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Your reaction: Les Vêpres siciliennes

What did you think of Stefan Herheim's production of Verdi's grand opera?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

18 October 2013 at 10.31am | 38 Comments

What did you think of Les Vêpres siciliennes?

Les Vêpres siciliennes runs from 17 October – 11 November 2013. The production will also be screened live in cinemas around the world on 4 November and is staged with the generous philanthropic support of Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mr and Mrs Baha Bassatne and The Maestro’s Circle.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

18 October 2013 at 10.31am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Stefan Herheim, Les Vêpres siciliennes, Production, reaction, review, Social Media, twitter

This article has 38 comments

  1. karolin arnott responded on 18 October 2013 at 12:04pm Reply

    Act 3 fantastic; singing great; not sure about Schrott in a dress; ending - unclear. Great production of 'difficult' opera.

  2. Sumptuous, inventive, thrilling production. The score was ravishing, Volle outstanding, Hymel producing beautiful tone, Schott highly charismatic, our replacement Hélène started well and the Act IV duet lovely, but lost her way in the Bolero in Act V, want to go back and hear Marina do it! All in all, a great night -- one to remember.

    • Placito Sabado responded on 20 October 2013 at 8:50pm

      Well you will be lucky since Mme. Poplavskaya who is not sick and will sing on Tomorrow Monday after having had a rest last week yet not for the reasons published. How great opera houses do not plan two casts for big roles??? All stars are under major stress from conductors and stage directors who care more about being a star as opposed to think of the music and the voice first (even though some conductors pretend well!), and create beauty which uplifts as the FINE ARTS are expected to do. Didn't we get enough stupid rape scenes and blood on stages! Another exception this version is NOT!...Verdi is not Wagner! DU HAST NICHTS VERSTANDEN MEIN LIEBER HERR. LONDON IST NICHT SALZBURG!

  3. Dr Walsh responded on 18 October 2013 at 1:22pm Reply

    A few thematic issues and cracked notes - otherwise
    fabulous. Deserves to become a regular for the ROH.

  4. Matteo responded on 18 October 2013 at 1:23pm Reply

    It was a great evening: the staging is clever and fascinating ... Pappano and the orchestra in good form, all the male singers as well... Helens' aria in Act IV was a real shame...

    • Tommy responded on 19 October 2013 at 3:33am

      Dear Matteo , I had the pleasure to listen Mrs HAROUTOUNIAN in a few Performances of LES VEPRES SICILIENNES : months ago in Bilbao and a few weeks ago at the Frankfurt Opera, where she saved a couple of Performances : I have to say Lianna HAROUTOUNIAN always delivers !!
      She always performs with great commitment , People likes a lot her way of singing and react with Love !!
      The Role of Hélène is One of the most difficult and demanding Verdi Roles for Soprano : I think Mrs Haroutounian nowadays is One of the best Hélène of the World . Everyone can wacht her Performances as Hélène on YOUTUBE .
      I'm glad she is again at the ROH and I'm sure she will surprise us again and again .
      Tommy .

  5. Lombardo responded on 18 October 2013 at 2:13pm Reply

    What a pleasure to hear again the beautiful voice Lianna Harutyunyan !!! What belcanto in french !!!
    Grazie Lianna et tanti auguri !!!!!!

  6. francois responded on 18 October 2013 at 2:49pm Reply

    A remarkable production, completely successful in adressing the complexity of this opera. Magnificent scenery, intelligent ideas, a very musical approach, each climate of the music finding a natural translation in the acting.
    This is the best ROH new production of the last two seasons, I will come back for another performance (despite the Eurostar cost, as I come from France) as it is really a very interesting and captivating production.
    Vocally, Michael Volle and Brian Hymel are just amazing.

  7. Peter Erdos responded on 19 October 2013 at 9:42am Reply

    \this production unfortunately did not work for me. The 8 ballerinas I found totally superfluous and distracting, would have much preferred the original ballet which was regretfully omitted. Dressing Procida as a pantomime dame was a travesty (though the dress was beautiful!). and the transformation of real events into a theatre was in my opinion a mistake. However the musical side was superlative. The three men sang magnificently, especially Volle, both Hymel and Schrott in good form. The much praised Hartounian , whom I did not hear in Don Carlos was certainly not at her best, the Bolero was quite disappointing. Pappano as usual excelled himself the orchestra and chorus were brilliant. Enjoyed the sound , did not like the spectacle. Looking forward to the broadcast, not to the cinema!

