Monday 25 October 2021

Goldmark - Ein Wintermärchen (Wexford, 2021)

Karl Goldmark - Ein Wintermärchen

Wexford Festival Opera, 2021

Marcus Bosch, Burkhard Fritz, Sophie Gordeladze, Ava Dodd, Simon Thorpe, Daniel Szeili, Rory Musgrave, Jevan McAuley, Niamh O'Sullivan, Conor Gahan, Ben Knight, Vladimir Sima, Sheldon Baxter, Peter Lidbetter, Fiona Finsbury 

National Opera House, O'Reilly Theatre, Wexford - 21st October 2021

If the other operas in Wexford's 'Shakespeare in the Heart' programme (Edmea, Le Songe d’une nuit d’été) had only a tenuous connection with actual Shakespeare texts, the inclusion of Karl Goldmark's Ein Wintermärchen ('The Winter's Tale') at least promised a more authentic Shakespearean experience. Sadly reduced to concert performance while Covid restrictions are still in place in Ireland, it nonetheless proved to be just that, the rarely performed opera working closely to the plot of Shakespeare's drama with only minor concessions to compressing the extended timeline. Musically too it proved to be in keeping with the mood of Shakespeare's great late romance, much more authentic to the original than most opera adaptations of Shakespeare tend to be.

Musically, not being familiar with Goldmark as an opera composer - his grand opera Die Königin von Saba ('The Queen of Sheba') achieved fame in its day but is not performed now - I wasn't quite sure what musical tradition to place him within. There's his friendship with Mahler and the influence of Wagner - whether positive or as a reaction against it would have been almost impossible for a composer around this time not to acknowledge Wagner - perhaps give some clue to a certain type of sound. Even looking at the musical choices of the cast in the programme and indeed the type of singers cast for this opera all pointed in a similar direction. Perhaps the greatest influence on Goldmark however appears to be his Hungarian born origin and the whole Viennese musical world that he is associated with. There's as much Johann Strauss as Richard Strauss in Ein Wintermärchen, but perhaps even more Dvořák in the melodic richness of the orchestration.

If you had any familiarity with Shakespeare's great late play and indeed Philippe Boesman's fine modern opera version of the work (Wintermärchen, 1999) then there was little need for staging, even though this drama is famous for its unusual stage directions and extravagant magical touches. While those stage effects were missed in concert performance, leaving a few gaps to be filled by the imagination, it's mood more than anything that is essential in Ein Wintermärchen. That was provided by the cool blue lighting and backdrop in this concert performance of the opera, but also evidently in Goldmark's well-calibrated score that was enhanced by the fine acoustics of the magnificent O'Reilly theatre at the National Opera House in Wexford.

Ein Wintermärchen and indeed Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale is not all as cold, dark and gloomy as it suggests, nor is it in the realm of Korngold-like lush fantasy either. Act I is the most plot driven, the warm friendship and pleasantries exchanged between Leontes and Polixenes, the rulers of Sicily and Bohemia, breaking down very quickly as Leontes succumbs to bitter jealousy and suspicion about the relationship between Polixenes and his pregnant wife Hermione. This descends with devastating effect to the next stage of murder plots and shocking deaths. When Hermione dies, the new-born baby of his dead wife is repudiated and abandoned to her fate at sea.

Act II of the opera opens by way of contrast with jaunty folk dance music, as the character of Time puts 16 years distance between those fateful events and the pastoral scenes in Bohemia. The lost child of Hermione has been rescued from where she was abandoned and brought up by a shepherd. The pure beauty of Perdita however sets her apart from her folk and she enjoys the love of the Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes who has no knowledge of her background. (No one does in fact, the only person who might have known having made their fatal "exit, pursued by a bear"). Despite objections by Polixenes, the marriage takes place and the act closes with the music of Viennese waltzes as preparations are made for a reconciliatory trip to Sicily.

Unlike many adaptations of Shakespeare that struggle to compress and rework a huge complex plot down into lyrical theatre, Goldmark's opera almost seems leisurely in its handling of the play, taking time to revel in mood, character and situation. It feels as if it is genuinely soaking up the character of the work, letting it breathe with musical personality rather than being slavish to the exigencies of the plot. Inevitably there are cuts to secondary characters and scenes, the tighter focus making it more difficult to establish the long passing of time and the weight this places on the regrets, mistakes and longing of the characters. You lose a little more in a concert performance without stage effects, but Goldmark's writing ensures that the concluding Act III still comes across dramatically and effectively.

