My second outing to the opera this week was to the Royal Albert Hall and the star studded extravaganza that was Netrebko/Schrott/Vargas. Originally Jonas Kaufmann was in the line up but very sadly he had to withdraw due to an on going illness. A big disappointment indeed. His replacement was Ramon Vargas, not someone I was familiar with before this show, but he did a solid job of filling Kaufmann's shoes. The Daily Telegraph referred to this show as 'The dream of hearing beautiful music sung beautifully by beautiful people' something which Rupert Christiansen went on to say never quite materialised. For once I think Rupert and I are on the same page. Overall, I actually found the evening pretty naff and at times just full on cringy! Whilst the singing was of course top notch, it didn't blow me away as i thought it would, especially in the case of Anna Netrebko, someone who I've been waiting to see perform for years. I actually thought this might be an opportunity for Anna to replace Angela Gheroghiu as my favorite opera darling - but don't worry Angela, you're still firmly at the top of my list!
I think one of my issues was with the way in which the show was broken up with musical interludes, performed solidly by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. During the first half i think we heard more from the orchestra than any of the singers, who came and went in the blink of an eye. I also found it annoying that the conductor kept leaving the stage and then immediately returning after almost every song or orchestral piece. What's the point in doing that?? He must have walked off stage and then turned straight back round again. It meant a lot of unnecessary clapping in my opinion. The second half did improve, with a lot more singing from the stars we'd all come to watch and it was in this half that we had the best music. But again, none of it really brought down the house for me and I found the romantic husband and wife duet between Netrebko and Schrott especially painful to watch. The whole evening ended in one too many encores (I blame the Russian Oligarch contingent down in the stalls who'd turned out en mass for Netrebko), although Netrebko did perform O mio babbino carro which was a bonus.
All in all, I agree with Rupert again - the evening was cheesy, but kind of fun at the same time.