Thursday, 25 November 2010

Latest Adriana Lecouvreur McVicar podcast

Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House London is a good lesson in not judging by appearances. When I saw the photos of the ROH set before setting off to see it my heart dropped. Extremely elaborate set, as over the top as the fancy toy theatre my Dad gave my kids when they were small, kind of uber-Drottningholm. (The kids refused to play with it, because they said the little dolls spoiled the vision) (cogitate on that). So I thought, what have I let myself in for? On the other hand I was in the mood for an indulgent sugar rush and an opera won't live forever on your hips.

Yes, they piled on the glamour and lusciousness, thereby rescuing a pleasant but not specially profound opera. Then it dawned on me that David McVicar and Charles Edwards use the elaboration to subvert the usual idea of retro opera. This Adriana Lecouvreur isn't self-indulgent glamour for its own sake. Instead it's a commentary on the hollowness of glamour and celebrity. Adriana is the biggest star in town, but where does it get her ? In some ways, she's made her own tragedy by having illusions about love, fuelled by the theatre rather than real life. Just as everyone else in this opera is playing games of self-delusion on one level or other.

The concept makes the performances fall into place. Angela Gheorghiu s stretched, but that adds to her charcterization. If she belted things out she'd hardly be the sensitive, driven woman she is in the plot. Although she looks extremely young in that makeup, you feel that she's matured to  a point in her life when theatre isn't enough. So if she sounds unhappy lost in the Phédre monologue, it's because Gheorghiu understands that for Adriana, her trademark party piece is just a mask. What she wants now at this stage in her life is to live, without illusion. Yet just as she's made the breakthrough, she dies. {Perhaps that's why Gheorghiu's final aria is so genuinely moving.

The concept has a bearing on Jonas Kaufmann's performance too. Perhaps he doesn't let rip because Maurizio just isn't the kind of man who does deep feelings. its from woman to woman to woman, persona to persona, but is he really engaged emotionally? Even when he proposes to Adriana he knows full well that Counts of Saxony don't marry aging actresses. I loved his Lohengrin this summer but apparently he doesn't like the part. Lohengrin is the ultimate Romantic hero, but he's not really human. So Kaufmann's Maurizio was splendidly realized.

Most reviews have stressed the surface glamour of this production, because the images look so good. So I worried that I was getting too much from it. So much relief when David McVicar speaks about his ideas and about Gheorghiu in THIS PODCAST. I wasn't dreaming, after all. I'm not so sure about his idea that the opera connects to current political philistinism  in government. In most parts of society, people don't analyze or think beyond surface appearances.

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