  8. Andrea responded on 19 October 2013 at 11:43am Reply

    Hi guys , I'm Andrea ......
    I have to apologize for my english , I'm German :
    I'm in London from Germany especially to listen Lianna HAROUTOUNIAN , because in September/October '13 I attended at 2 gorgeous Performances of Her as Hélène, at the FRANKFURT OPERA .
    When I got the information she was going to perform HELENE at the ROH , I immediatly decided to book Tickets and to fly to London :
    she deserve it !!
    Lianna Haroutounian did it very well, her Première was great !
    But , as everybody knows, artists are human beings : I immediatly understood she was not on her best Shape and in fact she had some little problems at the final Act in the BOLERO .
    Anyway I must say that HAROUTOUNIAN ALWAYS DELIVERS , even if she is not at her best !!
    I'm still in London and Opera Fan are wispering she's running a fever and is under Antibiotics, like Poplaskaja : is that true ?!
    I wish both will be better soon , so on Monday we shall appreciate the gorgeous HELEN of Haroutounian and later the other One of Marina .
    Two great Sopranos !!!
    Guys , only at the COVENT GARDEN you can enjoy two such an amazing SOPRANO in the same Production !!!
    Nowadays only the Covent Garden can afford it !!
    And for this I want to thank the COVENT GARDEN Artistic Direction .
    I do not care if sometimes an Artist is not in a perfect shape : ALL of US have to REMEMBER that Singers are just HUMAN BEINGS , they are NOT Machines !!!
    Even CALLAS , CABALLE and many other Opera Star sometimes were not at their best .......
    that's normal , I repeat : ARTISTS are just HUMAN BEINGS !! But they are the best Singers of te World ANYWAY , even if happens they crack a single Note !!
    Thanks Lianna Haroutounian , many thanks for your deep commitment and for everything .
    PEOPLE love you and want you back soon , in your usual good Shape !
    We are wayting for you !!

  9. Excellent sing by Hymel and Volle, Schrott was uneven but had great moments too, I would give Haroutounian a chance as her Elena in Athens last year was excellent. Highllight of the opening night: the entire Act III was marvelous, breath-taking, hair-raising mainly because of Hymel and Volle. Least cherished moment: Schrott in a frock, stubbing the french with the french flag, as the alter ego of Helene. Quite ridiculous but didn't manage to ruin my night. And just a kind reminder for the regisseurs: no matter what you do, no matter how provocative you (think you) are, in 100 years it's still gonna be ALL about Verdi and the singing and not about you.

  10. stephen ratcliffe responded on 22 October 2013 at 8:55am Reply

    So sorry Haroutounian was sick last night. Enjoyed the show even though Poplaskaja's singing was uneven and the production was truly whacky! Volle was marvellous and I want to hear him in other roles please.

  11. Derek Blyth responded on 22 October 2013 at 9:34am Reply

    This has to be one of the best productions at the ROH in recent years. Fascinating, thrilling, disturbing, funny and impressive with first rate singing from the whole cast. A well-thought-out, detailed, inventive production.
    Kaspar Holten's witty speech at the beginning was the icing on the cake. Congratulations to all.

  12. Peter Howell responded on 22 October 2013 at 11:30am Reply

    I was looking forward to hearing this magnificent opera again, but this was one of the stupidest productions I've ever seen (and that's saying something). The director seemed to have no faith in the opera at all. The ballet dancers were just a nuisance (like the horrid little boy). The ending was utterly absurd - was this what the director intended? I've never heard of him, and hope I never shall again.

  13. Mark Knowles responded on 22 October 2013 at 2:46pm Reply

    Great production. Keep trying, ROH. Sometimes it'll work out, sometimes it won't. This one was excellent!

  14. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 22 October 2013 at 4:28pm Reply

    I should like to join with Mr Derek Blyth in offering congratulations for last night's marvellous and outstanding performance from all concerned. Yes ,Kasper Holten's speech was witty and also most gracious.

  15. Gray Brown responded on 24 October 2013 at 1:05am Reply

    As this was the first production of this opera at Covent Garden, surely it was necessary to make the opera as clear as possible to its ticket paying audience. This was very badly mis-handled by all concerned on the production. It made little sense. If the idea was to create the premiere in Paris, why was the ballet cut?Every opera in Paris at that time had to include a ballet. There were just too many inconsistencies and the story- telling was muddled and unclear, it left us audience completely baffled. What looked like a very expensive enterprise fell short on delivering Verdi's grand work to it full ability. The orchestra and chorus were on magnificent form and Maestro Pappano lavished great love on this interesting but flawed masterpiece.

  16. Colin Roberts responded on 25 October 2013 at 5:48pm Reply

    One of the best new productions at the Royal Opera for 2-3 years. I greatly look forward to seeing it again, and hope that the director will be invited back often. It was one of the most-assured productions I have seen in some time, and it worked beautifully on dramatic, intellectual, musical, and poetic levels.

    I took a risk on this production, having vowed to swear off new ROH productions for some time after the disaster of "La Donna del Lago" (truly the worst production I have ever seen in over four decades of theatre/opera attendance. It makes the National's "Fram" look competent, which I never imagined could happen) - but I was intrigued by both the piece and the director and am glad I took the chance. Thank you for an exceptional production.

