Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    A MUCH LOVED CONDUCTOR

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Haitink chose for the occasion three of his favourite composers. If any one Act of Figaro has to oust the others, for sheer musical exuberance and plot complexity it has to be Act 2. With Felicity Lott and Thomas Allen presiding over a household beset by problems due to both the presence and absence of Cherubino, musically and dramatically there was much to savour. If one ventures to wonder whether Haitink has the quicksilver mind necessary for Mozart, it is only because his Verdi and Wagner were superlative. Act 4 scene i of Don Carlo has not only the searching aria of King Philip's loneliness, but the portentous presence of the Grand Inquisitor, a despairing and fainting Elisabetta, and the guilt-ridden Princess Eboli. It is superb drama, portrayed with moving intensity by Robert Lloyd, Kurt Rydl, Nancy Gustavson and Nadja Michael.

John Tomlinson in 'Die Meistersinger'. Photo: Clive Barda
John Tomlinson in 'Die Meistersinger'. Photo: Clive Barda

Yet the greatest was kept till last. The wisdom and generosity of Die Meistersinger is such that it might influence for good many a hardened political heart in distant corners of the world, perhaps as far afield as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. That Adolf Hitler admired the work was indeed a sign of grace where such was sorely needed. Haitink's admiration resulted in an experience of rare richness, in which details were lovingly coloured while the grand sweep of the music was nobly maintained. The prelude to Act 3, in which the orchestra was at its most radiant and sensitive, made the Sachs of John Tomlinson central to the excerpts, as indeed he should be. After a couple of David bars, we skipped to the Quintet, dominated by an Elisabetta reincarnated as an Eva of purest intonation. The final scene gave full scope to the chorus and some acrobats, and displayed Thomas Allen's Beckmesser as touchingly nervous and playing an unsteady bat on a faltering wicket. Ben Heppner's Walther swept him aside with a succession of easy boundaries. Haitink conducted his Wagner with the tenderness of a lover and the vision of a seer.

Thomas Allen (left, as Beckmesser) with Bernard Haitink. Photo: Bill Cooper
Thomas Allen (left, as Beckmesser) with Bernard Haitink. Photo: Bill Cooper

The singers had given their services out of respect to Haitink, and Sixtus Beckmesser, now really Thomas Allen, summed up for all of us what the fifteen glorious years have meant to Covent Garden. As tribute to a much loved conductor, there was wheeled from the wings a handsome but modest form of motorised transport that suggested Haitink need not speed too fast from Covent Garden or too far, and might just as well turn round to direct performances as often as possible in a house that will sorely miss him.

Karita Mattila in a recent Royal Opera production of Janácek's 'Jenufa', conducted by Haitink. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
Karita Mattila in a recent Royal Opera production of Janácek's 'Jenufa', conducted by Haitink. Photo: Catherine Ashmore

 

Copyright © 30 July 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK

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