Presiding in the pit was Placido Domingo, WNO's former general director. Domingo may not have kept things together tightly at every turn, but this was nonetheless one of the most satisfying performances I've heard him conduct, attentive to details of atmosphere in the score and shaping the most lyrical moments with welcome spaciousness.
Il trittico is Puccini's greatest achievement...Pungently descriptive, unflinching in its dissection of suffering, deft in its comedy of avarice and snobbery, it is an A-Z of Puccini. Or, to Puccini-haters, lurid, mawkish and slight.
emphasises the disparity between the venial offences of the nuns - being late for choir practice, hiding roses in their habit - and the inhumanity of the outside world, epitomised by Suor Angelica's aunt, the Princess
A thoughtful piece - though I don't wholly agree - from Simon Thomas in WhatsonStage
I attended Il Trittico at the Royal Opera House on Tuesday 14 September and came away with distinctly mixed feelings. I definitely enjoyed myself, and I have generally high praise for the performers in the three operas I saw.
One of the operas I have seen before, the other two were unfamiliar to me. I can't say I have a burning desire to see any of them again; though may do, depending on the casting. It reinforced my feeling that though there are several Puccini operas I like immensely, there are also several I could happily do without. I don't know of any other composer about which I have simultaneously divergent feelings!
We started with Il tabarro; when it was finished I reflected on how dated it seemed. I don't know whether the blame lies with the composer or solely with the librettist, but trying to reflect the mores of their age, they seemed gratingly almost offensively out of step with today. There was a whole story there that was hinted at, and was more interesting than the one that was told. A married couple had suffered the death of their baby; this may be the reason they had grown apart and she was having an affair, or flirting, or something, with another bloke. So hubby killed the other bloke. End of story. But only after a sizable portion of the opera had been taken up with irrelevant trivia from peripheral characters.
The music didn't particularly grab me, except that I did hear some lovely passages in the lower strings echoing the gentle swaying of the waves in the Seine. I don't know the work, but none of the performances struck me as noteworthy either in their excellence or inadequacy.
After the interval came Suor Angelica, which annoyed me intensely despite the fact that even I could tell that the music was searingly beautiful. The opera revolved around a story so poignant and painful it deserved to be told in its own right. Instead it was only hinted at, as a 'backstory' to justify the most mawkish maudlin tosh that could possibly be seen on an operatic stage.
Suor Angelica was high-born, the niece of a Princess, and because she fell pregnant and gave birth to a son who was forcibly removed from her after she had had the chance to kiss him just once, she was forced into a convent in order to save the 'good name' of her 'family'. She spent 7 years pining for her son, hoping just for a word on his welfare, until her Aunt the Princess turns up to get her to sign over her inheritance, and to mention in passing that the child died two years previously.
So we had three eighths of the opera taken up with a light-hearted almost but tediously not funny sketch of how these rather trivial women forced into a convent must do penance for school-girlish tiny pranks. And we had three eighths taken up by Suor Angelica very distressed undergoing a mental breakdown whilst spouting a pile of nonsense she's obviously been brainwashed into thinking is a normal psychological reaction to the most unimaginable grief. Then she committed suicide and immediately realised that this was a sinful thing to do. End of opera.
There is a story to tell about the unspeakable brutality of these aristocratic families who punished women for - probably - being raped and there is a story to tell about the seven years she ached and yearned for the son. But we didn't get this. Instead we got an all-female institution seen through the eyes of men who didn't seem to have much clue about how women behave, all-female institution or not, and a characterisation/narrative that would have put a Victorian shock-novel to shame.
Ermolina Jaho sang beautifully and was superb in an opera-long mad scene. Anna Larsson was outstanding in the small but pivotal role of the Princess - I see she is listed as a contralto, a voice-type I rarely hear but love so much.
But I'm afraid to say I remained unmoved because I felt too aware of how my emotions were being manipulated, which I feel is too cynical and too false. I thought the staging and scenery of this to be the best of the three, the most evocative of a time and place.
So, that left us with the third opera in the Triptych, Gianni Schicchi, the only one of the three I've seen previously, the only comedy, and the one with the two set-piece arias that are worthwhile in their own right. I may be wrong but I don't think that 'comedy' necessarily means 'laugh a minute'. Surely, it has more meaning as the opposite of tragedy. There were a couple of men sitting near me who got very annoying very quickly at their insistence on laughing at every line that contained the mildest of light-heartedness and every line that they knew, knowingly, was a set-up for a later denouement. I assume they had drunk a little more than they could reasonably handle, and I do want to stress I don't think excess laughing in a 'comedy' to be an eject-able offence, just that I thought their attention-seeking 'aren't we clever' ostentatious display of 'we know this opera' to be tiresome and boring.
