I’d buy a subscription to everything else straight away, but I might equally feel let down and confirmed in my view that opera’s a bit boring and not for me.

Or maybe the purpose is just to raise awareness of the brand and I’ve fallen into the trap by blogging about it.

And, actually, it’s even more insidious, because while I’ve been writing this, I’ve remembered that my niece and nephew are about the age that I was when I first saw Flute and fell in love with it and, in particular, Thomas Allen who was singing Papageno.  Maybe I ought to take them along – it’s a better production than my first and Duncan Rock should be pretty good.  And then I get to the prices and, I’m very sorry, dearly though I love them, it just costs too much.  Has ENO not thought of using some of its marketing money towards some half price seats for children for some operas?

Anyway, I’m glad I’m not in marketing because I think my ethics might get in the way of success.  I hope it works and I wish the ENO lots of new audiences as a result of it.  I can’t help feeling, though, that there might be other ways of getting them.

 

Ravel at Glyndebourne

25 Aug

I don’t know whether it’s to do with my mood or just the coincidences of my diary, but I’ve noticed that, very often, outstanding performances seem to come close together, perhaps in the same week and then you hit a run of less good ones.  I’ve just blogged about the outstanding Peter Grimes at the Proms.  The night before, on 23rd August, I went to the equally wonderful Ravel Double Bill at Glyndebourne.

In the past, I’ve felt a bit ambivalent about them.  Ravel is not a composer that I instinctively respond to – I frequently find him a bit cold and can take or leave, mostly leave.  Even at this performance, I had reservations about L’heure espagnole. There’s a nice, dry wit about it, but I find a heaviness in the orchestration, a feeling that it goes on just a bit too long and that, really, this smutty joke was a bit more suited to Offenbach or Chabrier than Ravel – who lavishes a bit too much on it.  Perhaps I need to understand French better to get everything out of it.

Despite this, I hugely enjoyed Laurent Pelly’s production which updated the piece to the 1960s with no obvious damage and had a wonderful set with clocks that turned madly, bicycle wheels that whirled and a general air of madness that was great fun.  The cast was fine with Stephanie d’Oustrac a wonderfully louche Concepción, Christopher Bolduc, standing in for Elliot Madore, a hunky, well-sung Ramiro who looked perfectly at home and François Piolino a really amusing, geeky Torquemada.  Perhaps they mugged a bit more than they might otherwise for an English audience but this was an elegant, stylish performance that I enjoyed.

L’enfant et les sortilèges, by contrast, was fabulously good.  Again, it’s not an opera that I’ve particularly warmed to before – I remember being desperately bored by a horrific Opera North production a few years ago.  It’s always a challenge presenting animals and inanimate objects on stage.  Pelly surmounted this triumphantly.  From the start, the child was dwarfed by a massive table and chair on which he was doing his work.  The mother arrived –  a huge figure with a vast tray and we saw things instantly from the child’s angle.  Then, as the supernatural took over, the set more or less disappeared and we were in a dark space with the different characters entering with vast props, again dwarfing the child.  So the wallpaper were convincing paper shepherds and shepherdesses.  The Teapot and Chinese cup did their dance in absolutely realistic costumes.  The animals were readily identifiable (would that Pelly had been in charge of Vixen earlier this season) and the trees in the garden were people, like in the Peter Hall Midsummer Night’s Dream, which moved and provided marvellous stage pictures.  At the end they parted to show a window with Maman silhouetted behind it.

So it looked wonderful and convincing.  And the performances didn’t put a foot wrong.  Pelly’s direction was witty, light but capable both of terror and pathos as well – the scenes with the shepherds and shepherdesses, the Princess and the animals were moving and, at the end, that cry of “maman” evoked just the right sense of relief and joy.  On form, as he was here, Pelly is a genius.

The cast was outstanding and it’s no disrespect to those I don’t mention if I single out Khatouna Gadelia’s beautifully sung, convincing Child, Kathleen Kim whose marvellous coloratura made a huge impression as the Fire and the Princess and, again, the hard working François Piolino as the Teapot, Arithmetic and Frog.  There was a complete sureness and certainty to all the performances.

Kazuo Ono had conducted a witty enough Heure, but was outstanding in Enfant.  He brought a clarity to the textures, perfect pacing and made me realise what a fantastic score this is.  I want to go back and listen to it properly.  The LPO and was on limpid, clearly, stylish form.

