1 August 2012 at 2.02pm | Comment on this article
Hundred of you responded to our Royal Opera season review competition, which closed yesterday. Congratulations to Benjamin, who won a pair of tickets to next season’s La bohème and thanks to everyone who took part.
Understandably, many of you struggled to pick just one production. However, a few productions stood out as highlights of the repertory.
It came as no surprise that Puccini’s romance La bohème was a favourite. Set in the bohemian Paris of the 19th century, John Copley’s much-loved production has been enjoyed by Royal Opera House audiences for over 35 years. This year, it was screened live for free across the UK as part of BP Big Screens. Read people’s reactions to the live screening. This season’s production was marked by a memorable performance from opera’s golden couple Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. The duo, who first met at Covent Garden in 1992, performed together in the leading roles to celebrate their 20th anniversary of meeting. Blog commenter Aditi Kar wrote, “Gheorghiu and Alagna were extraordinary, the sets were beautiful and the performance, overall, was spectacular!”
Puccini’s Il Trittico, a trio of one-act operas - Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and, Gianni Schicchi - was another popular choice. Richard Jones’s acclaimed production was shortlisted for both the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards and the Olivier Awards. Blog reader Laura Simpson described it as, “a transfixing production amalgamating both [the] technical brilliance of performers and a unique art direction”. Watch an introduction with Music Director Antonio Pappano to find our more about the triptych. The trio was broadcast in weekly installments on BBC Four. For those of you who missed out, there is now a DVD of the production, available to buy from Opus Arte.
Rebecca Evans as Nella, Alan Oke as Gherardo, Francesco Demuro as Rinuccio, Robert Poulton as Marco, Elena Zilio as Zita, Gwynne Howell as Simone, Marie McLaughlin as La Ciesca and Jeremy White as Betto Di Signa in Gianni Schicchi © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011
Otello had a hard act to follow coming hot on the heels of the epic Les Troyens. However, many of you raved about the remarkable performances by Aleksandrs Atonenko and Anja Harteros as Otello and Desdemona, as well as Antonio Pappano’s electric conducting. Elijah Moshinky’s engrossing production, described on our blog as, “breathtaking, beautiful, alarming, stunning, perfect,” was a fitting close to the season. Read the reactions from the opening night.
Other favourites include David McVicar’s dark production of Strauss’s Salome. Electrifying and dramatic, the opera is noted for its final scene, in which the titular character passionately caresses and kisses a severed head. We followed the Royal Opera House props department to find out just how they made it so grisly and realistic. Tweeter Chichi Parish summed it up her feelings after watching it: “[A] sublime seven veil severed head snogging psycho drama. Gasp factor 100.” Read more reactions to McVicar’s staging.
The epic Les Troyens came top for many. Another David McVicar production, it was an Olympian feat in every sense of the word, featuring an acclaimed performance from Bryan Hymel. Blog reader Tina Starmore noted, “it was in keeping with the magnitude of effort made for all Olympic related productions and did ROH proud.” We followed the creation of the set, which featured both the cities of Carthage and Troy as well as an enormous fire-breathing horse, from the initial designs to its construction on stage. For those of you who missed out, the opera will be shown in cinemas in November.
La traviata was also selected by many. Richard Eyre’s production of Verdi’s romance was described on our blog by Brooks as, “an artistic triumph on every level… Love, tragedy and passion at its best.” McVicar's production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, which was screened worldwide in a live cinema relay, and Don Giovanni, starring Erwin Schrott as the seductive lothario, were also high on the list of favourites.
Some of you went against critical opinion to name productions that met with less than universal acclaim when they were staged. Edward Morris commented on the blog that Judith Weir’s new opera Miss Fortune, “mixed tradition and a hip hop culture, kebab and the orient... and brilliant performances.”
Rusalka, whose staging earned one star, five stars and everything in between, was a highlight for blog commenter Jonathan Meldrum who praised Bryan Hymel as, “the most sonorous baritone one-flippered chav water-goblin I've ever heard.” [Updated 17:15 - Hariclea Darclee noted on Facebook that "the indeed splendid water-goblin was the bass-baritone Alan Held :-D Bryan was the prince and equally wonderful i thought :-)". Thanks for the correction.]
As you can tell, choosing a definitive favourite proved impossible for many. Susheel Kokarakonda managed to sum up his views on the season in a succinct poem:
La Trav stunned with a sumptuous display,
Jaho's Violetta, the clear star of the day.
A brave effort, Cosi to modernise,
Braver still, for Alfonso's understudy to deputise!
Les Troyens' jewel, betrayed Dido,
Another triumph for McVicar and Pappano.
Fine performances all, none far astray,
My favourite opera, it's hard to say!
Thanks to everyone who got involved in our Royal Opera review competition. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to reflect all of your comments. They do however, make for some interesting reading. You can read all the comments on the original article and via the Twitter hashtag.
Next season, in which Director of Opera Kasper Holten and Associate Director John Fulljames both make their directorial debuts, promises to be even busier. It opens with a full staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen, and includes a new production of Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable and a new work by George Benjamin. Read more about the forthcoming 2012/13 season highlights.