Archive | March, 2015

Student J C Bach

26 Mar

Yet more archeology. The latest dig was at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 25th March when I saw University College Opera do J C Bach’s Amadis de Gaule. For geeks like me, it’s hard to thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to see works like this, like Lalo’s Fiesque or Offenbach’s Whittington which I’d never get to see elsewhere and which have had considerable rewards.  Now they come up with my first opportunity to see a piece by J C Bach: his only opera written for Paris.

This is an opera strongly in the French tradition with plenty of ballet music but all of it arising out of the action: so the release of prisoners at the end of Act II is a celebration for them not, as seems to be the case in Rameau, an opportunity for some random dancers to come on. It feels, as Charles Peebles noted in the programme, like a complete opera – a through composed piece with orchestra accompanying the recits and, while there are arias and duets, these aren’t set piece numbers but, again, take the drama forward. I admired the richness of the orchestration and a sound and idiom that really is not far from Mozart at all.

The story is simple, again, like most French opera.  The evil Arcalaus and his sister Arcabonne are seeking revenge on Amadis and his beloved Oriane.  Having captured them both, Arcabonne realises that Amadis is her unknown beloved and that she cannot kill him.  The two are released by a deus ex machina at the end.

Lully set the story originally as, I believe, did Gluck.  Handel wrote a version for London. The interest is in seeing how J C Bach set it. What struck me was he provides some good arias and duets which reflect the dramatic situation but which don’t express dilemmas well – Orianne and Amadis have a convincing row but it doesn’t suggest much of their original attraction. Arcabonne, the wicked sister, surely ought to hesitate more before giving way to Amadis. You don’t get much depth of character. Nor do you get any of those heart-stopping melodies or moments that you do in Gluck or Handel or the sheer understanding of character. Often in opera, the release of prisoners is one such moment – I didn’t get it here. The music to me sounded efficient but it didn’t leave me wanting to hear it again.  It wasn’t a great surprise that it lasted for only seven performances in Paris.

UCO did it with their customary enthusiasm that overcomes the limitations of student performances – the occasionally scrappy and ill-tuned orchestra, the rather scrawny souund of the chours and some of the soloists. You overlooked these because of the enthusiasm and commitment that everyone was showing. It helped that it was done in Clive Brown’s clear, straightforward translation – they understood and sang the words and we could here them How often do you get that these days?

The leading soloists were professionals. Katherine Blumenthal has sung here before and made a strong, conflicted, clear Arcabonne, Nicholas Morris as her brother, Arcalaus gave a strong villainous performance, though I felt that his voice sounded strained. As Amadis, Lawrence Olworth-Peter’s rather constricted tenor nevertheless put the arias across clearly. Alison Privet showed a lot of promise and style as Oriane. Edward Cottell, who has sung in a number of performances here was the best of the student performers as the jailer and a ghostly voice.

Charles Peebles conducted a big, bold performance that sounded stylish and dramatic. I enjoyed the music and am not sure it was his fault that it all felt rather the same after a while.

Jack Furness directed and deliberately and, I think, rightly, avoided a cute, charming 18th century production. This was set in modern dress among terrorists and with real danger. I felt that he caught the rawness and realsim of the emotions aptly, even if it looked a bit ugly and, at times, undercut the elements of optimism of the opera. I’d like to see more of his work.

Even if the opera and performance didn’t convince me completely, I was glad to have had the opportunity to make those judgements.  Classical Opera are doing J C Bach’s Adriano in Siria in April and I’m looking forward to that.

Interchangeable Handel

24 Mar

Third pasticcio of the year and, so far as I know, the last. This was Handel’s Giove in Argo, which I saw on 23rd March as part of the London Handel Festival at the Britten Theatre. It proved to be a hugely enjoyable evening.

I will confess that I’ve sat through a few Handel operas and had the insidious thought, when some of the less inspired numbers come across, that here is yet another generic second soprano/villain/heroic aria and that there is no particular reason why it has to be in this opera, rather than any other. Giove in Argo takes this further. Handel took a libretto and inserted a series of arias from previous works, a few original ones and a couple brought in by one of his prima donnas from an opera by Araja.  It rather proved my theory.  One Handel aria can very frequently be put into an entirely different opera and situation and work perfectly well .

