Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Heavenly music

...and thank goodness for it, too.

This week is Cardiff Singer of the World week. Cardiff Singer is a biannual competition for budding opera and lieder singers, held at St David's Hall in Cardiff and televised by the BBC. Good old BBC! - I'm so lucky to live somewhere where public service broadcasting will toss me a bonne bouche like this every once in a while.

The first heat was last night, and was won by a sumptuous-sounding Russian mezzo. There are three more heats to go, then the Lieder final is on Saturday evening and the Grand Final, for the overall title Cardiff Singer of the World, is shown live on Sunday evening on BBC2. For anyone who loves great singing, Cardiff Singer week is a week in heaven.

I filled the only non-Cardiff evening of the week, on Monday, with another of these Covent Garden cinema broadcasts; Verdi's "Macbeth" (or Macbetto, as he becomes after enforced Italianisation). A luxury cast, Pappano in the pit, and for £16 a chance to see everyone really close up. In the title role Favourite Baritone was giving it his all. He was a much subtler, more troubled and confused Macbeth than Thomas Hampson, who I saw in this same production a few years ago. Where Hampson played Macbeth as a bear of very little brain, not bright enough to realise he isn’t very bright, FB gave us a guy who isn’t very bright and is aware of it, and confused about it, but lacking the resources to handle it; he gave off a bitter, volatile quality that was truly nasty, and sang heroically as well. The Lady M., Lyudmila Monastirska (I may have mis-spelled that), was vocally the real mustard, but her acting was of the Pavarotti-school – roll eyes, flare nostrils and tip head back… yay, dat's acting, dat is...

Steven Ebel’s Malcolm was good, I loved Raymond Aceto's Banquo, and there was a lovely cameo from one of the Covent Garden Young Artists, Lukas Jakobski, as the doctor - I wouldn’t expect to say “delicate and silky” of a bass but those are the words that spring to mind. I'm still not sure I like the production, though; it has some great visuals and also some deeply silly ones.

We also got the felicity of a subtitle c*ck-up; at the beginning of Act 2, the curtain rose on a stage full of whirling, writhing witches stirring their toxic brews, who then began, with expressions of the most poisonous evil, to sing "Welcome back to the Royal Opera House..." With a keyed-up audience, of course, it got a huge laugh. I know they were really singing "Double, double, toil and trouble..." etc (in Italian), but "Welcome back..." was such a glorious disjuncture with the scene.

Work is a bit hassley at the moment, the third revision of "Ramundi's sisters" is causing me trouble as it has thrown me into facing the need for a big re-write >sigh< and I have ballet withdrawal symptoms. Otherwise muddling along.

At least the linden trees are in flower; that heavenly scent comes raining down on me as I cycle in and back from work. "Ich atmet einem lindenduft" indeed... Apologies if that is also spelled wrong, my German has never progressed beyond the "Guten tag" and ordering-things-off-a-menu level...

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