I have seen Bryn Terfel in the eponymous role and I will just say Lucio Gallo is no Bryn Terfel. The young tenor, in this case Francesco Demuro, has little to sing but one show-stopping aria. He sounded pleasant and tuneful, as one would expect from a pretty and bland Italian tenor. Until the final declamatory 'Gianni Schicchi' when he screeched in the most ugly screaming way. The other, most famous, aria is O mio babbino caro, which was sung by Anna Devin a late replacement - later than the deadline for the cast sheet. I am reluctant to criticise a 'Young Artist' and certainly I couldn't fault her on the technique/delivery of the aria. But unfortunately, I really don't like her voice, which seems to have a pronounced bleat. Maybe she's just waiting to mature into a dramatic sop; maybe that wouldn't be an issue in those roles that need some heft.
But I came away thinking that lesser 'comic' operas only need seeing once; I would have been equally satisfied, musically, by hearing the two set-piece arias performed in concert by singers more pleasing to my ears.
I also thought it would be more enjoyable if the Royal Opera did a triptych of significant Acts from Verdi operas;-)
A footnote, because I didn't want this to dominate the blogpost. I was sitting on the third row of the Stalls Circle, in a seat costing a tad more than I would normally pay. Behind me were the standing places, usually filled by people who are there to hear and see the music, and not out for a 'night out' a 'social occasion'. Unfortunately, the opening few minutes of Il tabarro were ruined for me by the talking of the couple behind me. It was a familiar situation, immature little boy in his 20s takes girlfriend who barely knows him to a spot of culture so he can explain to her what's happening, show off how clever he is, and make sure she knows her place as his inferior. Well, sorry, I'm way too long in the tooth to be impressed by that, and also follow the rule - if no one else around you is talking, ask yourself if it's appropriate for you to do so.
Having endured this for several minutes I turned round and told him to 'Shut up'. Arrogant little cock told me to calm down. I was not prepared to engage in conversation with such a tosser, but if I had done I would explained I had paid three times more for my one ticket than he had for two and I had paid to hear the singers not him. I didn't have the chance, anyway, because he left his standing place to walk over to the usher. He engaged the usher in conversation, and returned to his standing place. For the remainder of the evening he not only did not utter one word, but he barely moved and hardly breathed. Arsehole had, presumably, instructed the usher to get me thrown out but had had to retreat with his tail between his legs when it was explained that I was right and he was wrong. I take no pleasure or triumphant crowing from this victory, because it angers me that people can be such tossers that it needs to be explained to them that when their behaviour is so divergent from anyone else's it doesn't take a great deal of intelligence to realise they're in the wrong.
I can't remember when I first realised that Twitter is far better experienced using applications than directly using the website. But since then, I have used Tweetdeck on my PC, and have very few criticisms.
The major one, and I think it applies to all apps, is that limits to the Twitter API means that unless you follow very few people who rarely update, not all tweets download, so inevitably you miss a few. I feel that this is not the end of the world. If it's important enough generally, it will be repeated, or further alluded to, or Retweeted. If it's aimed at me, I pick it up anyway in @ messages.
When I got a Blackberry I installed what was then Ubertwitter and became Ubersocial for Blackberry. I immediately found it wonderful. Like Tweetdeck, it missed a few, and it originally didn't have the means to filter out keywords or phrases. That was then introduced as a feature and I considered the ability to filter out certain subjects by otherwise interesting people an important part of my Twitter enjoyment. I won't embarrass anyone by revealing what I filter out. However, for example, when I tweet about the re-runs of 1976 Top of the Pops I try to append #totp so that all those people who have no interest in the minutiae of the worst era of post-War 20th Century pop music can happily ignore me.
I switched to an Android phone and searched for an appropriate app. Several people recommended Seismic, but it seemed to be no better than Tweetdeck for Android, a poor relation of the desktop version. I tried Ubersocial's Android app - Twidroid which was the best of the lot, except for one key factor. And that factor to me was so annoying as to outweigh all the other attractive features.
I don't have the means to sit and watch my Timeline all day long. It would make me a pretty sad person if I did, although I suppose if I was home-working or housebound, it would be no big deal to check every half an hour or hour during waking hours. But when I'm at work, or out-and-about, I shouldn't, or can't be bothered to, check. So I have a long backlog of tweets. I like to sit in front of mediocre TV in the evening to unwind and conserve my energy for the next working day. Scrolling through backlogged Tweets is an agreeable thing to combine with half-watching TV.
But with Twidroyd, every time I clicked a Tweet, to follow the link or view the embedded photo, and then clicked back, it would take me to the top of the screen, to the most recently posted, requiring a scrollback to where I previously was. Such a time waste, and hard on the carpal tunnel, I had to abandon it with regret. Also, the keyword feature didn't seem to work. Maybe that was me, I didn't hang around long enough to find out.
I drafted up this blogpost over a month ago, and, before publishing I decided to hunt one more time. In doing so I found Tweetcaster. I asked for opinions, and was greeted with some positive comments, and a warning that it's quite clunky.
And a month later, I can confirm that all those are true. It is clunky, often freezing, albeit momentarily, and about once a day I have to turn my phone off. There are a couple of other irritating factors, such as the fact that it changes all shortened links to Twitter's own link shortener, adding to an already convoluted process to open a web page or photo...which then turns out to be a cat photo! It also makes it impossible to filter out tweets from eg 4sq.com, which could be very annoying.
