Sunday, July 06, 2008

Here comes Carmen...

Carmen opens at Glyndebourne today, so here's a taster of the production, a David McVicar classic - gritty, powerful and very real. If you're going this year, you'll see a totally different cast from this, which dates from 2002 and features von Otter as Carmen. I couldn't find any Youtube video of the glorious costumes for the toreador procession in the last act, which were apparently sourced from the real McCoy in Seville, but the whole thing is available on DVD.

Having attended the dress rehearsal, I'm not yet at liberty to give detailed views (why-oh-why didn't I take a pseudonym while I could?!) but let's just say this: there's one really great performance plus a couple of surprises; the dramatic side is fabulous; and at times you may feel the need for caffeine. More about it soon...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Calling Townsville...

I should have been sunning myself on the beach or the Great Barrier Reef today, because tomorrow A Walk Through the End of Time has its English language premiere...on the other side of the world, at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Far North Queensland. The Tropic Sun Theatre Company is performing it in an atmospheric church, so I'm told, the Fibonacci Sequence will play the Messiaen Quartet and the event is apparently sold out. I'll look forward to a full report from down under afterwards...

A tender memory of my late sister, Claire, who once summed up her experience of holidaying in Queensland and the GBR as 'Watch 'em by day, eat 'em by night'. (Fish. The best.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

That dress was little?

After all the fuss about the Little Black Dress in Ariadne auf Naxos, I have to report that said dress is a long-sleeved, ankle-length, opaque and voluminous gown. Flatteringly cut for best cleavage effect, but still not precisely 'little'.

Apart from that, the opera, which we saw last night, was a marvel from start to finish. It was the last performance in the run - sorry, but it was the only one for which hubby was free (some of us get in trouble if we go to operas by his great-granddad's cards buddy without him). Deborah Voigt's natural radiance and beauty shone out; and when she lets rip on those top notes Covent Garden floats several hundred metres into the air; if she sounded a tad less secure in the lower registers, frankly I am not complaining. (She wasn't matched by her tenor, not remotely, and frankly I am complaining about that...see Tosca comments, back to front as it were).

The rest of the cast was a knockout. Gillian Keith as Zerbinetta, a cross between Twiggy and the Queen of the Night, cast a silvery legato that wouldn't have disgraced an ondes martenot; every last decoration proved an expression of her daffy and vulnerable character. Thomas Allen made the very most of the Music Master, suggesting unspoken hidden depths to the personality as well as out-tenoring the tenor; best of all, to my ears, was the mezzo Kristine Jepson as The Composer, her flights of fantasy a source of magic to the Act 1 ragbag of characters, but her voice a revelation to those of us out front, a soaring, creamy Straussian that we'll run back to hear anytime we can. Oktavian, please! Special applause to luscious solo violin Vassko Vassiliev and SIR Mark Elder down t'pit. (Yes, Mark Elder got a knighthood. No, Vernon Handley didn't...)

A couple of passing thoughts. First, Hoffmansthal's letter to Strauss that is quoted in the programme should cause some raised eyebrows today - all that stuff about 'high' and 'low' understanding and how the two performing troupes are so far apart in this respect that they'll never understand each other; reading it, one feels he holds Zerbinetta and co in some contempt. Yet the opera comes across with wit, sympathy and tenderness to all, each side's viewpoint beautifully balancing the other and sparking perfect ironies. Intriguing.

Secondly, when Korngold wrote the final duet of Heliane, it would seem he was actually trying to write the final duet of Ariadne. He must have identified with Act I of this opera like the blazes, and he'd have been an impressionable teenage prodigy when it first appeared. He threw the line about preferring to throw his work into the fire at Strauss himself once - it won his battle, whatever it was (there were many). There you go.

The Tomcat is justifiably proud of his great-granddad's pal. In this household, one can't help remembering the family legend about the time they all went out to dinner in Bavaria and Mrs Strauss threw a tantrum when her choice of main course was not available and the waiter offered her an alternative of char (in German, Saibling, a kind of trout): "I don't want that bloody fish!" she shouted.

Solved? Yeah?

The Indy today has one of those articles that pop up from time to time claiming to have solved the mystery of why Strads are the best.

Leaving aside the claims of Mr Guarneri del Gesu, one of the most gorgeous violin sounds I've encountered recently came from Christian Tetzlaff, whose tone in the Brahms concerto brought tears to the eyes simply by existing. Strad schmad, he plays a modern violin made by Peter Greiner in Germany.

It ain't what you've got, etc etc. Views, folks?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Summertime, and the blogging is easy...It's 1 July, the new manuscript has been delivered, the sky is blue, and here is Jascha Heifetz. Enjoy.