  17. Graham Thomas responded on 26 October 2013 at 12:03pm Reply

    Saw this on opening night and thought the production was awful - stilted, overwrought and fussy - no cliche left unexplored. Had the impression the director had not even listened to the music - but then the critics loved it - so what do I know? Biggest drawbacks, however, I thought is the general patchiness of the music in acts 1 and 2 (Verdi's fault) and the French which seems to stagnate every dramatic situation. Prefer Verdi when he is his own man and not aping Meyerbeer and Gounod.. Some very good singing though of what tunes are on offer and was thankful not to have to sit through the ballet given the business of the overture pantomime..

  18. Michael de Navarro responded on 29 October 2013 at 11:34pm Reply

    Overall I very much enjoyed this performance of an opera I last saw, I think, at ENO in 1974. The orchestral playing, choral singing and, of course, Pappano's conducting were excellent. Michael Volle's Montfort was a magnificant piece of singing acting with Erwin Schrott's Procida not far behind. Brian Hymel and Liana Haroutounian made brave and largely succesfful, if slightly underpowered, stabs at two very difficult roles. For the most part I enjoyed the production and the parallel plot; until the end of Act IV it was clearly rooted in the music. However the cherub angel executioner and Schrott in drag pretending to kill his fellow Sicilians left me cold. As for the music Verdi is never dull; a lot of the music is interestingly new and Act 3 (particularly Montfort's solo and the duet with Henri) was astonishingly moving but I felt Act 5 tailed off both musically and dramatically. Overall I was very glad to have seen the opera again. There is more than enough fine music and forward looking development and a very interesting production to justify a revival if an appropriate cast can be found.

  19. Michael de Navarro responded on 29 October 2013 at 11:42pm Reply

    Should have been 1984 not 1974!

  20. Thomas responded on 30 October 2013 at 10:37am Reply

    Last night , october 29, Lianna Haroutounian was OVERWHELMING !!! Thanks God she is now back to her usual great shape : she did an AMAZING BOLERO !!! All the Singers were really excellent and I have to say I LOVE PAPPANO , probably the BEST CONDUCTOR for Verdi and Puccini . I have to thanks the ROH for this great Production . Kasper and his Team know very well how to make Opera and last night Show was one among the best of my Life . I'll stay in London one week more for my Job and I wanna enyoj one Performances more .
    Tom .

  21. Stephen Diviani responded on 1 November 2013 at 3:57pm Reply

    I wasn't entirely convinced by the concept (it didn't quite cohere) but it looked tremendous & I sincerely hope that Stefan Herheim returns in 2014/15 season. Musically the honours (IMHO) go to the orchestra, the conductor and Michael Volle. I'd be inclined to blame Verdi for the occasions when I was bored. Very enjoyable night at the opera.

  22. Roy Hiscock responded on 2 November 2013 at 1:07am Reply

    Just seen Les Vepres Siciliennes (01/11/13): very fine cast, superb conducting, great orchestra. Lousy production: putting singers at the footlights and getting them to sing out (which continually happened) is bad enough, but what on earth (I was tempted to use a rude abbreviation) was the production all about? Was it meant to represent Verdi's problems with the Paris Opera of the mid-1850s? Was it meant to represent the difficulties all composers (other than Meyerbeer) had with the Hooray Henrys of the Jockey Club? Was it looking forward, in some weird way, to the Commune? Or do I have to spend another £7 on a programme to find out? And why, why , why could we not just listen to the overture? Was Verdi such a god-awful composer that you don't think we ought simply to listen to his music? A suggestion: when you next get a producer who wants to illustrate music that is self-explanatory, sack him/her - just give them their fee and tell them not to bother the opera house again.

    • Peter Erdos responded on 4 November 2013 at 2:58pm

      Thank you Roy, my sentiments too! Mr. Herheim was called the "darling" of Europe's opera houses, if that is the case, let's get out of Europe quick!
      To see a proper production of this opera, see the Scala performance on DVD conducted by Riccardo Muti.

  23. A very interesting and entertaining production. Loved the split ballet sequences, and all performers were superb. The scenery was a triumph! Had a wonderful evening!

  24. Joseph Green responded on 4 November 2013 at 10:49pm Reply

    Thanks for this evenings cinema relay. really well thought through production with the exception of one or two directoral cliches

    I think you are missing a trick however. I can understand the distribution problems in getting the red programme book on sale in cinemas, but why not make them available to buy in advance or after the performance through the online shop.

  25. Marsan responded on 4 November 2013 at 11:16pm Reply

    Très prenant, admirables duos masculins, somptueuse mise en scène inspirée du Guépard de Visconti, mais la perfide Albion a osé brûler le drapeau Français...

