Thursday, 27 February 2014

I may have found the perfect job....Lyric soprano needed. Must knit!

So, it has been a while since I have written about others in my Diary so thought it was about time that was rectified and I stopped being quite so self involved.


Due to having a friend in the ENO chorus I have found myself on 3 occasions fairly recently up at the Coliseum in London. The first was before Christmas for "Fidelio" (number one in my top ten favourite operas - don't judge me Beethoven haters), the second time was last week for "Rigoletto" (not in my top ten but hovering just outside I would say) and the third was not strictly a trip to the Coliseum as I saw "Peter Grimes" at the Vue cinema at Valley Park, Croydon (this is definitely now in my top ten). Perhaps my top ten operas will be my next post. If I show you mine perhaps you can show me yours.


Let us begin with visit number 1. I am afraid I don't remember everything about this outing and I should stress I was at the dress rehearsal where, unfortunately, Emma Bell, the Fidelio in "Fidelio", had very little voice so someone else sang from the side of the stage while she "walked" the role. I also had the "other" Florestan, Bryan Register (how fantastic is that name?). The bits of dialogue he had to deliver reminded me of Meatloaf for some reason but that said, vocally (singing), he was fabulous. It is always thrilling when a voice fills the London Coliseum. Very few manage it with ease due to it's aeroplane hanger like proportions.


There was good work also from Adrian Dwyer (my mate - he was Ferrando to my (and Camilla Roberts) Fiordiligi at GSMD in 2002) and Sarah Tynan. Unfortunately they were hindered by the libretto. In fact the whole cast were hindered by the libretto. It was as if the director had been handed the translation he had to use and decided "that won't work with what I have planned, oh well let's just ignore it". Perhaps that is exactly what happened. All in all it was a very strange production but then what did I expect, it was Calixto Bieito directing. Visually interesting but made very little sense to a girl like me and I did come out thinking I must be really stupid not to have got that. The one part I remember vividly was when Fidelio gave Florestan some bread. Instead of eating said bread Florestan proceeded to rub the bread into his face as if exfoliating. Try as I might I have yet to work out what that could mean.


So it wasn't the most successful production of Fidelio I have ever seen but it got me out of the house and it is always a pleasure to hear a big chorus singing the thrilling finale of it. Anyway, onwards and upwards to another strange production. This time "Rigoletto". This was marginally more successful but again was not without it's problems. It was sung very well and the set was stunning. Set in a gentleman's club it was all wood panelling and big plants plus a roaring fire stage left. It looked fantastic when the curtain went up, however it quickly became apparent that there was very little they could do to change it so we, as an audience, were trusted to assume they were in different places. I think. There was even the use of a front cloth, which I hate. This kind of behaviour reminds me of panto and local AmDram productions. All that was missing was a song sheet and Sparafucille splitting the audience down the middle to see which half could sing "La donna รจ mobile" the loudest. 


Anyway set restrictions aside I did enjoy it plus I had a whole row, virtually, to myself in the upper circle which always makes me happy. On to "Peter Grimes". WOW.


I wish I had seen it in the theatre and not in the cinema as some of the shot choices by whoever was in charge of shot choices were odd. During the bigger chorus scenes I wanted more wide shots to take in the action but the cameras would focus on individuals and not always the correct individuals. But hey, it did not spoil it for me. This is the sort of thing ENO really knows how to do and, in my humble opinion, what they should do more of. Instead of doing productions of operas originally in other languages using a translation written years ago for a specific production that makes absolutely no sense in the new one, concentrate on opera originally written in English. Or spend the money on new translations and have the translator collaborate with the director so that both their visions can be realised. Just a thought. (Of course ENO might already do this. I may just have been unlucky with the translations of Fidelio and Rigoletto)


There was not really a weak link in this production (there were a couple I didn't much care for but I will keep it to myself who). The Ellen, Elza van den Heever, was stunning. She looked the part and her voice was so beautiful. I don't think she has done anything here before (I could be wrong, research is not my strong suit) but I really hope either ENO or the Royal Opera bring her over again to do summat as I would be there like a shot to hear her live. I wasn't totally convinced by her acting in some parts early on but her handling of the scene at the end was so good. She cried superbly. Her knitting, on the other hand, needs work. During the Sunday Morning scene she had to sit and knit and it was obvious that she was not a natural knitter. For future reference ENO, I am an EXCELLENT knitter. Stuart Skelton was the Grimes. There is no denying he has an incredible voice and such fantastic stage presence but I think I would have enjoyed his larger than life performance more from a distance. Also, I should mention the 2 Nieces, Rhian Lois and Mary Bevan. Not only were they fantastic singers they had been directed to act like they were one person (most of the time). They reminded me of the twins in The Shining. Astonishing and creepy work.


The stars of the show, however, were the Chorus. Every time I hear the ENO Chorus they sound better than the last time. They were on stunning form. I hope that the powers that be realise what a super talented group of people they have assembled there and look after them as it isn't always the case that a whole chorus appear to be as committed to their task as this lot were. I am in awe.


Here endeth my very wishy-washy take on ENO's recent ventures. I love that even when their productions don't quite hit the mark with me I am never bored and there is always plenty to talk about. Just don't skimp on the small stuff. If you need someone to knit while they sing make sure they can do it first.

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