Normal service resumed

17 Sep

I’m sorry that I’ve been silent recently.  No good reason for it beyond idleness.  The opera going certainly didn’t tail off.  Anyway, autumn has begun and it’s time to get back to writing.  I thought I’d use this blog to as a catch up, before doing some separate entries on the more recent activity.

I left a quarter of the way through the Opera North Ring.  It was a fabulous achievement for Richard Farnes and his orchestra, for Kelly Coe Hogan as Brunnhilde, Mats Almgren as Fafner and Hunding, Andrew Foster-Williams as Gunther and Jo Pohlheim  as Alberich and, above all, for Opera North that managed to produce a convincing, fascinating and gloriously played cycle.  Of course there were flaws – neither Siegfried was ideal – and the semi-staging doesn’t tell the full story.  But it left me on one of those unforgettable highs that great Wagner performances do and it demonstrates Opera North’s ability to produce something uniquely special on limited resources.

The Glyndebourne season has been mixed this year.  They revived Melly Still’s rather lacklustre Vixen with lovely conducting from Jakob Hrusa and a splendid Forester from Christopher Purves.  Beatrice et Benedict had all its colour washed out of it by an extraordinary decision by Laurent Pelly to set it in some sort of grey post-war austerity era in boxes.  But there was a glorious performance of Beatrice by Stephanie d’Oustrac and her second Act aria was unforgettably staged as servants slowly moved all the chairs surrounding her, leaving her alone.  It’s a very patchy opera.

Altogether better was the Nozze di Figaro revival which was probably the best of the incarnations of Michael Grandage’s amiable production.  Jonathan Cohen conducted a fizzing, alert, witty and exciting performance from the orchestra and there were lovely performances from Rosa Feola as Susanna, Golda Schultz as the Countess and Gyula Orendt as the Count.  Finally there was a lovely revival of the classic Peter Hall production of Midsummer Night’s Dream with Tim Mead and Kathleen Kim outstanding as Oberon, Elizabeth DeShong luxury casting as Hermia and Matthew Rose very funny as Bottom.  There wasn’t a week link in the cast and the 35 year old production came up as fresh as if it were brand new.

Finally, I ought to give a plug for a performance by Opera della Luna at Wilton’s Music Hall of two Offenbach one-acters: Croquefer and The Island of Tulipatan.  Both are daft, both diverting, both have some gorgeous and witty music and Tulipatan, in particular, is a small masterpiece with at least three numbers that nag away at you for days afterwards.  They were given cheerfully cheap, witty performances that probably weren’t a million miles away from the spirit of the originals.  There was a nice translation, daffy choreography and a particular engaging couple of performance by the tenor Anthony Flaum who, in Tulipatan made everything out of being a very masculine boy brought up as a girl.  It was one of those evening where the life, the enjoyment of the material conveyed itself to the audience and a really lovely time was had by all.

More to come.



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