The opera didn’t please much in 1739 and there was no full score. The version we saw was reconstructed by John H Roberts.  It proved to be an enjoyable curiosity. I don’t usually have problems following the plots of Handel operas – provided you keep alert and watch the surtitles it’s usually fairly easy to work out who’s who, who they’re in love with/loved by and why they’re in disguise. This one was much more difficult, partly because I think that this performance cut a fair amount of recitative and some of the musical numbers. It wasn’t until the middle of the second Act that I really felt that that I’d sorted everyone out. The plot feels like a variant on Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It – Jupiter is haunting a wood where various kings and princesses are in hiding and making love to the princesses. This causes problems when one of the princess’s husband arrives and when the other, Calisto, decides to become a votaress of Diana. You get the typical tropes of people going mad, being misunderstood by their husbands and generally getting into messes that are sorted out remarkably easily at the end. It works and is interesting because the music is so fine.

The arias were great.  Two of them were from Alcina, one being Tornami a vagheggiar, which is always a joy to hear. I recognised one of the others from somewhere or other but the others were unfamiliar. It was great to hear a series of really fabulous arias, all experessing more or less the right emotions. I don’t think there was a single dud. The other fascinating thing was the role of the chorus. There are eight of them and, again, some really gorgeous ones to finish the acts. That at the end of the second Act struck me as particularly fine. As an opera it doesn’t have the genius of Alcina, Giulio Cesare or his other greats, but I couldn’t help feeling that, overall, the musical quality was a bit higher than for some of his others. And that raises all kinds of thoughts about opera and art generally.

Musically, the performance wasn’t bad. As ever, it’s done in conjunction with the Royal College of Music with students singing the roles. It was safe in the hands of Laurence Cummings. He’s a super conductor of this repertory. The music sounded secure, stylish and absolutely right. The London Handel Orchestra was in good form.

None of the singers let the side down, though all were stretched at times. Sofia Larsson had the task of singing, not just Tornami a Vagheggiar but about half a dozen other arias as well. She did them valiantly and, at times, movingly, despite a slight thinness of tone. Angela Simkin as Iside struck me as very special indeed – a series of fabulous arias, including a mad scene, dealt with really well. Rose Setten made a cold, implacable Diana. Peter Aisher’s pleasant tenor sounded stretched by Jupiter’s music and Nicholas Morton made a pretty good Erasto – I particularly enjoyed his singing of his last, reflective aria and felt that there were the makings of a very good lieder singer there. Matthew Buswell as Licaone had one aria at the beginning and some recitative at the end. He actually sounded rather good and I’m assuming that at least one aria may have been cut which was a shame for him.

James Bonas directed and turned this into a dark, rather nasty story, which it is. His direction of the characters was strong, particularly as the story got nastier. The set was economical but allowed some nice effects. My one complaint was that the lighting was resolutely dim and stopped you seeing faces at times.

So it was an enjoyable curiosity for Handelians and was a great opportunity to see one of the outliers. I don’t think it’ll get a toe-hold in the repertory, any more than it did in 1739 butt I’m glad I’ve seen it and I’d recommend a visit.

Exhuming Handel as Editor

18 Mar

Yet more archeology. Opera Settecento presented “Handel”s Catone in Utica” at St George’s Hanover Square on 17th March claiming it as a modern premiere – certainly the first performance since 1732. It’s not really by Handel – edited by Handel certainly – but there’s barely a note by him in the original.

Handel frequently included pasticcios in his London seasons as a way of introducing London to arias by other European composers. Here, he took a libretto by Metastasio which had been set by a couple of composers, most recently the Venetian, Leo. He cut the recitative and replaced a number of Leo’s arias with ones by Hasse, Porpora, Vinci and Vivaldi, selected to suit the individual singers and, possibly, the situation. Unlike the Vivaldi, L’oracolo in Messenia the other week, we can be pretty sure that this was, more or less, what Handel’s audiences heard.

The piece is about Cato committing suicide rather than recognise Caesar as emperor and a love triangle whereby his daughter Marzia is betrothed to his ally, Arbace, but is in love with Cesare. Pompey’s wife Emilia also appears – not quite sure why. It moves reasonably swiftly and provides a neat enough showcase for some interesting arias. Stylistically they are all very different and there isn’t much unity about them but they are all grateful and of a very high quality. It’s hard to feel much interest in the characters or their problems and the performance didn’t really help this.

