Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Sitting down (about to see Faust for the first time) next to Mr C, a Wagnerian through and through:

"Good Heavens (anticipating Act V), fancy seeing you here!"
"You mean, what am I doing at this French Muck?"
"Well ... yes, actually"
"Because it's excellent French Muck!"

Excellent and French it was. Muck no. The other big word attached to this five act marathon is: grand? Grand? Not really, no. But it could have been, with the right scale. That is to say - in a house with a decent stage and pit. But then we've had Norma here, and Trojans, even War and Peace, and out of it all comes what matters - good theatre. This was good theatre. Really good. And on said basis I've now booked for the other Grand One coming up later in the season: Don Carlos, in the exact same cheapies as we sat in last night. Moreover, it was so good I completely forgot myself and failed to embarrass self and other by taking curtain call pics.

                                                                    (ROH production photo via OA website)

The David McVicar production has been doing the rounds having started at the ROH early 2000's I think. It is attractive and engaging story telling, incredibly well detailed, with tension sustained at times where in lesser hands things could well fall into boredom, and revels in good old misogynistic chauvenism where women are either chattels or whores and redemption is in the hands of a Male God, wings and smoke writ large. It has wit, warmth, cleverness, charm and is blessed here with fine performances from the whole cast.

To be honest, I was especially interested to hear the young (just 30) American Michael Fabiano, sparked by this interview (Limelight magazine)

which shows such a committed, confident and articulate artist. And he really is something out of the (jewel) box. The voice is big, attractive, nuanced, controlled, and with so many colours, a Joseph's coat. His stage presence is strong yet delightfully unselfconscious.

Speaking of presence and voice, and bloom of youth, Nicole Car won me over last year in Onegin and delivered in spades. She is lovely to look at, despite some pretty tedious costuming, and dreadful wig, and had the measure of this French style. Her Jewel Song, with trill, oozed with virginal naivety and youthful tone but maturity indeed in technique and colouring. This was great casting - intensely felt performances, a delicateness in presentation and well matched vocal resources which held up beautifully to the not-so-bitter end.

Teddy's Mephistopheles, the other side of the Deity,

was an amazing engine, and really well produced (after miking his way through musicals year in year out) which kept on and on (it's a very big sing) and on, tirelessly, and presented in a slightly detached stand-offish in a devilish kind of way manner. Giorgio Caoduro, worth sitting close for alone, had some absolutely splendid moments. The others were excellent and I especially liked Anna Dowsley's Siébel, another very genuinely felt performance.

So to the ballet, the bane of many a Grand Opera, especially on small stages. Well, you have to say this was brilliant stuff. Well done Michael Keegan-Dolan and those who followed to rehearse and direct. The Willis perversion was exactly that - perverted. At last we had reached some real profanity and set it up for the big final salvation which, expectedly a Man thing such were the times and has anything changed, was very moving. The big trio by the way was stunning.

Mr Fabiano is off to open Glyndebourne in Poliuto (wow) and Nicole Car is heading to Deutsche Oper to sing Tatyana. Stars ascending.

(production photos from Nicole Car's website)


Anonymous said...

Nicole's terrible wig is meant (together with her costume) to make her look like Manet's woman behind the bar at the Folies Bergere.

wanderer said...

Ah hah, pretty obvious really. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Obvious once pointed out but I confess not so obvious to me until prompted by online reading even though I had a poster up of that painting for a few years of my poster-posting youth.

wanderer said...

Exactly. It was obviously not obvious to me either until you pointed it out and I was hit with one of those duh moments.