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3 April - Montpellier

  • Why would anyone let Daniel Mesguich loose on an opera like Wozzeck? His insistence on complicating a not too complicated story by having six Maries, three Wozzeck's, a Child that was too old and omnipresent finally allowed one to conclude that this must be either the Child's idea of what went on, or Wozzeck's drowning thoughts. The hyper-expressionism must have been his way of allowing the music and staging to come together. The result was a mess, and more's the pity as musically this was an excellent performance under Friedemann Layer and the Montpellier Orchestra. Susan Anthony seemed galvanized so that there was a strong personal element in addition to the customarily gleaming voice, while Richard Salter's Wozzeck allied a strong voice to a strong presence. What a waste. .

6 April - Paris

  • Pelléas et Mélisande comes home, after almost 30 years away. Unfortunately, Pierre Médecin's "literary" staging offered some peculiar drama that did not seem to have much connection with what Debussy had in mind. We watched one of the actors, Golaud, who sat downstage in a leather armchair reading or sometimes thinking, occasionally participating in the "drama" when the louvered jalousies (representative of the forest, the program told us) surrounding his room opened to allow the other singers their chance, but almost exclusively from upstage. This may explain much of Anne Marguerite Werster's off-pitch singing as Mélisande, while William Dazeley too often lacked vocal and dramatic power. While not a Golaud by nature, François Le Roux's performing intelligence carried him a long way, but it would be interesting to watch him in a production worthy of his talent. Georges Prêtre's powerful reading did not neglect Debussy's more lyric aspects.

8 April - Paris

  • True to form, the Opéra de Paris engaged Andrei Serban for what resulted in one of the most vulgar performances of Italiana in Algeria I've ever seen, which could not even be saved by the prima donna, Jennifer Larmore, who was ill this evening. Her understudy, Maria José Trullu, has a voice capable of hitting all the notes but little individuality. Serban has all the performers in a state of perpetual motion for no reason, so that it is no wonder that singing is relegated to a secondary or tertiary level in this evening's priorities.

9 April - Paris

  • Lulu returns to the Paris Opera, in a new production by Willy Decker, whose cold-blooded approach is at least matched by a work that often suffers from the same reproach, a view I don't necessarily share. Dennis Russell Davies's analytic conducting is an accurate reflection of the on-stage happenings. Unfortunately, Anna-Katharina Behnke in the title role lacks the vocal ease - a failing shared with many other interpreters of the role - but there is no disputing her team spirit. Julia Juon's Geschwitz may be too overtly overwrought at times, particularly in the context of this production, but it is well-sung, not forgetting Berg's remark that his works benefit from a bel canto approach, something not taken into account by most of her colleagues. That such an approach helps our acceptance of this sick drama was borne out by the 1991 production at the Chatelêt. Wolfgang Schöne's Doctor Schön is an established fact of operatic life, while Carlos Feller may not be quite as touchingly repulsive as Hans Hotter as Shigolch. Gunter von Kannen's over-the-hill Athlete rounded out the seedy characters, with David Kubler as a too-light-voiced Alwa. Perhaps the best - so far - of a bad lot of new productions this year.

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