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It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.
Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.
25 Oct 2009
Ruxandra Donose stars in L'heure Espagnole at the Royal Opera House
Ruxandra Donose sings Concepción in Ravel's L'heure Espagnoie in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House. Concepción is an unusual personality, so Miss Donose's characterization is interesting.
L’heure espagnole is a rapid-moving farce, and Concepción is the pivot around whom all the action revolves. It’s a demanding role for she’s on stage all the time, carrying the action. “It takes a high level of energy to keep going like this for nearly one hour”, says Miss Donose. “I think it’s wonderful how Ravel gets the orchestration to create vivid details like the cuckoos in the cuckoo clocks,it’s so funny. That’s why this opera is done so often in concert, it lives through the music”. She has sung the role in two separate concert performances, but this Royal Opera House production is fully staged, which emphasizes the movement and drama in the plot.
“Concepción has only one hour in the week when her husband is away, so she has to squeeze all her frustrations into that time”, says Miss Donose, “She’s doesn’t get any attention from her husband, but when she tries to relieve her frustrations, she gets all this unplanned attention from other men so she’s frustrated again”.
Everything spins around Concepción, rather like the clockwork mechanisms all round her. “Timing and blocking mean a lot in this production. On the very first day, I was told that this production, by Richard Jones, is very difficult, because there are lots of very precise details and they might take a lot of time to get right. Actually, that went smoothly, but it was interesting coming to the character from outside to inside. There are gestures that don’t come naturally to me, but are part of this Concepción, so I have to make them my own. It’s a process like putting on a costume, you put on those hundreds of small details so they come naturally to you.so you slip into the role.and become the character”.
Because Ravel’s music is so precise, “The ensemble is very important”, adds Miss Donose, “the other characters are much more than caricatures. The poet Gonzalve (Yann Beuron) can’t stop making poetry, and the banker Don Inigo Gomez (Andrew Shore) is solid, like he’s stuffed with money. And the muleteer Ramiro, played by Christopher Maltman, is a strong fellow, who doesn’t do small talk. The clocks aren’t as heavy as they look but they’re bulky and Maltmann has to carry them up and down when he’s singing! ”
“Torquemada (Bonaventura Bottone) lives only for his clocks, they are his only passion, but Concepción is passion, and so direct” ! Just as Torquemada prefers objects to people, Concepción uses people as objects to get what she needs. “Husband and wife are on completely different planets. Concepción is very terre à terre, as the French say, she’s very down to earth so she’s extremely direct. She’s unhappy but determined to get what she needs. In this production, she’s like child who wants a toy and stamps her feet if she can’t get it”. Concepción’s obsessiveness is not so different from Torquemada’s after all. “I’m not like that”, says Miss Donose, “so all the detailed gestures helped me understand what to do with this character.who is much more single-mined and direct than most women”.
Christopher Maltman as Ramiro and Ruxandra Donose as Concepcion
Ruxandra Donose’s starring role in L’heure Espagnole reflects her status as one of the more expressive personalities among the rising generation of mezzo-sopranos. She’s reached the stage where she’s so technically assured that she can focus on developing the characters she portrays. She’s sung Marguerite many times, including with Nagano and Dutoit, and has done many Carmens, Charlottes and even a few trouser roles. Among her favorites though are the Composer in Aridane auf Naxos and Cenerentola. In the near future, she’ll be singing a lot of Mozart, Singing these roles is enriching. “It’s a great experience to embody someone you are not yourself, but can create. For a few hours you have a chance to live another life”.