All of these arias were written for virtuoso singers at the height of their powers. Here we had mostly young singers working with enthusiasm and talent and generally getting by. They were here for the arias and I very much wondered how much work the recitative had had – I wasn’t sure how many of them understood or cared about what they understood what they were singing; it all moved slowly, undramatically.

The best impressions were made by Emilie Renaud as the second role of Arbace and by Christopher Jacklin as Cesare. Both appeared to understand what they were singing, enjoyed communicating it and sang very well. Renaud’s arias may be less flashy but she sang them with a rich, communicative, sincerity. Jacklin’s required some pretty fiendish coloratura and he did a remarkably fine job of them.

As Marzia, Erica Eloff seemed rather cool but sang stylishly – particularly the fiendish final aria from Vinci’s Artaserse. Christina Gansch was rather anonymous as Emilia.

Catone was meant to be sung by Andrew Watts, but he was ill. In the circumstances we have to be grateful to Christopher Robson for stepping in at short notice to undertake what must have been entirely unfamiliar music. I’ll leave it at that.

Tom Foster conducted fluidly and keeping the show moving. He struck me as having a real feel for this sort of music and his orchestra played pretty well for him.

I wouldn’t rush back to see this piece again but I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to experience it and I may well search out some CDs of the arias.

Fascinating Furioso

14 Mar

Donizetti’s Il furioso all’ isola di San Domingo had its first professional performance in the UK in living memory at the Hackney Empire on 12th March by the wonderful English Touring Opera. The way in which this company mixes the popular with the worthwhile rarities is a source of constant amazement to me  Normally, this sort of piece would be the preserve of students or, possibly, an Opera Rara concert.  Here was a full staging with a really good cast.  My only query was over whether they needed to use the rather gawky title of The Wild Man of the West Indies.

It isn’t a neglected masterpiece, but the joy of the Donizetti revival is that it has shown how much worthwhile work there is that we don’t get to see and what a serious composer he is.  What struck me was the sense that Donizetti was still, 43 operas on, experimenting or at least approaching each with an open mind to their challenges. This wasn’t a simple soprano/tenor/baritone piece but a six hander of interesting characters in an opera about madness and reconciliation. Not everything in the opera works, but there is enough of value to make it well worth the occasional revival.

A particular joy was watching it blind, so to speak. I hadn’t looked up the plot beforehand nor tried to hear any of the music. Moreover, the lighting in the auditorium was too dim for me to read the plot so I was following it as it happened and I didn’t know how it would end. I recommend it to you, particularly now that surtitles help you follow the story. You appreciate the way in which Donizetti handled the work and how far it is not your cliched Italian semiseria opera.

It’s set on a plantation. A mad man is terrorising the neighbourhood. He turns out to be Cardenio who has run away from his wife after finding that she has been unfaithful. Donizetti and Ferretti (who did the libretto for Cenerentola) convey the madness really well and Cardenio strikes me as a plum role for a decent baritone – Michaels-Moore, Keenlyside, Lucic, Hvorsostovky would have a marvellous time with this. A woman is shipwrecked and there are absolutely no prizes for guessing that she turns out to be Cardenio’s wife, Eleonora. What I wasn’t particularly expecting was his brother to turn up also. He has two challenging arias and a fairly minimal role in the drama. You sense that he was added because (a) they needed a tenor in there somewhere and (b) to pad the story out. Of course everyone gets to meet for a rather splendid Act I finale (the sextet may not be quite Lucia standard, but it’s very good). In Act II the question is simply over whether or not the two will get back together or not. I won’t spoil the surprise.

The plum roles are Cardenio, Eleonora and Fernando, the brother, but there is a good second soprano role for Marcella, the plantation superviser’s daughter (Donna Bateman was excellent), for Bartolomeo, her father (Njabulu Madala – very promising and a good Donizetti style), and his slave Kaidama (Peter Braithwaite, likewise excellent in a Pedrillo sort of part).

Craig Smith sang Cardenio – sympathetic, intelligent, really stylish and making me wish that I’d seen his Boccanegra. Maybe a native Italian might have got more out of the language and a slightly more refulgent voice could have had more fun wiht the music.  It worked in the lovely intimacy of the Hackney Empire and he created a moving, believable figure with cultured, intelligent singing. Donizetti’s view of madness his is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s in King Lear – simply being unaware of where he is and who he is with, obsessing on the past.  As Elleonora, Sally Silver made an appealing penitent heroine, well in command of the music and managing the coloratura with aplomb. Nicholas Sherratt sounded great as Fernando – his slightly reedy voice works well in this repertory and he has the top notes, of which there are many. The chorus of 11 did an excellent job.

Jeremy Silver conducted flexibly, getting the idiom and catching the contrasts between the comedy and seriousness of this opera and getting them right. The ETO orchestra was really good.

Iqbal Khan directed. He took the text and the opera at face value and made me believe in the characters and their predicaments. He didn’t avoid some classic operatic poses and he avoided the rather uncomfortable political overtones of slavery in the West Indies, probably rightly.  Perhaps the set was a little too bare for the frequent scenes where people are watching others unseen or hiding or appearing unexpectedly. It did the trick, though and it was good to see the opera being taken seriously and intelligently.

Hand on heart, this doesn’t have any of those great, heart-stopping Donizetti numbers, the sheer brilliance of some of his comedies or the continuous quality of Lucia. But there’s a lot of very attractive stuff here and parts where Donizetti creates convincing, moving music. Thanks to ETO for doing it and I think it’s brilliant that they’re taking it round the country. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable engrossing evening and it’s worth the occasonal revival.  If you can catch it, go.

Walking out of Weill

13 Mar

With hindsight, I just shouldn’t have booked to see The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the ROH on 10th March, but it was good cast and it’s a piece that I feel I ought to like, so I went. Why did I walk out at the interval (after Act I)? Let me count the reasons.

1. I think that I’m actually allergic to the opera. I’m certainly allergic to Brecht and I find the constant bashing over the head with the Message really irritating. I don’t demand sympathetic characters in an opera but I do think they should be interesting. An hour of these cardboard, witless stereotypes was quite enough. There are some beguiling tunes but not enough of them.

2. The ROH is too big. The only staging that has really got me interested in the piece was David Alden’s at Scottish Opera in the 1980s. I remember that, in the intimate theatre, in Newcastle cracking a massive punch and leaving you shocked in the end. Since I recall it beginning with Felicity Palmer as Begbick giving a cookery demonstration, I think that may have been more Alden than Brecht. My point is, however, that there needs to be an engagement with the audience and a closeness that, with the stage feeling miles away on the other side of the pit, did not happen here. Kurt Streit sang his heart out as Jimmy in his final number in Act I. I really couldn’t have cared less and was baffled as to the point of it.

3. I was annoyed from the start, Before the opera began they projected what seemed likely to be reasonably witty instructions/pieces of information onto the front cloth. Sitting on benches in the Stalls Circle, they were barely visible to me and, I would guess to most people sitting at the sides in Row B. Dear Royal Opera House – could you please ensure that Directors sit in the restricted view seats for rehearsals and aren’t allowed anywhere near the Stalls?

4. John Fulljames’s production generally was professionally enough done but without giving me any sense of excitement or interest or any reason why I should sit through this piece. It felt conventional and unchallenging.  Just because it uses projections and lorries on the stage, doesn’t make it interesting.  And it didn’t project, which hamstrung what looked like a really promising cast. But Anne Sophie von Otter missed the tough amorality of Begbick, Christine Rice didn’t do much to interest me as Jenny. Willard White seemed wasted.  Doing dialogue in a place this side is a tough challenge (even where, as here, it sounded to me as though it was amplified) and you felt the performances were dying as they crossed the pit.

5. I admire Mark Wigglesworth as a conductor but this struck me as too beautiful, too slow and without the sort of jagged excitement the show needs. It struck me that he loved it too much.  Orchestra and chorus were fine.

That was enough.  An early night called. I’m going to avoid this piece in the opera house in future.

Rough but Happy Figaro

8 Mar

The joy of The Marriage of Figaro is that it seems to provide an infinite variety of opportunities for directors to tell you something new.  It has to be a very poor, very brain-dead evening that gives you nothing.  The latest Opera North production, which I saw at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, which I saw on 7th March, proved this yet again.  It was far from being a perfect evening but there were at least three points which made it worthwhile to be there.

The first was Quirin de Lang’s absolutely perfect handling of the discovery of Cherubino in Act I: it’s a gift of a moment, but I don’t think that I’ve seen it done so well – he picked up the covering, saw Cherubino, uses it to prove his point and then realises that Cherubino shouldn’t be there in the first place.  It was a gem of a moment.  The second came in Act III as Barbarina lets slip what the Count has been saying to her.  The look on the Countess’s face, the sheer shock and hatred that she felt there turned this into one of those moments that stopped your heart.  Finally, at the very end, the last image of the Countess and Cherubino bumping into each other alone, suggested all that is to come.