Again, familiarity with the play and with its dramatic interventions and revelations helps fill in the gaps left by the concert performance, and what we lose in stage representation we gain by way of an opportunity to properly hear Goldmark's orchestral arrangements and be able to focus on the musical qualities of this rare work. It was performed to the usual high standard under the baton of Marcus Bosch in the fine acoustics of Wexford's superb opera house. There was no reduced orchestration this time, as there was with the previous performances of EdmeaLe Songe d’une nuit d’été, so the audience were able to enjoy the full orchestration of this fascinating work.

An excellent cast also gave this work a fine presentation. Burkhard Fritz got the drama off to a suitably intense start in Act II with his troubled Leontes and there was good playing alongside him from Sophie Gordeladze as Hermione and Simon Thorpe's Polixenes. Sheldon Baxter was a warm toned shepherd Valentin, there was powerful projection from tenor Daniel Szeili as Florizel and a bright Perdita in Ava Dodd. Niamh O'Sullivan's Paulina was also notable and well-received by the audience at the curtain call. They all come together wonderfully with the chorus providing strong backing in the third Act (conductor and composer Andrew Synnott managing all the festival chorus duties this year). It would have been lovely to see Ein Wintermärchen staged for full effect, but the qualities were nonetheless clearly apparent in this Wexford Festival Opera concert performance.

Links: Wexford Festival Opera

Sunday 24 October 2021

Thomas - Le Songe d’une nuit d’été (Wexford, 2021)

Ambroise Thomas - Le Songe d’une nuit d’été

Wexford Festival Opera, 2021

Guillaume Tourniaire, Stefania Panighini, Hasmik Torosyan, Valentina Mastrangelo, Sébastien Guèze, Tommaso Barea, Vasyl Solodkyy, Rory Dunne, Kathleen Norchi

National Opera House, O'Reilly Theatre, Wexford - 20th October 2021

As far as this year's Wexford Festival Opera's 'Shakespeare in the Heart' programme is concerned, the opening night opera, Catalani's Edmea, had only a tenuous bordering on non-existent connection with Shakespeare, but if you thought you might get something closer to an adaptation of an original Shakespeare drama with Le Songe d'une nuit d'été, you'd be in for a surprise. Or maybe not considering it is Ambroise Thomas whose Hamlet with a happy ending is somewhat free in its interpretation of that great drama. Le Songe d'une nuit d'été even more so, since in fact it isn't actually an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream at all. What it is however is a charming and entertaining tribute to Shakespeare with considerable musical and melodic qualities, which is the least that you can expect from Thomas.

Le Songe d'une nuit d'été is kind of like Thomas's version of Upstart Crow or Shakespeare in Love, a playful look at who Shakespeare, the man we know so little about, might have been; a genius certainly but one who from the content and depth of character in his own works, you might have expect to be someone with his own lived through troubles. Thomas doesn't dig too deeply or take that duty terribly seriously; William Shakespeare here is no Macbeth or Hamlet, and an opéra-comique is no place for a character that dark. Thomas's opera depicts Shakespeare as more of a Falstaff, and he even includes Shakespeare's fictional comic character in Le Songe, seen here preparing a feast for the playwright who is going a little bit drunkenly off the rails.

He's not the only person concerned about Shakespeare. Well, concerned is probably not the word to describe Falstaff's preoccupations, the rotund braggart more hopeful that the party might bring some attractive women. And indeed it's the two women who he flirts with who actually have Shakespeare's best interests at heart. Queen Elizabeth I and her lady Olivia have come to the tavern, disguised in masks of course, to see for themselves the current troubling state of the playwright, hoping to find a way to bring the great poet back to his calling. Shakespeare's behaviour however only becomes more unstable with their intervention, as it only introduces feelings of jealousy in his friend Lord Latimer, who is in love with Olivia and suspicious of her being at the tavern. After William passes out in a drunken stupor, a letter from the Queen commands Falstaff to bring him to the palace in Richmond Park.

What passes in Richmond Park then does indeed seem like some kind of Midsummer Night's Dream to the still befuddled Shakespeare, causing only further doubts and insecurities when he suspects that the mysterious genie who claims to be his muse is actually the Queen. And is she actually showing romantic inclination towards him? With all the confusion over identities and intentions caused by all these disguised furtive goings-on in the dark, there is a feeling that this is more of a case of Much Ado about Nothing, even as the jealousies roused have the unfortunate result of provoking a duel between Shakespeare and Latimer.

