Posts Tagged ‘Royal Opera’

Review – The Rake’s Progress – Royal Opera House

February 3, 2010

My interest in seeing the Royal Opera’s version of The Rake’s Progress broke down into two main components. First, I like Stravinsky. I’ve never seen one of his operas, though, but gotta go, right? Second, it was directed by totally famous rock star level director dude Robert Lepage. I mean, I haven’t exactly seen anything he’s done before, but all of the pictures are very cool. And, hey, I found some cheap little seats for 16 quid up in the Amphitheater. And it was going to be in English!


Why oh WHY couldn’t my memories of this show be of something besides the set design? Lepage (who I kept wanting to call Leplant, blame Led Zeppelin) was really wowtastic from start to finish, even though this wasn’t brand spanking new, it was only from 2007 so pretty damned close to cutting edge. This was clear even in the first scene, where the backdrop of animated clouds (over a field, as it were, seemingly in America’s Midwest) moved gently but not self-aggrandizingly, managing even to add to the feeling on stage by becoming darker as the story moved forward and Tom Rakewell (Toby Spence) made his deal with Nick Shadow (not sure who played it this night) and sealed his doom. Wow, Lepage actually gets how to incorporate animation in a way that works! It basically made me think from the very start, “Yep, we’re in the hands of a master here!”

And the miracles continue – the bed that sucks into the stage when Tom Rakewell is “claimed” by Madame Mother Goose (Frances McCafferty), the AMAZING inflatable airstream trailer that is blown up through a tiny hole in the stage, the wee, wee little house with the shadow in the windows representing Mr. Trulove trying to figure out where his daughter Anna (Rosemary Joshua) has gone while she runs around (mostly) in front of the stage as if she’s very, very far from the house. God, I loved the house. And then Anna in her car, with her scarf pulling behind her as if in the wind, finally caught (on a string) and blown away in a beautiful “moment.”

So many moments. So very boring.

According to someone who knows opera much better than I do, whom I heard as I walked toward the exit (at the interval), Toby Spence had a great voice for this part, a very youthful sound but also very strong despite the fact that he was really carrying a lot of stage time. Rosemary Joshua was judged to have not quite his stamina and to have been tiring noticably during the final scene.

I could sympathize, really. While I enjoyed the recitative (I think that’s the right word) moments that had a very 18th century sound to them that I like (will have to research how Stravinsky came up with the score), the rest of the music just wasn’t grabbing me. When the interval came, I realized I was only staying for the spectacle, and I just didn’t care enough about the singing or the rest of the music to want to stay. I’d got my money’s worth, but I was wishing I’d just given up on the tickets and gone to see another Ozu movie at the BFI instead, and angry that it was now so late that I couldn’t possibly see the last showing of Late Autumn. A bad sign, really. But, you know, Chando’s Opera Room was just a short walk away and I did manage to end the evening on a high note – just not one that was coming from a stage.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, January 30th, 2010. I am going to try to see Tamerlano, which I’m hoping I will enjoy more as it’s an era I groove on more. Ping me if you have some tips for cheap tix as it’s way out of my price range even in the amphitheater.)

Mini-review – Carmen – Royal Opera House – Art Review – Daily Life in Renaissance Italy

December 29, 2006

Art goes down better on a full stomach, I think. With that in mind, a snacky J and I hit the 4.50 all you can eat buffet at the Paper Tiger in South Kensington (between the tube station and the Victoria and Albert Museum). It was rather dank and cavy in the restaurant, but appropriate given the low rent they must have to afford their cheap prices – well, they also compensated with over priced tea and other beverages. Ten items sounded convincing enough for me to brave the depths. In exchange, I got egg fried rice and all the egg rolls I could manage – these being the best things on offer. Also available: slightly chilly sweet and sour pork, bland black bean beef, some kind of chow mein thing that was pretty good but just … lacking something, mystery chicken dish (I think it wanted to be tandoori but it just didn’t resemble any chinese food I’d ever had), Nothing Nothing soup (all it needed was a stone), unflavored yet cooked noodles, and … chicken wings. And wontons and dipping sauce. Next time, I’ll eat at the Oriental Canteen, which charges just maybe a pound more for a meal but delivers much, much better food. Oh well, live and learn – and at least this was a cheap lesson, and extraordinarily quick.

We headed to the V&A afterwards for their “Daily Life in Renaissance Italy” exhibit, which is kindly available to Oyster card holders at a two for one price. In some ways, this exhibit really did take on the stuff that doesn’t really get covered much in museums – the daily workings of a household, which is very woman-centric. So there was lots of stuff about cooking and sewing and childbirth that you wouldn’t normally see, such as “birth plates” and lots of paintings of women post-baby. I got creeped out about living a life where my contributions were basically based on biology and I had a one in five chance of dying in childbirth. Woo. But most of the stuff just seemed so inconsequential – an olive/vinegar cruet, some pins, a few beat-up pewter plates, and eight people shoulder to shoulder in front of them. Grr. The highlights of the exhibit were (for me) the nice Fra Angelico work they had and the gorgeous blue and white terracotta tondos (Della Robbia, of course) depicting the months that had adorned the ceiling of Cosimo De Medici’s study. There was also some leatherwork from a Venetian “Gold Room” – apparently all of the wood would be gilt, and the walls would be covered with gilded and painted leather, so the whole thing would just glow – a perfect effect for that lovely Venetian light. I loved that they were so popular they tried to legislate them away. Down with the authorities who try to crush beauty!

Anyway, mostly I didn’t think this was worth much of a bother, though I did like all of the paintings that were exhibited. The signs really should have been higher up and I wish there had been less people there. (One can only imagine what the Leonardo exhibit was like, since there was a line to get in after you’d bought tickets.) We finished up the outing with some tea and a scone, eaten (of course) in the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms, which is tied with the Sainte Chapelle and the Asam Church in Munich as the most beautiful places I’ve every been. The MGP rooms are probably best, though, because you can sit in them and natter.

Then it was off to Covent Garden for some pre-show shopping. Ultimately, we bought <1) hot chocolate mix (half off) and 2) some 2nd flush Darjeeling from two different Whittard shops and 3) a few very cheap tools for the gig J is supposed to be working tomorrow AM. I failed at buying boots; I'll try the Clark's up the street and see if they inspire me more. (I had no luck even finding a Clark's today, which maybe meant I was in a nicer neighborhood or something. I did find a Birkentstock store, though, and they had boots, so who knows.) After a very light dinner at Paul (soup for me and quiche for J), we went to the very sold out Carmen at the Royal Opera House, tickets for which (and blocked view at that!) were his Christmas present from me.

*looks at the time* My, it’s late. I think the ROH Carmen was a great production, if a wee bit too sexed up for my taste – I just don’t think flamenco dancers should ever lift their skirts to mid-thigh, and given the period in which it was set I really found the behavior of the gypsy women impossible to swallow. But the staging was generally very good, all of the singing and music was right on target, and the costuming was fun. So what wasn’t to love? I think that this Carmen will be the one I hold in my mind through years and years of non-sexy singers with no stage presence and no ability to flirt on stage. Did Carmen cast a magical spell on Don Jose, or was he just an obsessive loser? Tonight, it seemed that sorcery was the right answer, and Carmen herself seemed a little bit more evil because of it. But at the end, when she said, “Carmen will live free!” I was right there with her, watching Don Jose grabbing her by the hair and trying to shove her in a little box like those poor Renaissance wives. You said it, girlie, I just wish that at the end you’d had your own little knife with you.

(This review is for a performance that took place on December 28th, 2006. The review was migrated from my other blog.)