I am having a a bit of an upturn on opera activity this past week, with more to come in the following two weeks.. Monday was the Pearl Fishers dress rehearsal at ENO, Thursday The Nose at Covent Garden, yesterday Tosca back at ENO, and today Madame Butterfly at Glyndebourne. The Royal Academy of Music's autumn production of Alcina is on Monday (Cast 1), Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne on Tuesday, Alcina (other cast) on Thursday, then off to Gütersloh for the Neue Stimmen Masterclasses final concert on Saturday. I am then off for three days to Wexford........so if I survive all this unscathed I will be happy!
Martin Winkler in The Nose at the Royal Opera House
The highlight of the week has to have been the new production by the unique Barrie Kosky of The Nose at Covent Garden. This is a riot of invention, highest possible energy, a superb company effort of the kind that few companies in the world these days can display, an enormous well chosen cast, and an extraordinary central performance by Martin Winkler.
It was a rare opportunity for me to head to higher reaches of the opera house, to the old balcony where I spent so many happy evenings during my teenage years in the 1950s! It has been much renovated in the meantime. We used to have to clamber the stairs from a side entrance in Floral Street. There was no way that the riff raff in the "Gods" were allowed to mingle with the posh audience downstairs. But that is all changed - we can now climb to the top on a magnificent escalator from the Hamlyn Hall and mix freely with the best and the worst of the populace.
The sound upstairs is superb and the pit/stage balance immaculate. Go up there for your Verdi and Wagner and there is no better experience to be had. And the prices are lower.......
I was downstairs again in the Coliseum yesterday afternoon for a really enjoyable performance of Tosca, in English yes, and really well sung all round. Catherine Malfitano's fairly traditional production has been expertly revived by Donna Stirrup, and idiomatically conducted by Oleg Caetani. The English National Opera has assembled a really strong trio of principals who yield nothing to what one might encounter on a routine evening in Vienna, Hamburg or Munich. So good for them.
Keri Alkema's Tosca fills the house with glorious full throated singing to the manner born, Gwyn Hughes Jones is a red blooded remarkably Italianate Cavaradossi, and Craig Colclough was a convincing villain, and very well sung, who brought pantomime boos from the audience at the curtain calls. This is a very good evening (or afternoon) at the opera.
I will drive down to Sussex today for the 4pm performance of Madam Butterfly. The rail connections are poor these days at the best of times, and the weekends are a disaster. Southern Rail is in crisis!