There are times at Glyndebourne when the atmosphere of the place, together with the superb preparation and casting, you catch yourself feeling that opera just doesn’t get better than this.  That was how I felt after this Enfant.  I do hope they bring it back.

When concerts can be as good as stagings

25 Aug

I’ve just blogged about the excellent Yeomen of the Guard at the Proms and now, less than a week later, we have a trulyoutstanding Peter Grimes in a concert in which I barely missed the staging.  With these and the Opera North Ring, it makes you feel that these concerts are not just cheapskate ways of getting some sort of performance of an opera but actually viable ways of producing a great operatic experience.  I remember also that probably the finest performance of Macbeth that I’ve seen was at the ROH when they’d over-estimated the problems of doing two new productions when you have the builders in and turned Phyllida Lloyd’s new production into a concert staging.

The common theme of all of those was that they had been wonderfully prepared and, in the case of two of them, had been prepared for or arose out of a full staging.  So what are the advantages?  First, the singers are in front of the orchestra engaging with each other. They are closer to the audience and there’s no chasm between them and us – there’s a direct engagement which is much more difficult in an opera house.  They don’t have complex sets or moves to negotiate and this enables them to concentrate on the acting and the essence of the performance.  There are also advantages in having the orchestra in full view, particularly in a piece like Grimes where the show-piece interludes benefit from the orchestra being visible.

There are disadvantages, of course.  If a singer isn’t quite prepared then the exposure shows (all here were magnficent).  The balance can sometimes be distorted – having the chorus and organ in the hall rather than offstage meant that they become the focus of the Ellen/John scene and (at least from where I was sitting) overwhelmed Amanda Roocroft when they really should have been no more than the background.  And, in Grimes, the chorus is a crucial part of the action and having them behind the orchestra and away from the principals meant they seemed separate – you had to make allowances.

Here these disadvantages were only minor.  The lynch mob in Act III was as terrifying as I have ever heard in the theatre.  The final scenes were as rivetting and moving as ever – you needed to make no allowances at all for Stuart Skelton, dishevelled, bare-footed, twitching and entirely withdrawn into his own nightmare for his last mad-scene.  And the pub scene was as well observed, witty and carefully delineated as it ever has been in a stage production.  You wouldn’t want to see Grimes like this all the time, but this provided the essence to give us among the finest performances of it that I’ve seen.

Skelton, as we know from the 2009 performances, is an outstanding Grimes, capable of managing both the brutality and sheer tenderness of the monologues.  He is more tender and sings more beautifully than Vickers and has greater strength and sheer brutality than either Rolfe-Johnson or Langridge.  I don’t think I’ve seen a more complete performance.

He was marvellously supported.  So far I’ve been a bit sceptical about Iain Paterson.  My apologies to him.  His Balstrode was outstandingly sung – displaying a huge voice, beautifully controlled and with outstanding diction – and committedly acted.  This was all the more creditable because he wasn’t part of the original production.  What struck me above all was how I wanted to hear him in Wagner and, particularly as Wotan.  In these straitened times there’s probably no hope of an ENO Ring to give him the opportunity, but we can dream…. Amanda Roocroft was a lovely Ellen, my only concern being that her words weren’t as clear as other Ellens have managed – the Embroidery song always causes problems but she just wasn’t clear enough at the opening of Act II, even when she wasn’t being drowned by the chorus.

Mark Richardson stood in competently as Swallow and the rest of the cast were as at the ENO production and it was marvellous to see such a gallery of detailed, thoughtful impersonations – Felicity Palmer marvellous and unexaggerated as Mrs Sedley, Leigh Melrose really good as Ned Keene and Michael Colvin a mad Bob Boles.  I felt that Rebecca du Pont Davies as Auntie and Darren Jeffrey as Hobson lost most from the absence of David Alden’s production: there they were given very specific, interesting aspects to the characters – Hobson as a probable abuser of boys himself and Auntie’s louche lesbianism didn’t come across so obviously.

Edward Gardner conducted surely – you were gripped by the drama, surely paced, building up the tension and allowing the full terror of the mob to explode.  The ENO chorus and orchestra were on outstanding form and everyone cohered to put across the pathos, the wit and the sheer terror and tragedy of this wonderful opera.

