Monday, 16 May 2011

Met Opera Live in HD: Die Walkure. Warning! 100% Terfel adoration lies ahead.

Anyone who follows my Twitter account or has read any part of this blog will know that my love for Bryn Terfel is nothing if not dangerously obsessive. He can do no wrong in my eyes. It's got to the point where I go weak at the knees before he even opens his mouth, and to be honest, despite how critical I find myself being of some singers, I'd happily bankrupt myself just to hear him hum the theme tune to Postman Pat. Or not hum the theme tune to Postman Pat. If he wants to just stand there, then that's fine.

If you've got this far without feeling nauseous, you will appreciate how excited I have been about the Met Opera broadcast of Die Walkure, the second opera in Wagner's Ring Cycle. I've been looking forward to it for so long that Saturday actually felt a bit surreal. Especially as the performace was far more exciting and moving than I had dared to hope it would be.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Confessions of a lazy opera blogger (and a bit of an Opera North update..)

I never intended Opera Chat to be full of formal reviews, but when I started contributing pieces to the wonderful a few months ago, I got into the (frankly lazy) habit of cross posting the things I wrote for them onto here. Bachtrack reviewers who have used the same material for their own blogs have caused a few issues for the site recently, so the cross posting malarky can't continue and I'm going to use the fact that it can't to start using my brain creatively again. Hopefully.

All the things that used to be here can still be found on my bachtrack reviewer page and I would direct you particularly to the review of Opera North's new production of Janacek's From the House of the Dead which ends the ON Liberty season, and does so fantastically. You can hear director James Fullbright, along with tenor Jeffrey Llloyd Roberts, discussing the themes of the opera in this promotional video. Yes, I am linktastic today.

There are so many wonderful things about this From the House of the Dead, and for me it outshone Opera North's recent Fidelio, and even the controversial Daniel Kramer Carmen (which I was in love with visually, but sceptical of psychologically). I found Janacek's music incredibly emotional, the almost plotless plot simple and effective and the performances (especially that of baritone Robert Hayward, pictured above) heartfelt and vocally impressive. The cherry on the cake, however, is the wonderful production design- from Dick Bird's impressive sets, to Mike McNicholas's clever projections, to Philippe Giraudeau's perfect movement direction. Everything adds up to give layers of meaning to the characters/overall themes of the plot and the whole thing is simply stunning. Sigh.

I would definitely recommend seeing From the House of the Dead- but you will have to be quick. The entire season is in its last week at The Grand Theatre in Leeds this week (Carmen tonight, Fidelio on Friday and From the House of the Dead Thursday/Saturday) and will do the northern rounds of Salford Quays, Nottingham and Gateshead until June (see the Opera North website for details). So what next for 'England's most exciting opera company'? Well, there are the June to September concert performances of Das Rheingold which begin their ambitious Ring Cycle project, followed by an exciting new season that had me squeeling with glee when I first downloaded the 2011/12 schedule.

In Autumn, we'll be getting a re-run of the slightly scary fun that was Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore, with the brilliant Heather Shipp returning to the role of Mad Margaret, and a revival of Tim Albery's Madama Butterfly. Being a big Puccini freak, I was delighted to see it on the schedule, but my delight doubled when I saw that French soprano Ann Sophie Duprels will be returning to the role of Cio Cio San. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when she sang it in 2007 (see lovely pic below). There's also some brand spanking new Tchaikovsky, with Dame Josephine Barstow (the first opera singer I ever saw perform live) taking on the role of the Countess in The Queen of Spades, which will be directed by Neil Bartlett. High hopes for this, as Opera North are labelling it 'the focal point of the season.'

Tim Albery returns to kick off Winter with Handel's Guilio Cesare, in which Pamela Helen Stephen will sing Cesare and Sarah Tynan will make her Opera North debut as Cleopatra. I'm really interested to see what will happen with this one, as it's a bit of a departure from ON's usual repertoire and the David McVicar production with Sarah Connolly and Danielle de Niese is still so strong in the collective opera  memory. We'll get a second brand new prodcution to ward of the cold in the form of Bellini's Norma, directed by Christopher Alden and starring American soprano Takesha Meshe Kizart. Alden and Kizart teamed up for Opera North's trendy 2008 Tosca (see below) so the prospect of Norma is an exciting one. If I can get Callas out of my head, that is...

Spring will bring Die Walkure (the second instalment of the concert performance Ring), and there's plenty of stuff to look forward at the Howard Assembly Room as well as lots of ON Orchestra performances. All in all, it looks like I'm going to find it difficult to tear myself away from The Grand in 2011/12, and although I've really enjoyed the 2010/11 season, it will be nice to have a rest from the gritty prison dramas and indulge in some Italian opera and some (hopefully) beautiful baroque. Four months and counting....