Les Contes d’Hoffmann @ Covent Garden

30555527200_c1339c57b3_zNo Hoffmann I ever saw was the same. In this London production the Giulietta act is in the middle with her sailing off with Pitinacchio, the sextet is kept, Nicklauss gets the violin aria. The conductor in London was Evelino Pidó who overall did a good job but I wish would have conducted with more intensity, would have indulged in some of the melodic accompaniment to highlight the richness of the score;…the punch was missing and I had a very slight feeling of rush…a corona slightly too short, a finale cut off a second too early etc. But what bothered me most was the cuts in the repetitions: Hoffmann’s couplet in the Giulietta act or the wonderful trio “J’ai la certains flacons” just to mention two. Sooo annoying ….

30740077912_e23ec9f6b8_zOlympia sang a bit too carefully, the coloratura not entirely impeccable. I very much liked the Giulietta of Christine Rice, a beautiful timbre in a part well sung. Yoncheva gave her beautiful voice to Antonia and was wonderful except for some edgy sounding top notes. Excellent was Vittorio Grigolo’s Hoffman, ringing acuti, voice perfectly controlled, reaches all notes of the pentagram without problems, interpreting the different facets of his character very credibly. Thomas Hampson certainly knows how to sing but the part is too low and him hearing struggle with notes made me see the singer rather than the character. Very disappointing. Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse sings quite well, has a lighter voice than one that is usually heard for this character but this does not harm very much. Smaller roles all well cast. I particularly liked Crespel’s nice bass voice. Direction in 19th century style, quite traditional and little machinery.

Conductor-Evelino Pidó, Director-John Schlesinger, Set designer-William Dudley, Costume designer-Maria Björnson, Lighting designer-David Hersey, Choreographer Eleanor Fazan, Fight director-William Hobbs, Hoffmann-Vittorio Grigòlo, Four Villains-Thomas Hampson, Olympia-Sofia Fomina, Giulietta-Christine Rice, Antonia-Sonya Yoncheva, Nicklausse-Kate Lindsey, Spalanzani- Christophe Mortagne, Crespel-Eric Halfvarson, Four Servants-Vincent Ordonneau, Spirit of Antonia’s Mother      Catherine Carby, Nathanael-David Junghoon Kim, Hermann-Charles Rice, Schlemil-Yuriy Yurchuk, Luther-Jeremy White, Stella-Olga Sabadoch.

7 & 11/11/16. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

Il barbiere di Siviglia @ Covent Garden

29029971664_656e01c687Weird, this production by the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. On paper a cast that could work, and directors I have appreciated much in the past. The direction was indeed clear and the directors filled all the stage directions with coherent and very funny gestures, such as the trio in Act II when Rosina, Figaro and the Count want to escape by the window: Rosina and the Count are so smitten that they continue undeterred to show their love with an excessive amount of vocalises with Figaro who tries to break this flow of ironic music. Just a detail, but many directors don’t focus on the unwritten details of the libretto. So well done!! But other things I was less happy with, such as the interaction between Basilio and Bartolo, filled with unsophisticated slapsticks. Maybe a bit too colourful, but altogether very pleasing, and the audience seemed very amused.

Musically I am slightly disappointed. Rosina had a very warm and appealing mezzo but her coloratura often smudged. 29029969364_1258854cb4Overall i found her interpretation over the top, closer to a ferocious Tosca than a malicious Rosina (screaming, kicking, throwing things about) but this might be the directors choice. The count, Javier Camarena, sang well, though I have heard him in serious Rossini singing much better. The musical lines not always even, some vowels bellowed others inaudible. Personally I found Basilio and Bartolo also quite unrefined and a bit too loud, although they are worldclass singers. Vito Priante was very good in his interpretation of the barber and also musically i was overall quite pleased. The director Henrik Nánási didn’t do much harm (I never heard such a “long” Act I finale, though).

 

Conductor-Henrik Nánási, Directors-Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, Set designer-Christian Fenouillat, Costume designer-Agostino Cavalca, Lighting designer-Christophe Forey, Count Almaviva-Javier Camarena, Figaro-Vito Priante, Rosina-Daniela Mack, Doctor Bartolo-José Fardilha, Don Basilio-Ferruccio Furlanetto, Berta-Madeleine Pierard, Fiorello-Gyula Nagy (28/09/16)

Norma @ Covent Garden

29651088925_fbe5bf457bFelice Romani, the librettist of Norma, set the opera in the Gauls: a druid priestess, Norma,  and Pollione, a roman consul, were once in love and have two secret children. But Pollione now loves Adalgisa, a young priestess, which triggers Norma’s anger, her revelation of the forbidden love to the druids with subsequent burning at the stake. The story La Fura dels Baus tells is dominated by religious symbols, the curtain opens on hundreds of crosses, with all sort of religious characters including men dressed as ku klux klan, telling the story of how dominating religion can be and how trapped one can feel in it. The setting is modern (Pollione wears suit and tie) but the actions are faithful to the plot. What amazed me the most was the direction of the main characters; with every gesture, with every movement la Fura dels Baus displayed desperation, dreams, torment, hope. Vocally I was quite pleased. 29024857374_17da68e1e9Yoncheva was vocally very strong in her lower as much as her high register (only the very top was a bit harsh) and her coloratura very fluid, her voice bright and luminous. Ganassi was better than I hoped, although her pronunciation is incomprehensible as so often. Calleja has a generous voice but a very tight vibrato and his breath is very short which makes him break the lines often and he seems a bit detached from what he sings. Pappano directs energetically though sometimes a bit too loud. Flavio and Clotilde sang well, Oroveso I would have wished with more weight. A very gripping evening altogether.

Conductor-Antonio Pappano, Director-Àlex Ollé, Associate director-Valentina Carrasco, Set designer-Alfons Flores, Costume designer-Lluc Castells, Lighting designer-Marco Filibeck, Norma-Sonya Yoncheva, Pollione-Joseph Calleja, Adalgisa-Sonia Ganassi, Oroveso-Brindley Sherratt, Flavio-David Junghoon Kim, Clotilde-Vlada Borovko