After interviewing Maazel about "1984" for the Indy and then reading the clutch of appalling reviews that followed the premiere, I wanted to give the poor thing a chance and make up my own mind. So Tom and I went to see it last night.
The staging was brilliant. The singing and acting were stunning. The orchestra sounded marvellous. The libretto is well written and well constructed and you could hear all the words, rendering the surtitles (yes, for an opera in English) redundant. We even had the voice of Jeremy Irons doing the telescreen propaganda. Yes, the quality of the performance and the production were absolutely world class, Royal Opera House at its very finest. But the music....oh deariedeariedear.
When I read the libretto, when writing that mega-article, I'd visualised the whole thing in my head and my ears. Unfortunately, what I imagined turned out to be rather more exciting and moving than the sounds that assailed us yesterday. A few of my gripes are that sensitivity to words was non-existant (silly repetitions, amateurish stresses, lack of imagination), colouristic imagination was equally lacking (one thing I liked - the single coloratura singer over a few phrases of the Big Brother chorus - but that was it), dramatic moments that should have been moving or at least touching were not, because the music was so ineffective, the pace never seemed to vary and when it did it was unbelievably crass (build up to climax of scene two by getting faster and raising the pitch. Yawn.) Etceteraetceteraetcetera.... I must concede that my various colleagues who panned this thing were dead right: it should NOT have been put on at Covent Garden.
Tom nodded off after the first 15 minutes. The only time he began to look interested was when he thought the leading lady was going to get her kit off, but she didn't.
Didn't anyone tell Maazel how 'Oranges and Lemons, Say the Bells of St Clement's' goes? He could have got the correct tune from any ice-cream van. Or is it perhaps under copyright?