Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House

Quite a while ago now, I went with my dad to see my first ever performance at the Royal Opera House in London. Up until now, I had only been to performances by WNO and other travelling companies in Bristol, so this was very exciting. My parents and I arrived a bit early, so I got to look around in the shop and I bought this CD (although I was also very tempted to buy a giant poster of Simon Keenlyside to put up in my room).

Then my mum took this picture of me and my dad outside the Royal Opera House and went off to go and see ENO’s production of Wozzeck.

So we went inside and found our seats. We were sitting a little bit around to the left and towards the front of the Amphitheatre level.

The arrow shows roughly where I was sitting

The arrow shows roughly where I was sitting

There are two main things I need to talk about here: the performance and the opera itself.

This was my first experience of this opera and I really loved it because it really is one of Verdi’s best (in my opinion as someone who hasn’t heard several of his operas yet). The music is great and very moving. The thing that really struck me about this opera was how well the plot works and how closely the music fits with it. I think that this is one of the few operas where the plot really makes sense (not including the bit at the very end which makes literally no sense at all). It has lots of levels to it – you get to see the situations from the points of view of every main character and both the political and emotional drama that’s going on. This comes through especially clearly in the famous aria “Ella giammai m’amo”. I love this song because, apart from the fact that it’s beautiful music, you see Filippo as not just the bad guy but as an old man with too many decisions to make. Throughout the opera, I always felt sympathy towards each of the characters at different points and that made the performance as a whole much more emotional and involving. The other moment that really interested me was when Posa was asking Philip to help the Dutch people and Philip refused but you could tell that he really admired Posa for trying to change the world and being brave enough to challenge what those with power did. It’s much more interesting if the bad guy isn’t just a one-sided character.

Mariusz Kwiecien as Posa and Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip

The performance was beyond amazing. The best performers, I think, were Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip, Mariusz Kwiecien as Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa and Béatrice Uria-Monzon as Princess Eboli. I don’t think I will ever see a better performance of King Philip than Furlanetto’s, especially his ‘Ella giammai m’amo’ His weariness and frustration comes acr oss beautifully in the music. Kwiecien and Uria-Morzon both acted well and made their characters very developed using the music as well. Roberto Aronica (who sang Carlos) and Lianna Haroutounian (who sang Elisabetta) both did well but neither did anything particularly outstanding until Haroutounian’s Tu che le vanita, which she sang very beautifully and elegantly.

The sets were fine but didn’t really add anything to the performance and in some scenes just looked strange (what is the red Lego wall thing in Act 2 for?). But the singing and acting was magnificent and I don’t think I’ve ever wanted an opera to end less. Hoping to go back to the ROH as soon as possible!

This are the tweets I posted on the night:

Royal Opera Live – Eugene Onegin

Warning: The following blog post contains a) spoilers, b) descriptions of scenes of unnecessary emotional distress and c) things which have basically no connection whatsoever to the intended topic.

I have so far in my life been to see four operas in the cinema – Un Ballo in Maschera, Aïda, Maria Stuarda and, most recently, Eugene Onegin (I would have seen Rigoletto as well, but the only cinema in town that shows the Met broadcasts had other plans). Of those four, Onegin was definitely the most emotionally draining. So much so, in fact, that when the interval arrived and I realised that I was silently crying, I realised that I would have to risk the disapproving looks of the lady sitting across the aisle from me and go and buy comfort food (Fruit Pastilles) to eat during the second half.

I have never been to see or even properly listened to Onegin before, but judging from the fact that pretty much everyone who has ever seen it seemed to enjoy it, I was expecting something very good indeed. The music of this opera is simply, unbearably beautiful. Right from the start, when Tatyana and Olga are singing their random little song (a classic operatic feature) and Mme Larina and Filipyevna are reminiscing, I was totally drawn into the characters and the music. I felt it a lot closer than with so many other operas I have seen. By the time the interval had come, Lensky and Onegin had argued, the duel was about to happen, Tatyana had been refused and I was crying. The second half was pretty much the same. They fought, Lensky died, Onegin tried to forget, so did Tatyana, they met again, everything went wrong and I was still crying.

Krassimira Stoyanova as Tatyana with Vigdis Hentze Olsen as her former self during the Letter Scene

In terms of this as a performance, it was excellent. Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) and Krassimira Stoyanova (Tatyana) both sang and acted their roles perfectly. The production idea was interesting. The whole opera was seen as a flashback, with both an “old” Tatyana and Onegin, who sang and their younger selves, who were dancers. The other main idea was that the memories would slowly collect up on stage as various items from the different scenes were left lying around. The flashbacks idea was good and for the most part it worked. There were some moments when I couldn’t quite keep up because some scenes did have the younger Onegin and Tatyana in and some didn’t. However, it mostly worked very well, especially in the letter scene. The memories idea was much simpler and it really worked, apart from one –  Lensky came onstage for the duel dragging a huge tree branch behind him, which was then left there for the rest of the opera. Whether the tree was symbolic in some way, I don’t know, but it did look a bit silly when he came on stage, pulling it behind him. I also felt a bit sorry for Pavol Breslik (playing Lensky), as after the duel. he had to lie there and play dead for the rest of the entire opera! I have another production question though: is it normal for, when Tatyana and Onegin are having their final duet/argument thing, is it normal for Prince Gremin to come onstage and stare at them? Whether it is or not, I didn’t really like it because it made it feel as though Tatyana was only saying no to Onegin because Gremin was there, not because of her own strength of mind.

Overall, magnificent, a very interesting production which I really enjoyed, even though parts of it didn’t always quite make sense.