There's little then for the third act to do than just unravel the whole mystery and get Shakespeare back to his writing desk with his pen. I'm not sure of the timeline used in this fiction, since the references made suggest that most of the great Shakespeare plays have already been written before this crisis, but even if the Queen's intervention only serves to brings out the late romances, then it's a result and we should be thankful of a job well done.

And a job well done as far as Ambroise Thomas is concerned. As charming as they are and although there are excetions, I'm fairly immune or perhaps ambivalent to a lot of 19th century French opera and opéra-comique. Thomas, like Berlioz (Les Troyens excepted), Gounod (Faust excepted), Offenbach and Massenet (Werther and Don Quixote very much excepted) all offer charming but largely inconsequential light opera entertainment. They are enjoyable for as long as you listen to them and can certainly impress when they are well staged, but most touch only fleetingly and superficially on any real human situations and leave little in the way of a lasting impression. They rather seem more concerned with providing skillful musical entertainments to the conventional arrangements and situations to the expectations of the audience of their time. That's not to take away anything from the quality of the musical composition however, and those qualities are evident in Le Songe d'une nuit d'été.

Make no mistake about it, while it has many of the characteristics of an opéra-comique in terms of characterisation, situations and arrangement of musical pieces, Le Songe d'une nuit d'été is of a higher standard altogether. Certainly as far as it is expertly played in Wexford. The Act I tavern scene gives plenty of opportunity for Thomas to shine, with Falstaff's men providing a bright lively chorus for the drinking celebrations. There are also plenty of opportunities given for the singers to show what they can do, particularly the Elizabeth I role which is impressively taken here by Armenian mezzo-soprano Hasmik Torosyan with an almost Queen of the Night authority and coloratura range. It's a terrific cast all around in fact, the soprano role of Olivia (a superb Valentina Mastrangelo) no less brightly and challenging scored, Tommaso Barrea is also notable in his characterisation of Falstaff as a swaggering self-sure peacock rather than the usual overweight butt of everyone's jokes. Sébastien Guèze and Vasyl Solodkyy as William Shakespeare and Lord Latimer also delivered everything that was required here.

The musical interpretation and performance was also of an exceptionally high quality. It was conducted marvellously by Guillaume Tourniaire with an orchestra "reduced to accommodate the COVID-19 safety requirements". Again, as with Edmea, this had no noticeable impact on the performance and managed to completely convey the sheer melodic richness and drive of Thomas's score. The idea of taking advantage of the reduced seating to arrange the chorus in the lower side stalls - female left, male right - also worked to the advantage of the production, boosting the sound out in surround to the O'Reilly theatre, letting the audience in on the playfulness of it all.

The idea employed for the stage design (the production billed as semi-staged) was also simple but effective, director Stefania Panighini seeming to try to encapsulate the production into the period of its composition as the opera is indeed more of its own time than Elizabethan. Playing to the behind the scenes nature of the opera, it however bookended this as a modern day company putting on an 18th century version of the opera, so you could see the cast meeting and greeting, taking a group selfie, the crew making adjustments to sets and costumes during the overture. That might have been taking things to a remove too far, but Panighini didn't over-extend this idea, leaving the work to play to its own strengths. I'm not sure about set designer Tiziano Santi's Rothko backdrops, but the simple sets for each act were also effective and all that was needed to have the pleasure of experiencing another Ambroise Thomas rarity that we might never get the opportunity to see again.

Links: Wexford Festival Opera

Saturday 23 October 2021

Catalani - Edmea (Wexford, 2021)

Alfredo Catalani - Edmea

Wexford Festival Opera, 2021

Francesco Cilluffo, Julia Burbach, Anne Sophie Duprels, Luciano Ganci, Leon Kim, Ivan Shcherbatykh, John Molloy, Conor Prendiville, Conall O'Neill

National Opera House, O'Reilly Theatre, Wexford - 19th October 2021

Like just about every other opera festival, Wexford Festival Opera didn't happen in the form of live performances last year but thankfully the attractive 2020 programme of rare Shakespeare related opera 'Shakespeare in the Heart' has been carried over to their 70th anniversary programme. The opening night opera Alfredo Catalani's Edmea only has a tenuous connection to Shakespeare - if any at all - with the notion that the original Dumas drama it is based on may have been inspired by Shakespeare. There's certainly an Ophelia quality to the lost drowned girl of Edmea, but it has more of A Midsummer Night's Dream quality in this production, even more so than Ambroise Thomas's opera of the name which was also included in the 2021 programme. At the very least Edmea suitably meets the festival's remit of unearthing deserving operatic gems that have been forgotten or never had the chance to reach a wider audience. Catalani's Edmea fit the opening night bill admirably.

