Tag Archives: Laurent Pelly

Enchanting Elisir

4 Jun

The Royal Opera was clearly having problems selling this revival of Elisir d’amore and offered its Friends some half price stalls seats.  I took the opportunity to take my niece.  It turned out to be a really happy performance.

It’s as hard to dislike Laurent Pelly’s neatly updated, very well-drilled production as it is hard to dislike the opera.  Neither puts a foot wrong nor outstays its welcome.  Some seemed to be hearkening back to the old Copley production and didn’t like Dulcamara’s lorry.  You have to be a bit of an old sourpuss to feel like that, it struck me, particularly when the lorry has flashing lights and fireworks.  There are lovely, daft ideas like the little dog that dashes across the stage and, above all, a deep understanding of how to keep the opera interesting.

Above all, Pelly keeps the human interaction at the core.   His characters are human beings who react to each other, listen and love.  That is what this lovely piece is about and the great duets where moved like dialogues.  This is a production that could quite easily go on forever.

I’d not originally been that taken with the cast but it was, actually, extremely good.  Pretty Yende has a lovely bright voice and she uses it intelligently, tastefully, musically.  I’ve heard other singers make more of a fuss out of Prendi and others with simply more sparkle in the voice for La ricetta e il mio visino.  I felt that she was tiring, slightly towards the end – the voice became just a tad shriller, the top slightly less grateful.  But, as well as a lovely voice and really good singing, she acts the role alertly.  I’ve ever found Adina a particularly sympathetic or attractive character.  Yende at least found a decency and honesty in her which made her rather interesting.  This was a super debut, however, and she’ll be welcome back.

So will Liparit Avetisyan who sang Nemorino – a replacement for Rolando Villazon.  I must say that I cannot imagine anyone regretting Villazon’s absence.  Avetisyan has a lovely gentle, warm voice that struck me as absolutely ideal for his role: nice high notes, but a warmth of phrasing and an openness about his singing that made him an absolute winner with the audience.  I’ve heard Una furtiva lagrima sung perhaps with greater style, with subtler pianissimi and more art, but rarely more openly or honestly.  He has a nice, gentle charm and the role seemed ideal for him.

Paolo Bordogna struck me as another very useful, stylish Italian baritone who I’d like to hear more of in these roles.  He caught the ridiculousness of Belcore but also, again, the basic decency.

Alex Esposito is that rare thing, a thin Dulcamara.  Maybe, a fuller, fruitier voice and a slightly more over-the-top personality would have helped but I really enjoyed his intelligent acting and his clear, strong singing.  He was alert, didn’t overplay and, again you believed in him.

The four made a lovely ensemble and, I’ve no doubt, were helped by Bertrand de Billy’s stylish, sensitive conducting.  The pace seemed right, the singers were able to breath and the delicacy and emotion of the score came across just about perfectly.  I like a stronger climax to the slow crescendo in the Act I finale (just listen to Pritchard on CD here) but its absence was, pretty much the only cavil I hard.  Chorus and orchestra were just fine.

Emma sat, pretty much, entranced, enjoying the fun, following the way the emotions turned and this was a show which made this opera seem as good as new.  A really lovely evening.

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Taking a child to Hansel and Gretel

20 Oct

I saw my first proper opera when I was eight (Barber of Seville, since you ask) and was hooked.  I’m a great believer in giving young children the opportunity to see opera – at that age, they’re not cynical and they find it easier to accept people singing rather than speaking and it’s all new and interesting.  Of course, it depends on the opera.  I’m not suggesting that you take them to Parsifal or Pelleas.

Glyndebourne obviously wasn’t selling its tour as well as usual this year and I was offered two seats for the price of one if I brought someone who had never been to Glyndebourne before and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  I have a nine year old niece whose mother does not like opera: let’s see if I can subvert that.  Rape of Lucretia obviously wasn’t suitable (I’m going on Friday) and Elisir might charm her or might bore her rigid.  I’m not great on Hansel and Gretel – a bit too Wagnerian, perhaps for a child (see my previous blog) – but the Pelly production is nice and it’s the sort of thing that might appeal.  I’ve taken her to plays and ballet before, successfully.  So I took the plunge and went to the child-friendly Sunday matinee on 20th October.

The weather wasn’t great and, perhaps, nine year olds probably aren’t that impressed by gardens and lakes, but she seemed to like the setting.  Tea in the Mildmay went down pretty well and so to the opera.  As I was watching, i tried to see it through the eyes of a child who had never been to an opera and didn’t know the music.

It’s difficult.  The overture is quite long, but it’s early enough on for you not to get bored – and watching a conductor is fun (we had a good view).  The opening scene with its cardboard box house isn’t too difficult – you may not understand the words but there’s plenty of movement and the action is pretty self-explanatory.  There’s then a knock-out animation for the Witch’s Ride, which cannot fail.  I thought the second act, again, was quite self-explanatory and the fear and terror came across pretty well.  The people in white eating hamburgers might have been confusing and,perhaps, by the end of Act II, the beautiful music may be wearing a bit thin.  On the other hand, the singers conveyed the terrors of that act really well.  The third act with its wonderful sweet shop of a witch’s house looks good, but I actually became aware of how long it is and I could understand why she might flag a bit.  Possibly the witch, with knives as well as junk food, might be a bit too frightening.  She also ought to have gone to the toilet in the interval, which probably made the last ten minutes a bit uncomfortable.  The surtitles were in rhyme, which really didn’t help comprehension.

Overall, however, she sat there still, watching earnestly and seemed to like it.  I asked if she’d like to go to another and she said she would.  She was impressed by the size of the voices, by the orchestra and conductor.  She assured me that she hadn’t been frightened.  I don’t think she was bowled over by the music.  She wasn’t worried by it being in German and said that the surtitles were fine.  She’s not a demonstrative girl but I think and hope she liked it.

What about me?  I like the Pelly production very much indeed – it’s assured and fun to watch and the effects are great.  The direction of singers is excellent.  It looks good and I rather hope that this isn’t its final outing here.  The Hansel and Gretel were excellent. Victoria Yarovaya has a gorgeous mezzo voice, looks convincingly boyish as Hansel and sang hugely impressively – I’d like to hear her again.  As Gretel, Andriana Chuchman struck me as having one of the purest, most beautiful sopranos I’d heard in a long time.  I’d love to hear her in Mozart (Zerlina, Servillia, Susannna) or Handel.  She acted a lovely hoydenish Gretel and I really enjoyed her singing. Anne Mason and Stephen Gadd were oustanding as the parents and Colin Judson had fun as the witch,  Angharad Morgan had fun as the Dew Fairy.  This was a really good cast.

I was a bit less taken with the conducting of Ilyich Rivas.  It felt very slow and I wanted more bounce to the dances – the fact that I was aware that Act III was a bit long suggested that he hadn’t quite got the pacing right.  On the other hand, he got some lovely playing from the orchestra; you heard the different textures and the counterpoints.  Even if Emma wasn’t irritated by the rhyming surtitles, I was.  Glyndebourne tried the same trick in Onegin and it really doesn’t help comprehension and feels tricksy.

So it was nice afternoon and, even if Emma doesn’t become an opera nut like her uncle, I hope she’ll have happy memories of it.