Full house night at the Royal Festival Hall to listen to the new hot guy, Daniil Trifonov, before he is coming to London to do a residency next year with the LSO. The piano star playing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 was the selling point but the main point of the programme, framed into the Stravinsky cycle the LPO is doing this year, was a couple non-mainstream works: Stravinsky arrangement of a couple of rare numbers from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty (plus a famous one) and Stravinsky own ballet The Fairy’s Kiss.
I take my risks going for the first time to new opera companies without any references. Sometimes the result is good or exquisite (Chelsea Opera Group, Ante Terminum, OperaGlass Works, etc…) and some others it isn’t. This was the later. Dumb staging, some very bad singers (although a couple of them were good) and some very bad acting. Actually I saw the worst acting in years, worse than you can even expect from a primary school performance.
Second (and last this year) concert of Gardiner Schumann cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra. The initial programmed Schumann piano concerto was dropped long time ago as Maria Joao Pires is retiring. Replacement was a Mozart piano concerto by Piotr Anderszewski that didn’t make that much sense in the context of the cycle. However, Anderszewski got the flu and he got replaced by Isabelle Faust playing Schumann own violin concerto, that was much more suited.
This Rinaldo concert version at the Barbican by the The English Concert was sold out a long time ago. As it is a collection of Handel previous hits it makes sense to be so enjoyable in a non-staged version. The cast worked pretty well. Iestyn Davies voice is beautiful and he masters Rinaldo role. He had some minor problems with some coloratura but still delivered a intense performance. The ladies, Jane Archibald as Armida and Joelle Harvey as Almirena were superb.
Everyone told me that this Frankfurt production by Barrie Kosky was badly sung in its staging at the Royal Opera House. But then all the twitter gang got excited about the second cast so I gave it a try. BIG MISTAKE. Even if Gaëlle Arquez has a very powerful and beautiful voice and she acts perfectly, portraying a Carmen full of sensuality, that does not make it a good performance. It need to be sung well, and Mr Arquez is still far from there: technical issues, singing behind the beat, horrible phrasing… No… she is not yet there.
What a great concert! Ann Hallenberg is one of the top singers nowadays in the baroque repertoire. She, however, takes also part in some specific romantic opera and concert roles. Berlioz Les nuits d’été is a perfect work for her high mezzo voice and allows her to show characteristics other than her agility: character development and expressiveness. With Gardiner complicity she achieved a top level of beauty with a impressive blending with the orchestral textures.
I had seen several Warlikowski productions across Europe and it was a bit of a surprise that this From the House of the Dead was his house debut at the Royal Opera House. Too modern for UK conservative taste in opera? Anyway this was a safe bet as the production is not radical in any way. It was, however, intense and very demanding. As Leoš Janáček music is not easy listening, Krzysztof Warlikowski staging is not easy to see, as many things are happening on the stage and require a lot of focus to get all the details.
Poulenc Dialogues des Carmélites is, without any doubt, one of the opera masterpieces from the 20th century. It is also a risky take for a English musical school with some many long recitative parts. The English coaching was excellent on the pronunciation but not so well in the expression, lacking of natural inflexions and sounding some times a little bit flat. Lucy Anderson sang Blanche very nicely with a powerfull and authoritative voice.
This was the second Diana Damrau London visit in two weeks, this time to sing Strauss Four Last Songs with the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Antonio Pappano. But before that we got an interesting performance of Elgar Alassio. Even if the work is supposed to be Italy inspired it doesn’t really sound Italian. However it is an interesting musical piece showing Elgar mastery on orchestral color. Pappano remarked the work lightness which fit well as a prelude to Strauss music.
Two thirds of Puccini’s Il Trittico are better than no Trittico. And these were two splendid ones. English Touring Opera presented its revival of the 2011 production at Hackney Empire as the initial run of its spring 2018 tour. Michael Rosewell was the conductor of a reduced size orchestra (but we never missed more volume). He did a very good work keeping different moods for each score: oppressive in Il tabarro and comical in Gianni Schicchi.
Just two days after the Mozart and Haydn concert The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was back in a smaller form (one instrument per part) but equally great in quality. The programme was build around virtuoso keyboard concerti from Handel and Bach: Op. 4 No. 1 and Op. 7 No. 5 from the former (organ) and Brandenburg No. 5 from the former. That was a short programme without intermission but with some other perks: an revealing pre-concert talk by Crispin Woodhead about the keyboard improvisation practice and a Q&A session with the orchestra before the audience chose the encore (spoiler, Bach won).
Another snowy day in London and another super concert. And this came as a surprise: I hadn’t listened before to Vasily Petrenko neither to Sergej Krylov. The selling point for me for this concert was the two suites from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, one of my favorite works. First work, first surprise: Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a work that can sound too naive if played focusing on the neo-classical aspects of it acquired a totally new dimension under Petrenko baton.