Music and Vision homepage Natalie Artemas-Polak - classical CD and book reviews, liner and programme notes, articles and lectures: CLICK TO CONTACT

 

<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

-------------------------------

Thomas Allen -- by now a pretty seasoned Covent Garden Music Master; he is still delivering Don Giovannis and Eisensteins (Die Fledermaus) for the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, and has just made his directorial début, delivering a remarkably lucid Albert Herring for the Royal College of Music -- presides over this glorious shambles like Dvorák's Benda tutting over his flock in Jacobin (one of several Dvorák operas from which the ROH could derive real pleasure; Vanda and Dimitrij are others). One was reminded, too, by Strauss's Tempest-like 'drolls' -- excellent here and if anything even better in the recent youthful Aldeburgh production -- of the heavenly acting troupe in another opera which Covent Garden did première (less auspiciously), in 1949 : Arthur Bliss's The Olympians. Strauss's music had already the kind of buzz Bliss was aspiring to, but couldn't quite match.

Sophie Koch as The Composer in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House
Sophie Koch as The Composer in the Covent Garden production of 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Photo © Arena PAL/Royal Opera House

From her first arrival, the French mezzo Sophie Koch's Composer, a joy both to hear and to watch, seemed right in her element. Koch, a riveting singer and a real feather in the cap of Covent Garden, has already sung the role for Munich, Dresden and La Scala : and it showed; for she never ceased to be abreast not just of the taxing role, but of every ounce of Strauss's nuanced writing.

The Composer really sets the standards for what is to follow : a weak Composer (sadly, Aldeburgh's student equivalent was by comparison visually feeble) can squander the crucial long build up of the opera, by failing to prepare the way for the mythical main piece. Koch's range alone is impressive -- powerful in nooks of the lower voice one would expect to give problems even to a mezzo. Abetted by solo cello (and later, Tchaikovskian-sounding bassoon), she simply shone. 'In her eyes he is the Todesgott' : the rapture was shivering. 'You son of Venus' (from the others) was equally ravishing.

Stephen Kennedy (Truffaldino), Simon Biazeck (Brighella), Catherine May (Zerbinetta), Kerem Kurkcuoglu (Scaramuccio), Jesse Clark (Arlecchino) and Lori Hultgren (Ariadne) in the 2002 Britten-Pears School/Aldeburgh Productions staging of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos'
Stephen Kennedy (Truffaldino), Simon Biazeck (Brighella), Catherine May (Zerbinetta), Kerem Kurkcuoglu (Scaramuccio), Jesse Clark (Arlecchino) and Lori Hultgren (Ariadne) in the 2002 Britten-Pears School/Aldeburgh Productions staging of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos'

 

Continue >>

Copyright © 15 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

-------

 << M&V home       Ensemble home        The Coronation of Poppea >>