The worst irritation was the audience.  This one had been listened attentively and engrossed, then you come to those massive chorus cries of “Grimes” in Act III and people start applauding after the first one.  It’s a tribute to the performance that we were able to recover concentration almost immediately and the remain cries were just as terrifying as they should be.

This was one of those evening which reminded me of why I go to the opera – terrifying, moving, thought-provoking and entirely involving.

G&S at the Proms

20 Aug

I find the Prom performances of Gilbert and Sullivan hugely reassuring.  First, a packed Albert Hall suggests that there is a wide range of people of all ages who will pay to see the operas and enjoy them.  Secondly, it reminds you that they still work and stand the test of performance.  People tend to mock them these days and it’s nice to remember that they’re actually good.

This year on 19th August it was the turn of The Yeomen of the Guard – as, I suppose, was only to be expected in this patriotic year. There actually isn’t a lot, bar the grandeur of the music, that’s particularly patriotic about the piece, but I won’t worry about that: there hasn’t been a decent performance of it since the 1995 WNO performances and it was good to see it again.

It’s proof of the range of the two of them that they could produce from material only slightly less silly than that of The Mikado a piece which is entirely different from the others, with a greater level of pathos, where silliness becomes charm, while still retaining the wit and satire.  Most of the operas involve at least an element of disappointed or thwarted love. Yeomen is the only one where you feel it matters and, in Jack Point, Gilbert created his finest character – certainly his most human mix of comedy and humanity. While there are lots of great tunes, there’s a melancholy and seriousness about Sullivan’s music that surpasses even that of Iolanthe: I don’t think it’s his greatest score (there’s a dullness about the later numbers in the second Act) but it has its own very special character.

And this was a really good performance.  I thought that Jane Glover got the score pretty much exactly right – tempi well-judged, responsive to the singers and with a sense of style that reassured me that this hadn’t died with Mackerras.  The BBC Concert orchestra could possibly have done with another rehearsal but the BBC Singers were in fabulous form – it’s among Sullivan’s most difficult choral music and it was a joy to have musicians of their calibre singing it.

It wasn’t a bad cast either. Casting Mark Stone as Jack Point was a stroke of genius. He clearly has the lyricism for the role, but I’d not realised how fine he was at the patter – really clear diction – but he managed to deliver the dialogue with wit and panache and to dance as wel.  This was the most complete Point that I’ve seen and made me want to see him as Papageno, Malatesta and a whole range of other roles quite urgently.

Heather Shipp made a delightful Phoebe (as you would expect following her Mad Margaret at Opera North) – it’s a gem of a role and she caught the impulsive flirtatious silliness beautifully. I very much admired Toby Stafford-Allen’s Shadbolt – just the right level of surly intelligence. And it goes without saying that Felicity Palmer was as perfect a Dame Carruthers as you could imagine. All took their roles seriously and credibly, without exaggeration.

I was a bit less happy about some of the remainder. I was looking forward to seeing Lisa Milne as Elsie, forgetting that Elsie has some of Sullivan’s grandest music to sing – listen to Elizabeth Harwood on the 1964 D’Oyly Carte recording (still, for my money, the best) and you will hear what a grand, lyric soprano can do with it: you need an Elvira, not a Susanna, a Marschallin, not a Sophie. Milne sounded over-parted. I also prefer a rather lusher tone than Andrew Kennedy can find for Fairfax: the two arias need a greater freedom than what struck me as his rather cautious singing could muster.  They weren’t bad but they didn’t strike me as ideally cast.

Martin Duncan’s semi-staging updated it to the Victorian period without significant damage. Better, as with Patience three years ago, he had the cast speaking the dialogue (discreetly amplified, I think) naturally and with just the right style. I don’t understand why he isn’t a regular with the main companies. The movement of the principals was ideal.

So it was a joyous evening and well worth the trip on a sweltering day. The only regret was that all that work only went on for a single performance. It was recorded and will be on BBC 2 on Saturday 25th. It’s well worth seeing.

