Familiar Faust, unknown Mozart and Rolando Villazon

Faust sells his soul to the devil in return for youth and the chance to seduce a young girl. Not a story I have ever had much time for, but Gounod’s operatic version is stashed full of wonderful tunes and the Royal Opera house performance that we heard a couple of weeks ago was full of fizz and beautifully sung with a really well-balanced cast (Joseph Calleja, Bryn Terfel, Simon Keenlyside and Sonya Yoncheva). Sonya was new to us and had a charm and her voice was rich and with an ease over the whole range. I could have enjoyed this opera with my eyes shut as the orchestra, under conductor Maurizio Bernini, was in terrific form.

The evening even had its comic moments. The woman behind us, a newcomer to opera, after watching the alluring male ballet dancer behaving badly with a posse of half-dressed nymphs, and then being symbolically shot, uttered a heartfelt “ni…ice”.

A couple of days ago we attend a contrasting evening in the beautiful and more intimate Cadogan Hall in London. This was a Mozart evening featuring the small Kammerorchester of Basel and Rolando Villazon. The orchestra played on early instruments with a leader but no conductor and they stood (except for cellos and a double bass) throughout the evening. Their verve, accuracy and plain enjoyment were a delight. Beyond all this Rolando sang a series of obscure Mozart concert arias giving everyone, musicians and audience, great pleasure. For a taster visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shi8n1GFj9E . His voice has deepened and darkened over the years. It remains very warm with plenty of ping in the high notes and conveys tenderness, fury and comic bafflement equally well. Above all his total physical and mental engagement with the music and the audience are, as always, utterly engaging.

No photos? A maple in fresh spring growth.

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