The Floral Hall, Royal Opera House, 10:50 am April 16 2014
As a teenager in the 1950s I used to go the gallery at the Royal Opera House. It was where I heard for the first time young colonial members of the resident company such as Jon Vickers (Canada) and Joan Sutherland (Australia).
It was standing room.....but the seats lower down, in the Amphitheatre, were what we really aspired to. In those days in order to get to the upper reaches, including the Amphitheatre, it was necessary to go through the "tradesman's entrance" - one was not allowed into the main part of the front of house and had to climb the stairs from an entrance in Floral Street. We had to be kept in our place. We could certainly not mingle with our better off friends during the interval.
This morning I sat in the Amphitheatre for the first time in almost 60 years! And what a treat it was! I had a good bird's eye view, and was not much further from the stage than had I been in a box at the Met or Chicago Lyric. And to get there we can now walk into the main part of the house, and then there is an escalator that takes us up to the Amphitheatre's lavish catering areas, and a fabulous view down into the old Floral Hall, now named after a munificent ROH benefactor, the late Paul Hamlyn.
I was there for the dress rehearsal of the revival of the Royal Opera's Traviata, a production by Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre. It is a production established in the ROH rep - and is a fine example of postmodern/classical treatment of a masterpiece like Traviata which can flourish with this approach. It is beautifully executed and will I have no doubt stand the test of time. Alas I had to leave after Act 1 - I had thought that I would be able to stay for the first two scenes (I had a conflicting appointment later in the day) but the perfectly justified, but inconvenient, decision to have a 30 minute interval between Act 1 and Act 2 scene 1 meant I have to leave.......and the leisurely approach by the conductor, Dan Ettinger meant that Act 1 was a little longer than usual!
But at least I got a glimpse of Diane Damrau - the popular Violetta du jour. I wish I could have stayed at least for Act 2 scene 1 - the real heart of her role.
And this evening I was at an enjoyable concert by the BBC Singers with the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by their able Principal Conductor, the Ukrainian Kirill Karabits. The main work was a St John Passion by CPE Bach. He wrote no less than five St John Passions - this was the one from 1784, allegedly nor performed since the 18th century. Running about an hour it has some striking choruses, notable the moving Hallelujah! Auf Golgatha stirbt als Mißethäter Jesus.......a lovely discovery.
The Evangelist who binds it all together was splendidly taken by Robin Tritschler, a light voiced but penetratingly intelligent protagonist. Good stuff.
The BBC Chorus is a first class professional group of around two dozen. I was glad to notice a couple of Glyndebourne graduates from way back in my day amongst their number. It is a jewel in the crown of the BBC's music activity - long may they flourish and not succumb to the invading Philistines. But the BBC is now in the safe hands of Tony Hall.......