These were the great moments in what was an enjoyable but rather mixed evening.  We begin backstage as scenery is manipulated into position for the first scene.  The Almavivas have obviously fallen on hard times – the wallpaper is torn, the ceilings and staircases have plaster disappearing.  Not quite sure how this helps.  Nor why it seems to be raining for most of the time – the Count can’t possibly believe that Susanna would seriously invite him for a tryst in the garden in this weather.  There were irritations of direction.  Sitting at the side in the stalls, the armchair for Act I directly impedes your vision and the Count sits in it quite a lot with his back to the audience.  The way the stage is divided up for the first Act can’t help the sightlines of a lot of people and didn’t help us hear some of the singers.  For Deh vieni, Susanna is placed right at the side of the stage so that anyone sitting on that side of the theatre can’t see her and have to watch an entirely empty stage.  Why?  These are technical points that you’d hope a director that cares about the audience would iron out.

Aside from these points, Jo Davies’s production is traditional, avoids too much seriousness and heartbreak and gets the social nuances well – it’s set, probably, in the early/mid 20th century but, these days, that’s virtually period.  The acting of the recitatives is superb – the characters deliver them as if it were a play and the Countess/Susanna tension over Cherubino in Act II is palpable.  It’s not particularly political, definitely farcical and generally astute.  It’s sung in Jeremy Sams’s excellent revised translation and it’s always good to have a full house listening and laughing at the jokes.  It’s certainly an improvement on their previous version and I’d be happy to see it again.

Musically, I felt that it was more problematic.  Alexander Shelley’s conducting was perfectly decent (aside from a cruelly fast Voi che sapete that robbed it of all its elegance and charm) but I wasn’t clear that he was particularly challenging his orchestra and you felt that they weren’t particularly involved.  Ensemble wasn’t great and, as an interpretation, this didn’t get anywhere interesting or even particularly involving.  Shouldn’t Opera North be aiming a bit higher for a new production?

There were some good performances.  I liked Richard Burkhardt’s Figaro very much indeed, particularly as he became darker in the last act.  I prefer a more revolutionary approach to Non piu andrai but he is a great stage presence and his personality held much of the performance together and he sang his Act IV aria with just the right bitter cynicism – he’s someone I’m taking increasingly seriously as a singer.  He had a very fine foil in de Lang’s Count whose acting of this stupid arrogant airhead was entirely convincing and very funny.  He tended to speak rather than sing the dialogue and his voice felt just a bit light for the role, albeit in a difficult acoustic.

Ana Maria Labin sang the Countess.  I was hugely impressed by her really gorgeous, creamy voice that is just about perfect for this role.  She did a really lovely Dove sono and acted the role impressively.  Of all the cast, she was only one who seemed to do interesting things musically. She’ll go far, I think.  Sylvia Moi was an attractive Susanna who acted the role really well and who sang nicely enough in a soubrettish sort of way.  Deh vieni made no impression.

Interesting that three of those four principals did not have English as their first language.  I was hugely impressed by their understanding and delivery of the text – the words really counted – but the vowel sounds gave them away.  Ought Opera North be going abroad for this opera?  Were there really no British singers?

Helen Sherman was an attractive Cherubino who didn’t particularly convince me that she was a boy, but displayed a strong, confident voice and boundless energy.  Gaynor Keeble was a really fine Marcellina – nicely acted, a good personality and good singing.  Dean Robinson seemed over-parted as Bartolo and his first aria made no impression.  Joseph Shovelton was a good, clear Basilio and Jeremy Peake made a really excellent, convincing Antonio – one of the best that I’ve seen.

I enjoyed myself.  As in any good Figaro there were those moments when I suddenly realised that I was smiling and that I was engaging with the acting and the drama and wanting to hear more.  It was alive, thoughtful, intelligent.  The audience had a lovely time and was really enthusiastic at the end.  I just felt that, musically, this could have been quite a lot better and quite a lot more interesting and I was disappointed that Opera North wasn’t able to produce more of the goods.  I’d hate to feel that, just because they were doing a guaranteed box office hit, they felt that they could cut corners.

