Thursday, June 11, 2009


The New National Theatre, Tokyo is a three hall performance complex which has been operating for some 10 years. The major hall is the opera theatre, seating 1800 in a warm dark wooded interior of 20 rows of stalls and three upper levels. The pit (also the name of the smaller of the other two performance spaces) can accomodate 120 musicians. Oh, and the translation was 'side-titles', (vertical) Japanese down each proscenium side. They actually looked lovely I thought, and if there was any distraction, it was very much less than surtitles.

The street face is a bold area of stone, water, and granite.

Vast open internal areas continue the use of raw cut stone,

echoing the great walls of the Japan.


La Cenerentola on June 10 was the 2nd of a 6 performance run of the Ponnelle Bayerische Staatsoper production, which has been doing the rounds of the northern hemisphere for years as far as I can see. And it shows I'm afraid, but nonetheless this was a fascinating night.

It never ceases to amaze me that here, in the one and only great Metropolis (in the Bladerunner sense), was an opera buffa from 1817 transfixing a smart Tokyo audience (very few Westeners), some in traditional dress, some wearing masks (surgical, not Kabuki) and most enthusiastic they were too. Just seeing the evening unfold was worth the 23,100 yen (oz 290). I shouldn't be surprised. The roots of music and drama and voice run very deep here. And of course it is a great work, easy on the ear, with some dazzling coloratura and ensembles, some good male choral work and a funny take on the old morality of good will win through. 

The production I'll dismiss as tired and old fashioned and complicated by a complex set design for the Don's house that was at complete odds with the otherwise simple (and simply dull) painted drops. It clumsily required three important scenes (eg the revelation scene in act 1 between Alidoro and Angelina) to be sung downstage in front of the main 'curtain' during scene changes. It all rather reminded me of going to the opera at the old Her Majesty's, or G&S at school. Be grateful you lucky people who enjoyed the deliciously camp Michael Hampe OA production in its heyday. This Ponnelle derivative, by comparison, was a very unfunny night with no one on stage attuned to any real sense of comic relief, and much stage action was walk on and stand front stage and sing.

Nevermind, and the audience didn't. The star turn of course, and there is no opera without a coloratura mezzo, was Vesselina Kasarova. This is a fabulously rich deep dark full serious bulgarian I-want-to dive-in-there-and-stay-there-forever mezzo voice. Every note I wanted to never stop. Not the thing to wish for in Rossini exactly, except for the lament, which she sang with such seriousness that I wondered if she were contemplating suicide. That she looked like Joan Crawford on a bad day was a bit of a worry, but the voice, the voice.

It is little wonder why she is getting the Rossini roles: because she can. Her technique defies my description, but she easily negotiates the demands with a strange glottal approach, not really jerky, but neither a rhapsody of smoothness. She is certainly most pleasing in the rich middle voice, while the upper extensions, and Rossini calls for them in the final showpiece, tend toward the ragged edged. All the difficult stuff is accompanied by some increasingly strange body posturing. The right arm mostly holds the diaphragm, and the left is outstretched pointing to some distant galaxy, the body leaning back more and more as she moves up the scale, till finally as she is now lent back far enough that you worry about her balance, something way above the staff emerges. She is, depsite what I may have made her appear, fantastic to watch. It is incredibly organic body singing. I really liked her.

The depth and richness of her sound was strangely out of character for a Cinderella of our western tastes and I wondered most of the night why Rossini had chosen a mezzo rather than a soprano. On the other hand, in Noh theatre, the women are all played, and sung, by men, and in the baritone range.

The prince was Antonino Siragusa, a nasal Florez-like tenor, missing some of the latter's coloratura polish. He proudly nailed his Cs in his act 2 'Si, ritrovarla io giuro', the second one a bit less certain in pitch but sustained to audience-gasp length. With wild applause, he beamed, punched the air, kissed the bracelet, punched the air, blew kisses, kissed the bracelet, waved the maestro on and encored the aria, as well as the self acclaim. Happy days all round. A man not far from me was screaming Brava, Brava; something either lost in translation, or he knows something I don't.

Roberto de Candia was Dandini, Bruno de Simone Don M., and Gunther Groissbock Aldoro. The scaled down orchestra played well, if a bit lacking in sparkle and humour, led by David Syrus. Enough already. I took some curtain call snaps on my mobile. I'll try to get them up sometime.

One more thing: OA men's chorus, take a bow.



Sarah said...

You saw Vesselina sing Cenerentola! Colour me jealous.

Inma said...

Thank you very much for your request. I've published some words in my Vesselina's blog, please tell me if you've any problem with it.


puritymccall said...

Thanks for a fantastic report, I am still recovering from her recent Agrippina. You nail the voice, presence, 'odd but wow do I like it' VK thing perfectly! Great site too...

WANDERER said...

Catching up (with the KV fans) -

Inma has production pics here.

Nice to have a Scot visit, thanks Purity for the nice words, and likewise to your site, and the memory lane photos.