There are peculiarities with retweets. For example, if Ann retweets Mary, and I want to further RT, it doesn't let me acknowledge Ann. But if I want to reply, I can only reply to Ann, whereas it might be of more relevance to reply to Mary. And I can't summon up Mary's profile despite me just finding out she's interesting, and I might want to follow her.
I think I would prefer Tweetcaster if it ironed out the glitches I have mentioned, but even with those, I have found it to be the best for Android, and better in some respects than Ubersocial for Blackberry.
Opera legend Plácido Domingo will guest star in the role of Vidal Hernando in a performance of the Florida Grand Opera's production of Federico Moreno Torroba's Luisa Fernanda, to be offered on November 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County . The gala event will be a fundraising event for the company.
Domingo, der heuer seinen 70. Geburtstag feierte, überzeugte in der nicht wenig anstrengenden Titelpartie mit noch immer unglaublich frischer Stimme, einer einfach perfekten Phrasierung, und das alles zu Gunsten einer überragenden Interpretation, die nicht bloß musikalisch, sondern auch schauspielerisch berührt und fesselt.
Alle Ohren und Augen waren freilich auf den Star aus Madrid gerichtet, dessen Macht über seine Stimme ist schlicht ein Wunder, ebenso wie seine Bühnenpräsenz: Domingo schuf ein altersloses Psychogramm dieses Alternden - und erschien dann nach Ende der Aufführung geradezu jugendlich: Glück und Ruhm wollten beim Schlussapplaus denn auch gar kein Ende nehmen.
Time and again I am drawn back to the River Thames. So many different ways to see it, at different times of year. I could write paragraphs of clichés about 'a great river...ever-changing yet remains the same...life-blood of a city...heartbeat of a nation'
Historically, towns - that became cities - were built by rivers (if not by the sea). It's only very recently that it's become easier to travel by water than by land. In ancient times maritime communities had excellent communications with other maritime communities.
And the Thames is the nearest river of any significance to where I live.
On one stifling hot day in April, we spent some time on the river. We started at a pub near Vauxhall, in the St. George Wharf. I can see the attraction of it, a very large place close to the river,and maybe we just got unlucky with the bar staff who didn't seem to have a clue about the product she was selling and laughed at us for asking to buy - for money - the beverages of our choice which her employer stocked to be sold, for money.
So after one drink we left the pub and went to look at the river. It's changed since then; amongst other things, they've built a pier, due to open imminently.
The tide was low and what looked like a crane on a barge was moored, seemingly left high-and-dry.
For April, the weather was stunningly gorgeous, although in the morning it was still hazy enough to shed a photogenic light on Battersea Power Station.
I also discovered that each of the arches of Vauxhall Bridge is decorated with a relief of a human figure.
We then went into Central London. It was horrendous, all the tourists converging on Westminster Bridge, many of them acting like utter morons, not even capable of crossing roads and making you wonder whether they should be allowed out unsupervised.
We waited for seeming ages for a boat. There was a problem with it being an exceptionally low tide and boats were delayed,and they were going as far as Kew, not to Hampton Court. But eventually it left, and we had a pleasant cruise in the sunshine, and I took lots of photos, some of them just to tell a story.
I like the Thames as a working river - the refuelling barges the fire rescue station in front of the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation and, as I fondly believe, oil rigs, which will eventually make us all rich!
Then there are the derelict-pending-redevelopment Power Stations at Battersea and Lots Road in Hammersmith
There are modern developments on both banks - Norman Foster's Albion Wharf and Chelsea Harbour
We ended up in a pub in Kew called the Botanist on the Green, which turned out to be a disappointment. I started with a deep-fried cheese affair which tasted better than it looked but I followed with fish and chips. The presentation made you think they cared enough about being poncey to care about the food but this was the second attempt after I'd sent the first one back for being smothered with salt to the exclusion of all other taste. Even after complaining it still had salt, visible for the sharp-eyed I can only assume they powered on the salt to disguise the taste of food about to go off. Jimmy said I would have found his fish and seafood dish too salty, too.
When we were joined in the garden by a South-West London family from hell, we knew it was time to leave. You know the sort. Bloke sits there bellowing into his phone how he'd been playing tennis all day and been away in Moscow for several days buying vodka.Heleft and returned half an hour later carrying a new-born baby held with his arms out in front of him so that everyone could note and admire his virility. Behind him followed the wife, clearly exhausted, struggling with buggy, bags, football etc, followed by two very bored Infant School kids, who were ignored by the boastful shouting father and the exhausted mother, so they noisily kicked their football round the beer garden which was laid out for eating, not a kids' playground. I expect he had brought them to the pub as a grand gesture to save the wife from cooking. Not that I feel sorry for her. She married him, possibly just for his earning power, and she's stuck with him for several years and three children.
It was nice to be out on the river, but once again found London pubs lacking the attention to detail which would make them good, and worth recommending,or returning to.
More photos from this day,and earlier trips out round London are in my London photo album. I also have an album of Food and Drink photos.