More Guildhall Rarities

5 Mar

More respect to the Guildhall School for giving us the chance to see another two rarities. The only real connection between Donizetti’s I pazzi per progetto and Sir Malcolm Arnold’s The Dancing Master is that they’re hardly ever performed, but they’re both comedies and both give great opportunities for students. As an avid collector, seeing them both in one evening was too good an opportunity to miss.

The Donizetti is relatively early – 1830. It’s set in a madhouse where a venal guardian tries to place his daughter (who seems to chase men, particularly colonels), a deserting trumpeter seeks refuge as a doctor and a colonel returning from the wars arrives to see his angry wife and his mistress. Both husband and wife pretend to be mad before making up. Even with surtitles it’s pretty difficult to work out what’s going on and, after a while, you rather cease to care. The piece is about twenty minutes too long and there are one or two duets which seriously outstay their welcome. Musically, it fizzes along buoyed by the influence of Rossini (at one point the wronged wife quotes from Semiramide) but without any particularly memorable numbers. It doesn’t have the sheer sureness and wit that distinguishes the glorious Francesca di Foix.

And the singing didn’t quite do justice to the writing, though there were some valiant performances. At the cast I saw, Laura Ruhi-Vidal sang Norina, the wronged wife and was tested to the limits and beyond by the more exposed coloratura and florid passages. At other times, it struck me that there was a really nice light soprano here. Ailsa Mainwaring also seemed a bit stretched as the mistress, Cristina. Szymon Wach as Brinval, the philandering Colonel, has a nice, Corbelli-ish voice and, I thought, sang well and looked suitably bewildered. Best was David Shipley as the mad-house owner, Darlemont whose accurate coloratura and patter made me wish the role was larger.

The Arnold is an interesting curiosity and a rather tantalising pointer to what might have been a strong operatic career. Written in 1952 it was rejected by the BBC because it’s a bit naughty – I struggled to see why – and has barely been done since. The plot is reminiscent of a Rossini one-acter (and there are echoes of Barber, for example, all over the place. The daughter of a man with a silly Spanish accent is about to married to a man with a silly French accent decides that she prefers a man with a normal English accent who climbs through her window and has to pretend to be a dancing master. It runs out of steam slightly towards the end and could probably do with losing ten minutes. There’s an arch knowingness about the plot that might well get tedious after a few performance.

Arnold’s music, is exuberant – brassy, witty, at times touching and announcing a major new talent that, you wish, could have had the opportunities to refine it. Britten is obviously an influence with echoes of Grimes and Herring and you can hear loads of Shostakovitch in there too. What struck me as even more interesting was the sense that this idiom isn’t a million miles away from Bernstein and Sondheim, while some of it wouldn’t be out of place in St Trinian’s. It’s massively energetic, very much of its time and not quite good enough (even allowing for the awkward length to allow for being more than a really interesting, enjoyable curiosity. It certainly gives Walton’s The Bear a good run for its money and leaves Lennox Berkeley’s Dinner Engagement standing gaping in admiration.

II was done very well. Shipley was back as the silly father with the Spanish accent and sang strongly. He’s starting on the ROH’s Jette Parker programme and it’s a long time since I’ve heard such a firm, well trained, confident voice in this auditorium. The voice has none of the slight hollowness that lots of student basses have and he has a real authority about him. I don’t think I’ve felt so confident about prophesying a really good career for ages. Alison Rose made a very sweet Miranda who sang her rather touching aria really well. Robin Bailey hammed up Monsieur, the silly lover with the silly French accent, and Lawrence Thackeray was charming as Gerard the false Dancing Master.

I had the sense that Dominic Wheeler had spent most of the rehearsal time on the Arnold. The Donizetti was decently played, no more, but the Arnold was outstanding with the orchestra having a high old time with whooping horns and brass, eclectic rhythms and generally jollity. One of the best orchestral performances I’ve heard here.

Martin Lloyd-Evans directed both. There were some nice touches in the Donizetti – the continuo was played by one of the madman who insists on them singing rather than speaking the dialogue – but I think there was a limit to what he could do with one of the composer’s less successful operas. In the Arnold he caught the rather arch, camp silliness of it nicely. As ever, it was crisp and looked good.

I won’t go into mourning if I never see either of these again, but it is enriching to see them once and, if you can get a ticket, I’d go.