Irritating Directors’ Conceits. Part 1 of a likely series

19 Aug

I wonder why directors feel the need to have action during the overture to Le nozze di Figaro?  It’s only three and a half minutes or so and it’s a wonderful piece of music so you just want to listen to it.  It tells you all you need to know about the tension, turbulence and wit that is to come and the opera is so good that it doesn’t really need any other introduction.  Yet both David McVicar and, now, Michael Grandage have decided that audiences need something to look at.  In Grandage’s case in his new Glyndebourne production, it’s servants preparing the Count’s country house for his arrival in a car, which gets a round of applause.  The problem is that you’re so busy watching what’s going on that you don’t really hear the overture, so I’m not sure how Robin Ticciati conducted it.  I suppose there’s nothing damaging about it but, beyond making it clear that this is set in the 1960s and giving us a nice warm feeling, I wasn’t sure what purpose it had.

In fact, it proved to be something of a pointer for what the whole evening was going to be like – enjoyable, amiable, but not always hitting a bullseye  in the way that Grandage so often does when he directs plays.

It looks handsome – Christopher Oram’s sets are gorgeous (and could be used also for Entfuhrung without any change at all).  The costumes pretty much get the social differences.  If I’m going to cavil, I wondered if you needed such steep steps in the Countess’s bedroom, while the placing of the chairs for the letter duet seemed rather far upstage but, apart from that, this was a perfectly fine setting.

Within those sets, what went on was fine.  In lots of ways, it looked very like a traditional Figaro production – after the overture nothing, apart from some half-hearted jiving in Act III, would have looked out of place in a period setting.  I liked a lot of the direction of the arias and of the characters – Vito Priante’s Figaro in “aprite un po'” was patently in shock and utterly miserable about Susanna and in “Non più andrai” made it clear that he was singing as much to the Count as to Cherunbino – and this Count was too thick to notice.

And yet there were also things missed.  Some of these were musical clues.  In the opening duet, I think it’s pretty likely that Figaro, being a man, doesn’t look at Susanna’s hat the first time he says it’s lovely and that’s why she repeats “guarda un po”.  In the second act finale, the Countess/Susanna whispers to Figaro about the commission and the seal can be part of a fairly complex and risky series of movements aimed at getting information from one side of a room to another without the Count noticing – here it didn’t really go for much.  There’s nothing wrong with this but I felt that a bit of interest was missed.  Similarly, you don’t have to make Antonio completely sozzled in Act II, but I didn’t feel that Grandage replaced it with anything and so that fine character singer Nicholas Folwell seemed a bit anonymous.  Ditto Colin Judson’s alert Curzio who had no stammer.  Similarly, might not Bartolo be a bit reluctant or rueful when Marcellina gets him to marry her?  Here he was delighted, which is fine, but it loses a bit of the complexity and humanity in this opera.  So, for much of it, I thought that Grandage captured much of the joy, some of the fun and emotions but that he could have dug deeper into the emotions.  Some traditions were cut away, but not replaced with anything much.

It was a good cast.  Priante sings Figaro very well and presents a fairly serious servant.  Lydia Teuscher is a lovely, alert Susanna.  I thought Sally Matthews sang the Countess really beautifully even if I wasn’t quite sure why on earth she forgave the Count at the end.  Audun Iversen was similarly excellent as the Count.  I like his voice very much and he acted a burly, rather stupid, thoughtless Count who can really think of only one thing very well.  Isabel Leonard was an extraordinarly convincing Cherubino and sang her arias really well.

The character roles were excellently taken.  Andrew Shore doesn’t have the usual deep bass that you expect from Bartolos, but it paid dividends in the patter and I found his hyper-active, angry little man really diverting – as good a Bartolo as I’ve seen.  Ann Murray was luxury casting and did Marcellina wonderfully.  Alan Oke was one of the slimiest of Basilios. The latter were denied their arias: I feel ambivalent about that – I’d have liked to hear Oke and Murray sing them but they aren’t Mozart’s greatest and they do hold the action up.  The chorus was excellent.

Robin Ticciati’s conducting struck me as having lots going for it – I thought he accompanied the arias really well and pointed up the instrumental commentary very subtly.  Tempi were brisk – it can’t just have been the loss of the two arias that got us out 20 minutes before the advertised time.  I didn’t feel that he had quite the same measure of the score as, say, Mackerras and Rattle have brought in this theatre, but it was a strong, more than reliable reading.