  26. MAZELINE responded on 5 November 2013 at 9:53am Reply

    J'ai vu en live saison au cinéma "les Vêpres siciliennes" ce lundi 4 novembre et bien qu'ayant apprécié la musique de Verdi notamment interprétée par les chanteurs masculins, j'ai été très déçu par la mise en scène lourde et inappropriée, le clou étant le drapeau Français brûlé, sachant qu'au 13 éme siècle le drapeau tricolore n'existait pas, il s'agit d'un acte stupide révélant un manque d'imagination. J'aurais pu écouter chez moi cet opéra en laissant mon imagination voguer au rythme de la musique....

  27. Helen Goodwill responded on 5 November 2013 at 1:52pm Reply

    An amazing production! The ballet in each act worked for me - it off set the shockingly violent scenes but did not detract from the wonderful music, incredible voices, scenery and acting.
    All intellectually satisfying - BUT - I didn't understand the final act. Was it necessary to show a pregnant woman being assaulted? and by a man in a gown? What was all that about? It left a nasty taste in the mouth when every other part of the production showed amazing artistic interpretation and was awe-inspiring.

  28. Donald Fairgrieve responded on 7 November 2013 at 3:01pm Reply

    A visual disaster - a director's indulgence that treated Verdi with total disrespect. I felt sorry for the singers having to go through this farrago.

  29. Lombardo responded on 8 November 2013 at 12:54am Reply

    I don't really like unusual productions and there is a lot of think I didn't like in the staging.
    But let's talk about positive points: I really enjoyed Lianna Haroutounian's performance . She was amazing !!!
    I was affected by her warm, brillant and suave voice which hited my ears and my heart.
    I was very moved. What a bolero and drama at the end of the Opera!!!! Nowadays we really need artists like Lianna to make us thrill. Congratulations to Maestro Pappano's magical orchestra!!!

  30. Desi Konstantinova responded on 8 November 2013 at 12:05pm Reply

    Wonderful singing and music, superb orchestra and chorus, but I am still not convinced about the staging. I enjoyed the ballet in the opera very much, but the parallel story-telling detracted from the drama Verdi wanted to communicate through his music. It reminded me in some way of the staging of La Donna del Lago. Creating an opera stage within the opera was an expensive, but unnecessary effort as it did not enhance the impact of the production in any way. I would much rather have this production in a classic period staging, but overall it was an enjoyable evening. Cudos to all the singers and the orchestra led by Tony Pappano!

  31. Steve responded on 8 November 2013 at 2:26pm Reply

    A very enjoyable production, although I found the first two acts didn't engage me quite as much as the next three. The staging was quite impressive and inventive (watching from the slips, I found the mirrors very useful in opening up the hidden part of the stage for me), however I must admit that the parallel plot confused me at times, and I wonder if less would have been more on this occasion. The music was of course superb as you would expect from Verdi/Pappano and Volle. A great combination of powerful chorus singing as well as hard hitting arias, with Schrott, Hymel and Haroutounian all on top form. Just a little disappointed that Act V seemed to build towards a climax that never came and I was somewhat surprised when the curtain fell.

  32. Shirley Bell responded on 8 November 2013 at 6:45pm Reply

    I tend to agree with Peter Howell, Gray Brown and several others. I remember when Nikolaus Lehnhoff did his lucid and intelligent production of "Palestrina" he said that with a less familiar opera you must bear in mind that for many of the audience this will be a first time. Unfortunately, at Covent Garden today this does not seem to matter and egos reign supreme.
    Can it be that someone is running a book and bets are made on just how much a gullible audience will take?
    If so it's a great pity when so many fine singers are involved.

  33. Giacomo responded on 20 November 2013 at 1:51pm Reply

    How insightful to cast the Sicilians and French and as the opera house and the audience to explore the animosity and misunderstanding that exists between these groups. Truly thought provoking with heavy emphasis on the provoking for by the end I felt raped by the production and wanted to massacre the director.

    Nice singing, well presented and what was on stage was pretty enough at times but unnecessarily distasteful at others [prelude], but what a waste of talent. The combination was negative and what was on stage only detracted from the music and story. Just what was happening on stage? "Draws parallels between the opera and the opera house for which it was written."? Nothing in the libretto suggests a theatre. "The battle of artists versus philistines"? So I paid to be insulted. "Degas"? De gas I can smell is the steaming pile coming from the director.
    "Evocative of the Paris opera"? More evocative of Berlin regietheater, evoking a 5 act Grand Opera means a mandatory ballet. Very disappointing that the home of the Royal Ballet couldn't produce 30 minutes of dancing.

  34. hugo haig-thomas responded on 29 December 2013 at 11:04am Reply

    The part I liked best was when Shrott set the French flag alight.

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