I can't really say that the weather for the opening of Albert Herring was more clement than the night before for Hoffmann. On the contrary, heavy winds blew the rain in the auditorium and on the stage making me wonder whether the performance would have to be interrupted. In the end, everybody made it, performers and spectators. The good news is that apparently the monsoon period is over now and we're supposed to have great weather for all of next week.
Working in an English-speaking country has changed my perception of Benjamin Britten's work a lot. In France or Germany only Peter Grimes seems to have entered the repertoire and most of his other pieces are virtually unknown. Seeing our COC audience enjoy A Midsummer Night's Dream last year was a surprise to me and I think everybody in yesterday's audience would agree that they had a blast with Britten's early comedy Albert Herring.
It was a very good performance with an exceptional cast, that kept the fine balance of British humour and slapstick in Paul Curran's witty production. Christine Brewer as Lady Billows and Jill Grove as her housekeeper Florence Pike were hilariously funny. Alek Shrader in the title role was just perfectly cast. It gives me a lot of pleasure that all these great artists will be coming to the COC in the future. I should name every single member of that cast, but let me just mention one more name, the Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins in the role of Sid. I have followed him for a few years now and each time I see him he has grown. His COC debut is overdue, but we're working on it! Andrew Davis' love and expertise for Britten's tricky score was evident in every single bar. He inspired the Santa Fe Opera orchestra to give a truly charming performance.
Another good opera night in Santa Fe. I'm looking forward to more over the course of next week.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (1) / permalink
One thing we've learned about Santa Fe by now is that July is monsoon season. Every afternoon huge black clouds form and rain starts pouring down, often with thunder and lightening, but rarely for longer than an hour.
Yesterday was a bit different. Scattered thunderstorms started in the afternoon, but by the time our performance of The Tales of Hoffmann was about to start the entire horizon was covered with black, heavy rainclouds and there was thunder and lightning wherever you turned. Because of the good weather and high temperatures, the opera house in Santa Fe doesn't have side walls, which usually provides the audience with great views of the surrounding mountains and the desert. Yesterday, it literally provided us with a second show, put on by nature, lasting almost as long as the performance put on by human beings. At times, the thunderstorms grew so strong that they almost drowned out the performance that really didn't deserve to be drowned out.
You certainly know by now how much I admire the insight and intelligence Christopher Alden brings to his productions and this Hoffmann with its deceivingly realistic 19th century sets and costumes (by Allan Moyer and Constance Hoffmann) is no exception. Christopher gets very strong performances from the excellent cast, Paul Groves in his debut as Hoffmann, Wayne Tigges as the Four Villains, our (American-)Canadian Erin Wall in all four female roles (I am glad she is booked for her COC debut) and Kate Lindsey as Hoffmann's muse. Stephen Lord's elegant conducting made me understand why Offenbach's contemporaries called him the "Mozart of the Champs-Elysées". I could imagine for Offenbach's masterpiece to be performed differently, but certainly not better.
An auspicious beginning for our Santa Fe operas. I look forward to the opening of Britten's Albert Herring tonight.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
A few days ago we left the chilly Pacific Coast for the dry heat of the New Mexican high desert. Santa Fe and its gorgeously sunny days with occasional thunderstorms in the afternoon really is something special. Very surprising also how the high desert changes back into forest when you go higher in the mountains. We had a few wonderful road trips so far and a lot of time to relax which gives me the opportunity to catch up with some reading, my all-time favourite Hyperion (by Friedrich Hölderlin, I read it once a year), but also some Canadian literature like Douglas Coupland's Generation X and Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero.
In the music department I spend a lot of time with Mitsuko Uchida's (my famous living and active pianist) reissued recording of Chopin's 2nd and 3rd Piano Sonatas and her recordings of Beethoven's five last Piano Sonatas (Beethoven and Hölderlin were both born in 1770). Also, no summer listening is complete without Brahms, mostly two all-time favourites: Trio Wanderer's complete Piano Trios (and the first Piano Quartet), Carlos Kleiber's recording of the 4th Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and Glenn Gould's interpretation of the Intermezzi which led me right into listening to his complete recordings, always full of revelations.
Tonight will be our first opera in Santa Fe, my first live performance in three weeks: Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann.
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