Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Betrothal at Opéra Comique

Larissa Diadkova, Tugan Sokhiev, and Mikhail Kolelishvili

Director ..... Martin Duncan
Conductor ..... Tugan Sokhiev

Don Jérôme ..... Brian Galliford
Ferdinand ..... Garry Magee
Louisa ..... Anastasia Kalagina
The Duenna ..... Larissa Diadkova
Antonio ..... Daniil Shtoda
Clara d’Almanza ..... Anna Kiknadze
Mendoza ..... Mikhail Kolelishvili
Don Carlos ..... Yuri Vorobiov
Father Augustin .....Eduard Tsanga
Brother Elustaf ..... Vasily Efimov
Brother Chartreuse ..... Marek Kalbus
Brother Benedictine ..... Mischa Schelomianski
Lauretta ..... Eleonora Vindau

Orchestre et Chœur du Capitole de Toulouse

Betrothal in a Monastery is a lesser known --light hearted-- opera by Prokofiev, that many of us got to know thanks to the fame of Anna Netrebko's and her early work with Kirov [available on DVD.] Opéra Comique in Paris co-produced a new show with Théâtre du Capitole - Toulouse where it was premiered two weeks prior to its run in Paris.

The Toulouse Capitole Orchestra is known to be very good, and they become truly excellent when performing under the baton of their artistic director -- super-talented Tugan Sokhiev. This evening at Opéra Comique was a demonstration of that phenomenon as the orchestra sounded absolutely impeccable. Auditorium of Opéra Comique is relatively small and playing any music by Prokofiev [even if light-weighted] is tricky as you need to temper the brass section and spice up the strings to obtain that plain 'Prokofiev-ian' sound, while keeping the singers safe from getting drowned by the orchestra. With all that in the equation, Tugan's reading of the score was lively, compact, incisive, and very accurate. If we were to name the winner of the evening, that would have been him.

Another fantastic element in this show were the singers. The quality of the whole cast was very high and homogeneous.  Brian Galliford is returning to his top form after years of struggling with cancer  he was diagnosed back in 2006. How tremendously inspiring it is to see him surmount the psycho-physical drama of his life and to come back this strong and sing with such a formidable intensity -- maybe even better than he did before the sad news! If you can read French, please read this interview he gave during the run of this show in Toulouse.  His singing was strong, convincing, and he has that inner talent for comedy. Thank you Brian and may you sing for us for many-many years to come!

Larissa Diadkova has still that lovely --yet authoritative-- velvety voice, that brings an aura to her scenic presence. Mikhail Kolelishvili is one of those precious Russian basses that always make you admire the size and authority in their voice. That vocal emission that with Russian singers is made somewhere behind (with respect to their Western counterparts) works to the advantage with basses. Another main character in the story was Anastasia Kalagina, a Mariinsky-gem who I've never listened to before. Her Paris debut was definitely very impressive.

As for the show itself, I'm probably not too appreciative of this form of theater in which the entertainment factor is largely dominant [I believe that opera/theater must be able to go beyond sheer entertainment; beyond easy TV-superficiality... Don't get me wrong! I am not dissing the entertainment-only kind of shows -- I'm just trying to separate vacuous entertainment from theater/opera that IMHO have different goals.] Martin Duncan  was happy to surf through libretto, and the show was Broadway-ish. He did everything to keep action in motion -- occasionally with some old-humored choreography, just not to let the spectator trying to scratch deeper beneath the surface of libretto. That option worked well and visibly amused many people in auditorium, but not me unfortunately.

A part of my impression --that it all looked quite frivolous-- must be due to libretto which is filled with shabby jokes.  It can also be that I was still too fresh after Parsifal in Brussels and could not make an effort to get myself enjoy being entertained by too naive kind of humor... Whatever the case, to me that whole show never reached beyond that apparent naïveté [maybe Martin Duncan was not more ambitious anyway?!]

Several production photos:

CC pics:

Brian Galliford and Mikhail Kolelishvili

Kaligina, Diadkova, Sokhiev, Galliford, and Kolelishvili

Garry Magee in the center

and a trailer:

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