<< -- 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
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
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'
Copyright © 15 December 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK