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.


L’Élisir d’Amore

Last night we had six people round to watch L’Élisir d’Amore (Donizetti). This was the 2005 Vienna production with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. Much agreement that it would be difficult to improve on this cast. Newcomers found it relatively gentle after the drama of Traviata last month. Request for Tosca next. Still struggling a bit with the picture and the sound balance. Colours too bright and voices somehow behind the orchestra. EG has worked on this today and may have fixed it. I think it is because the sound bar is trying to make us think we are in a cinema.

Feel better for my opera fix and it is great to share it with neighbours.