Just back from the Guildhall production of Poulenc's Dialogues de Carmelites. Good to see it performed as I am familiar with the story and the Bernanos script. It was a well designed production but, as you would expect, while the singing quality was generally excellent some of the acting wasn't very good - give these youngsters a few years and I'm sure they will perform much better. I expected the audience to be full of friends and family but that wasn't the impression I got. Certainly the people around me were largely elderly (even though I'm in my 50s I felt quite young for once). I've been to the Silk Street theatre before and while it lacks the glamour of the Guildhall's Milton Court it is small with a good rake and so a good view is guaranteed.
Thanks for that interesting review. Last year I saw University College London Opera's production of Verdi's 'Aroldo' at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and while the musical standards were in general quite high, the level of acting by the principals was embarrassingly bad. The director was probably too busy making ridiculous changes to the updating and staging of the opera to spend any time helping the singers to improve their acting, but it did give me cause to worry about what training in acting these young performers were receiving alongside their vocal training.
Went to the Royal College of Music’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream yesterday in their (appropriately named) Britten Opera Theatre. My first time there – nice!
I thought this worked very well – lots of darkness (set, costumes, acting), lots of ethereal fairyness, lots of humour. Loved the staging – excellent use of mirrors and lighting to create good reveals and disappearance of characters. Excellent singing from most of the cast.
I went to the ENO production exactly a week before. However, for that I had to leave before the 3rd act as my last train home was very early due to all the snow! The ENO production has got good reviews, but while I liked the singing and, particularly the rich sound from the orchestra, I found the staging rather monotonous – an enormous bed. The RCM production felt more interesting.
Also seeing them together shows the effect costumes and staging have on characterisation. The ENO production is light with Oberon and Titania as very much king and queen, but the RCM production adds a dark, sinister edge that somehow fits better. The ENO puck is rotund, jolly and naughty, whereas the RCM puck is mischievous, but looks like he is just this side of positively wicked.
I’m definitely looking out for more RCM productions.
Just back from seeing University College London Opera's production of Gounod's 'Polyeucte' at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. After last year's 'Aroldo', which was hideous to look at, this was a great relief, being set in Armenia in the time of the Romans, as Gounod wrote it. In that very small theatre, with the front half of the orchestra occupying the front half of the stalls, the sound of the voices was sensational and the balance with the lively orchestra was excellent. The three principals (Luke Sinclair as Polyeucte, Flora McIntosh as Paulina and Jan Kapinski as Sévère) were all outstanding vocally but their acting was a bit basic and Kapinski's voice lacks proper baritonal depth. I noted this lack of acting prowess last year too with 'Aroldo' and it continued to worry me this year.
My main problem tonight was the chorus, whose movements and gestures in welcoming Sèvére and celebrating his victory were quite ridiculous. If I were the director I would have given them a kind of representational stillness and told them to express all their excitement in their singing! But for an amateur chorus they sang well enough!
As to the opera, well I loved the three main roles and their numerous duets and arias, but I was bored with all the choruses and the more religioso they got, the more bored I became. I expect if I became more familiar with the tunes I would enjoy the music of the three principals more, but I doubt that the work as a whole will enter my list of favourites, along with anything else by Gounod!
Went to In the Locked Room and The Lighthouse double bill at RCM. Both were very well done, but I particularly was struck by The Lighthouse – the increasingly dramatic and inventive music, singing and design worked a treat.
Went to see the Shadwell Opera production of Oliver Knussen's Where The Wild Things Are at the restored theatre at Ally Pally yesterday afternoon. It was firmly aimed at families with sweets being dished out during the performances and lots of balloons being bounced around the auditorium during the wild rumpus (fancy dress was encouraged but I didn't see any of this). But there were certainly a lot of music students and regular opera goers there too. Very enjoyable and a great setting. I will be looking out for future Shadwell Opera productions.