Sunday, 25 September 2011

Angela Gheorghiu - The essence of the modern opera diva!

First of all, I don't want people to think I've taken to reading the Daily Telegraph. I most certainly haven't. Politics aside, they do have a good on-line opera section, along with the The Guardian and The Independent. Today they've published an interview with the greatest soprano of the moment, Angela Gheorghiu, who will be performing in Wednesday's Faust. Famous for cancelling shows at the last minuet, driving conductors to the brink of madness and also for throwing buckets of water at Covent Garden buskers, she's the very essence of the modern opera diva. Vive La Gheorghiu!

Read her interview with The Telegraph here (which she was only 25hrs late for):

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Selling your soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth? It's Faust this week at Covent Garden!

Selling your soul to a demon in exchange for eternal youth is never a great idea and is nearly always destined to end in disaster (look at what happened to Meryl Street and Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her for example). That's what the next instalment in my year of opera, Faust, is all about, and it would seem that Wednesday's production promises the put the 'grand' in grand opera according to the ROH. We shall see, but with a star cast, a soldiers' chorus and even a ballet included, it sounds promising. Below are a few reviews of this season's revival of David McVicar's production. Stay tuned here for my own thoughts, or even better tune into BBC Radio 3 this evening to hear a live broadcast from Covent Garden, or drop into your local cinema on Wednesday for a live screening!

Faust - Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from Covent Garden, 24/09/2011, 18:45:

Faust - Broadcast live to cinemas across the UK and the world, 28/09/2011, 18:45, as part of the Royal Opera's cinema season:

Reviews of the latest revival of David McVicar's production:

The Guardian:

The Independent:

The Daily Telegraph:

The Evening Standard:

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Il trittico, 12th September 2011

Let us start with what was WRONG with this evening. It wasn't the performance itself, but rather other happenings. It started with the ROH box office informing that my programme voucher that was supposed to have been posted to me ahead of the performance (a novel idea, I know) which hadn't turned up could not be used this evening. They did have the ability to print me another, but wouldn't as they claimed I could have returned and used on another evening. This didn't sit too well with me and resulted in a mini argument with the box office staff, namely over why they would even give you the option to have a voucher posted to you that couldn't arrive in time for the intended performance. Not off to a good start.

The second negative experience came in the form of the audience themselves. Not to be rude, but those attending last nights performance of Il trittico were the epitome of opera goers. Namely, geriatric millionaires who are on the brink of death who probably live in west London and shout at each other about the time they saw the perfect 'Trittico' in 1965 with Tito Gobi. If they didn't fall into this category they were middle aged Hampstead residents who have probably been dragged to the ROH from a young age and know nothing else in life. There were some exceptional characters up in the gods with me and my friend. The most repulsive being the obese gentleman who took up at least one seat he hadn't paid for due to his size and leapt up at the end of each performance and SCREAMED 'Tado' at the top of his voice. I think what he was trying to say was 'Bravo'...He had a lovely habit during the interval of exclaiming 'excuse me!' at the top of his voice and then bumping out of the way with his beer gut before you could even move. Some toes were also crushed under his immensity due to a lack of time to actually move out of the way of his body mass. The gentleman sat next to me was also a joy. An angry little man who irritatingly pointed out that I was partially sat in his seat and could i move down. To which i asked where exactly he wanted me to move down to since there was no actual space left (due to Mr Bravo down the row i expect). Anyway, i eventually managed to squeeze up a bit, which still didn't please him, so i kindly pointed out where his seat began and mine ended and that there was no more room to move into.

Anyway. Despite these human disasters, the evening was largely enjoyable. Il trittico is  a rarely performed trio of operas by Puccini: Il tabarro; Sour Angelica; Gianni Schicchi. Each are an exploration of a different aspect of human emotion. I won't go into depth, read about it yourself or even better go and see it! Il tabarro is especially dark, dealing with a husband and wife and the wife's lover. Needless to say it ends very, very badly for all involved. Sour Angelica is especially emotive. the tale of a nun, Sister Angelica, who learns of the death of her son who was taken from her years before. It ends in tragedy and suicide and has some moving arias. The lead in this opera was pretty exceptional. Gianni Schicchi is on a much lighter note. The story of a man who dies leaving all his belongings to a local monestry near Florence and the family's extreme disappointment over this. What ensues is a farcical attempt to get the will re-written to leave everything to the  family members. Enter wide boy Gianni Schicchi, who comes up with a cunning plan to draw up a new will which ends up backfiring in the bickering family's face. Set in the 1960s for this production, it was a genuine joy to watch and a happy way to end the night!

Overall I really enjoyed Il trittico. It was an emotional roller-coaster with some great tunes and three very different stories. Two thumbs up from me, and thank god the show was good - it would have been a total disaster if that had been as shocking as the audience and the start of the evening!
STARS: **** 
Summary: If you have time before the end of the month this is worth checking out. It's actually a good option for an opera novice as it offers up three different aspects of opera.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Interview with Italian stallion, Vittorio Grigolo, on

The Guardian's on-line opera section today features an interview with Italian tenor, Vittorio Grigolo. He will soon be performing in Faust at the ROH alongside Angela Gheorghiu. He apparently made a stunning début with the Royal Opera last year, so I'm expecting good things - I think it's also fair to say that he's a bit of a looker, at least as far as opera stars go!

Full interview here:

Welcome to the Amateur Tenor!

Hello and welcome to the Amateur Tenor!

I've created this new blog to chart my ambition to see EVERY opera in the Royal Opera's 2011/12 season. Yes that's right, every single opera, from Puccini's Il trittico in September  through to Verdi's Otello in July next year. In between there are some exciting offerings, at least for an amateur opera fan such as myself. We've got the great Angela Gheorghiu appearing in Gounod's Faust in September, Placido Domingo performing a gala evening of scenes from some of Verdi's greatest works, Anna Netrebko in La traviata in January and the amazing Jonas Kaufmann in a new production of the Berlioz epic Les Troyens in the summer. Most of this season's productions are entirely new to me, in fact there will only be two repeat performances with La traviata and Don Giovanni - both with excellent casts this time round. Perhaps most interesting for me will be my first two Wagner operas in Der fliegende Hollander and Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (an epic at 5hrs 40mins!). Good preparation i hope for next autumn's  Ring Cycle, a fantasy marathon of an opera spread over four evenings and totalling 15hrs (think of the fat lady with a Viking hat on and you will get a rough idea).

I'll be reviewing each performance here as well as looking at the background to some of the performers, composers and the operas themselves. I expect there will be other productions that sneak in - the English National Opera's Tosca for example - and I may even be mad enough to attend some overseas productions as well (La Scala in Milan has a very tempting new production of Don Giovanni with Netrebko and Bryn Terfel!). So stay tuned. It's going to be an exciting season ahead for me exploring this surprisingly diverse art form that stole my heart with my first ever opera, Carmen, in 2007. Hopefully it might encourage some of you to also give it a dabble!

First opera: Il trittico (Puccini), Monday, 12th September
The Royal Opera's entire season for 2011/12 can be viewed here: