I’m still out breath. We saw Flight by Jonathan Dove at Opera Holland Park, including a delightful interview with Dove beforehand. This opera is a rare thing, a modern, English, comic opera. We saw it once, more than ten years ago, and it was so funny we bought the libretto. It is set in an airport, with a cast of very real types that you might meet in such a place. Each of these has a story, and, in spite of many laughs and farcical lift/elevator passages, their stories are very touching with an element of tragedy thrown in – the music’s good too! (Screenshot from Opera Holland Park website). For opera two we were guests at Glyndebourne for Donizetti’s Poliuto – so obscure an opera that it is unlisted in our edition of Kobbé. This is about early Christian martyrs (set in Sarajevo in the 1990s (??)), but actually it is a classical tragedy with love, honour and duty fighting it out. The music is stunning and it is clear that Verdi rifled through it at some stage. This is my kind of opera, moving, full of dramatic emotional music, beautifully sung and acted. I loved every minute of this performance and I have never (over many years) heard such wild enthusiasm from a Glyndebourne audience. (Screenshot from Glyndebourne website). Opera three, also at Glydebourne, was all about the event. We were guests of my youngest brother and wife to celebrate, with my oldest brother and wife (middle brother and wife not able to join us), what would have been our father’s 100th birthday. Oh yes, the opera! This was Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Mozart (shame on me) is a bit repetitive and, um, tinkly (?) for me, but this was a very lively and funny performance, beautifully sung, and I loved the sets. (Screenshots from the Glyndebourne website). EDIT I meant to mention that the highlight of the story was that the ‘bad’ guy, the Turkish Pasha, turned into the magnanimous hero at the end. And finally the bonus interview. When we were standing around our picnic table BBC Radio 4 appeared and asked to interview the person who had created the table and the picnic. We happily pushed forward my sister-in-law, Susie, who answered their unexpected questions clearly and coherently. Our menu included lobster tart, lamb cutlets on couscous and peach and raspberry trifle (not to mention olives, salmon sandwiches, cold meats and cheese). We couldn’t wait. A wonderful time was had by all and we raised glasses to our father and mother.
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.
Opera on DVD last night with friends, Marriage of Figaro (Mozart), one of the best recordings of all time from the Royal Opera House with Pappano and a great cast. Singing blissful, much enhanced by sublime acting and seriously good direction. Only problem is I always forget how long this opera is. I love Mozart at any one minute white listening, but… the music always seems to live within some kind of constraint that, for me, makes it less fulfilling than, say, Verdi, or Mahler. I am well aware that Mozart is sacrosanct and that stylistically he is of his period (and a great innovator within it), still, the fact remains, that I can admire, even feel faint at the beauty of it, but don’t have the same feel of new horizons found, or enlargement of mind and senses as I do with, say, Verdi.
Not the most coherent analysis – and I am not a musician – just trying to put inchoate feelings into words. I guess that’s what writers try to do.