Showing posts with label Simon Keenlyside. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simon Keenlyside. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Can't help loving that man...

It's Don Giovanni. Why on earth do we find him irresistible? Clue: clever librettist plus divine composer, but there are darker factors at work too. I had some interesting chats with Mariusz Kwiecien (who sings him in the ROH's new production next week) and the great Gerald Finley about the Fifty Shades of Don Giovanni and my piece is in the Independent today.

Meanwhile, here is another of the all-time greats - Simon Keenlyside - in what's perhaps the defining moment of the whole opera...as staged by Calixto Bieito. Covent Garden's new production opens on Saturday night, directed by Kasper Holten. Anything could happen!






Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

I have a piece in today's Independent about music inspired by war, talking to Simon Keenlyside about his recital and CD programe, but also asking why so few composers have been tackling the emotions and the human cost involved in the wars of today. Are people who could conceivably commission one maybe too scared of doing 'the wrong thing' politically and displeasing someone powerful? http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/requiem-for-an-art-form-why-modern-composers-are-fighting-a-losing-battle-6260041.html

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The miracle of Melisande

Well, the miracle of Debussy. I've started to feel that Pelleas et Melisande is the most rewarding of all operas: every performance I've attended has been like hearing it for the first time because there's something special to notice on each occasion. The Royal Opera's co-production with Salzburg does leave a thing or two to be desired - notably, costume designs that don't induce the good punters of Covent Garden to titter audibly at every character's first entry - but with Simon Rattle in the pit, Angelika Kirchschlager, Simon Keenlyside, Gerald Finlay, Robert Lloyd and Catherine Wyn-Rogers on stage, and as Yniold a young boy named George Longworth so musical that he almost stole the whole show, it didn't really matter.

Angelika looks fabulous in her now famous Red Dress, but the others, in huge, white, padded, puffed and pointed clown suits (without red noses) seem to have walked straight out of a cross between Star Trek and Dallas, and the way that stagehands push the foldaway sets round and round in circles during the first half's interludes, with associated squeaks, could have been usefully cut back. There wasn't much wrong with the actual direction - the characters emerged as well-drawn and believable - but the design...oh well.

Rattle controlled the dramatic pace marvellously and the orchestra sounded super - detailed, transparent and balanced extremely well with the singers. Hard to believe it was the same band that played that mismanaged, lumpen Mayerling the other week (conducted by, oh dear, um, one Mr Wordsworth).

Pelleas remains a conundrum of an opera because - well, what do you do with it? Nothing kills it stone-cold dead as much as naturalism. It's a Symbolist work, a conceptual piece where nothing can be taken at face value. So it begs a conceptual rendition. At least, one would think so. The music is what really counts, though; starship outfits or none, I still went home floating.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Speaking of new music...

In the light of the Gant/Wordsworth debacle, here's another take on attitudes to new work of debated quality.

In today's Independent, I have an interview with Simon Keenlyside, who is singing Prospero in the revival at Covent Garden of Ades's smash-hit opera The Tempest, which opens tonight. I believe he's one of today's most fascinating baritones, a man with a brain as astute and analytical as any scientist, maybe more so than some.

Some of you may remember that Keenlyside took the leading role in Lorin Maazel's 1984 at Covent Garden a couple of years ago. Now, that opera must have been among the most critically reviled creations to hit the London scene this decade, partly because Maazel was known to be funding its staging himself, partly perhaps because some people knew something that others of us didn't until we heard it. I was willing to give it a chance, but Tom and I were both so disappointed with the music that we voted with our feet at the interval. But the production team and the cast nevertheless gave that opera everything they had. The standards were world-class in every respect. One audience member has since assured me that it was the best evening he'd ever spent in the theatre.

I asked Simon Keenlyside about 1984 in the interview, but in the end decided not to include the topic in this article, since space is limited and of course we were focusing on The Tempest which is a very different kettle of Calibans. His answer was still very interesting. I don't generally include what you could call out-takes of interviews here in blogland, but under the circumstances, I will - because he found countless positive things to draw out of the experience. Here is a slightly edited transcript:

JD: I saw you in 1984 and thought you were magnificent, but I must admit I had some problems with the piece.

SK: My job, if I accept the job, is – what’s that expression? Put up or shut up... If you’re booked to do a job, why would you want to pull the carpet out from under your own feet? If you’re on a stage, you’ve got to commit yourself 100%. And I’m not going to comment on the music, you wouldn’t expect me to of course, but I once read an old soldier saying that he always went to a man’s weaknesses through his strengths, so I’ll go as far as the strengths. I thought it was a good evening in the theatre. Whatever you think about the piece, I found a lot of worth in it and found it very enjoyable to do. Also I had Robert Lepage to deal with, which was an absolute privilege. Maazel is a brilliant man – just to be under his baton is a privilege. I’ve never seen anyone with such control, such ability to run a recipe like that and still have room in his head to talk to you. It’s great... Besides, people pay a lot of money for those tickets, and how can I argue my corner about opera, about music, if I think 'These people have paid a lot of money, they‘re in an uncertain state and we’re not committed to it?' I think most people are committed on stage, even if you didn’t like it. All of us have to take part in productions we can’t bear, we have no control but we’ve still got to give it our all...


UPDATE, 5.55pm: Over at On An Overgrown Path, Pliable casts some extremely interesting light on the background to the Gant/Wordsworth story. It seems that the political leanings and writings of the work's commissioner, R Atkinson frere, may be not irrelevant and will be highly uncomfortable, not to say repugnant, to much of the British arts community. Pliable applauds Wordsworth's decision. He may be right.