So this was a really enjoyable, happy evening at Glyndebourne and, as with all good Figaros, I sat through it mostly with a smile on my face. I feel slightly mean to suggest that it could have been just a bit better, but Glyndebourne makes a lot of its Figaro tradition and this wasn’t quite in the same league as the opening runs of either the Schaaf or McVicar productions at the ROH. I’d go again, though, to see how it develops with a different cast.

What is the point of the The Fairy Queen?

11 Aug

Second visits to something that you really enjoyed the first time often disappoint.  I shared the general adulation for Glyndebourne’s Fairy Queen when it was new in 2009.  The critics seemed to suggest that this revival was as good as ever.  I think I agree about the perf ormance (I saw it on 9th August), but I did find myself doubting why you bother doing the piece.  It felt like a mildly interesting piece of irrelevance that goes on far too long.

It may well be that, in 1692, this was where music theatre was at.  You take an elderly play that’s a bit out of fashion, rewrite it and fit in a whole lot of completely irrelevant songs by the hottest composer around.  You add some wonderful special effects and you have a hit.  I’m not sure what the modern equivalent is, but there almost certainly is one – maybe those musicals that are basically tributes to pop bands.

Fashions have changed.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of our favourite Shakespeare plays.  It doesn’t need spicing up.  We have lost the sensibility that makes masques about Apollo, the seasons, Hymen and so forth artistically interesting or relevant.  Purcell is a wonderful composer but, with the exception of one or two very beautiful numbers and a couple of very witty ones, this doesn’t strike me as his best work – it’s not surprising; most of the words that he had to set are seriously bad (and having them next to Shakespeare only heightens your awareness of that).  And they go on for ever.  These days, we need a connection between the play and the musical numbers so that it makes some kind of dramatic whole.  The fact that this piece consciously shies away from doing so caused problems for me.  It’s also hard to recreate the days when theatre-going was less reverential than it is today: you could walk in and out, chat to your neighbour or the orange girl or pick up a prostitute who, the programme told me, would have had a discounted ticket.  There were times when I felt that, perhaps, a short break during each  of the rather long halves of this performance, ideally during some of the more tedious parts of the masques, would have done no harm.

The Glyndebourne programme reminded us that one of the problems with semi-operas was that they pleased neither music lovers nor play lovers. At this performance I got pleasure from both aspects, but I can’t believe I’m the only one who greeted the spoken episodes with relief after an interminable sequence of rather irrelevant masque.  Indeed, one of the joys of the evening was that it reminded me of how good a play A Midsummer Night’s Dream is and how I want to see it again, and complete, soon. The actors that Glyndebourne had assembled were very fine and would have given an excellent performance of the full play.  The spoke the words with real intelligence and wit and Jonathan Kent’s direction was really funny.  But I was in an opera house and it felt odd to feel relief when the music stopped and your heart sink, slightly, when it began again.

This wasn’t because the music was bad, but because if felt so irrelevant. Seeing it a second time, Kent’s production seemed slightly more laboured  His direction was at his best for the play and where Purcell is best – the Mopsa duet and the following aria and in the wonderful lament – and where he allowed invention to take over and he could go for the broad laughs – the copulating bunnies and the Adam and Eve scene were pure genius. Elsewhere everything was handsome and lavish even though it frequently became quite predictable.  Paul Brown’s very handsome sets were a bit heavy and limited the options for stunning effects – they could only go up or down and the hydraulic lift did overtime.  Moreover, sitting in the Upper Circle, it looked very much as though it had been designed with only the Stalls and Stalls Circle visitors in mind – you saw a bit much of the lift.

The music was good. Sometimes I wondered if Laurence Cummings, the conductor, loved it too much: the sleep episode dragged a bit and worked a bit too effectively – both my partner and I nodded off.  The playing and the ensemble were of a very high quality.  The singing was uniformly excellent with Carolyn Sampson particularly fine: it was a really good show-case for Glyndebourne’s younger singers.

I’m conscious that this reads rather grudgingly. Glyndebourne had prepared this with immense love and unstinting resources.  I suppose it’s right to do Fairy Queen every now and again to see whether someone can make this deeply flawed, impossible piece work.  Kent’s production probably gets as close to the spectacle and spirit of the original as you can these days and made for a beguiling festival event.  It deserved its revival. He couldn’t alter the fact, however, that it’s very difficult to feel that it’s a good work or that with our appreciation of Midsummer Night’s Dream, there’s much point to The Fairy Queen.