Not that anyone would doubt the Wexford Festival Opera's choices - just because an opera is obscure and forgotten doesn't mean that it's not good (they've proven that point numerous times) - but there's not a lot of Alfredo Catalani heard nowadays to give even any real indication of the quality of his work. Like most Italian opera composers of the time, Catalani found himself overshadowed and somewhat neglected by his music publisher Ricordi putting much of their support to Puccini - whose success was of course richly merited- even though Catalani enjoyed the favour and support of Toscanini. His final and most successful opera, La Wally is pretty much all we have to go on, a work that certainly has its merits even if it is no longer fashionable and very rarely performed.

Fashions fade, as the saying goes, but style is eternal and Catalani was still in the process of developing his own style and voice when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 39. His work, like many of this time - it couldn't be ignored even if that reaction was negative - is influenced by Wagner, at least in terms of romanticism and the use of leitmotif, without sounding anything like Wagner. The question of whether Catalani might have presented an alternative to verismo, or whether he might still have been overshadowed by Puccini, whose progressive development was also tragically cut short, is one of those things that we will never know, but Italian opera never fully recovered from these losses or found new ground.

Edmea, first performed in 1886, marks the discovery of a popular direction for the composer that would culminate in La Wally in 1892, unquestionably the only work that Catalani is popularly known for in opera circles today. The story is adapted from the drama Les Danicheff by Alexandre Dumas fils, the author of La Dame aux Camélias which formed the basis for Verdi's La Traviata. It's a romantic drama that has something of the feel of a fairy tale, which  makes it sound frivolous, but fairy tales usually have dark origins and can point to deeper truths. You wouldn't think that you could say that about the melodramatic plot of Edmea, which is rather simplistic as a story, the kind of thing you would typically find in bel canto, but there is a slightly darker Verdi edge to the music and director Julia Burbach works to bring deeper qualities out of the work in the 2021 Wexford production.

The plot of Antonio Ghislalanzoni's libretto at least has some of the qualities of an early Verdi pot boiler. The orphan Edmea is in love with Oberto, the son of the family who raised her, but the Count of Leitmeritz is opposed to their union, seeing Edmea as more of a sister to Oberto. He arranges for Oberto to be sent away and for Edmea to be forced into a marriage with the house servant Ulmo. Ulmo is deeply conflicted by this turn of events, as he is madly in love with Edmea but knows that her heart lies with Oberto. Unable to tolerate the marriage she has been pushed into, Edmea throws herself into the river Elbe.

The romantic melodrama of Act I gives way to a more dreamlike fairytale quality in Act II, where we discover that Edmea has not drowned but has lost her mind. Ulmo has stood by her, pretending that he is her brother. The whole tone of the work has been transformed in the second Act - particularly in how it is presented in the Wexford production, opening with a tavern scene where court players and jesters surround them in boisterous but almost surreal scene with Edmea weaving in a daze around them. It has something of the feel of an extended mad scene; a mad scene one where we are all somewhat lost and caught up in Edmea's damaged mind.

That has already been hinted at in opening act as the line that this production is going to follow as a way of dealing with the operatic and theatrical mannerisms of the opera's drama. The stage in Act I shows Edmea's room split into two levels, the lower a dark inverse mirror the bright room above. Below, the female chorus in green dresses with red wigs act as the subconscious working of Edmea's mind, the young woman above wanting to enjoy life but knowing that trouble is brewing in her love for Oberto. In her madness Edmea transforms in Act II into the same red bobbed hair style of her subconscious, wearing a bright yellow dress, only returning to her familiar dress and room when matters are resolved (but still ambiguous) at the close of the opera.

The fantastical look and feel that Burbach strives for and achieves in Cécile Trémolières stunning set and costume designs works wonderfully to enhance the piece, with effective lighting probing further those dark corners of Edmea's mind. As ever with Wexford, if you are going to the trouble of unearthing a rare work, you want to do it justice and this is an ideal presentation of the work. It all works hand in hand with the music, the opera's ballet sequences - something characteristic of Catalani - similarly used to weave the spell. The reduced instrumentation on account of social distancing might also have helped prevent this slipping into whimsy, but it certainly didn't feel reduced. Francesco Cilluffo's vigorous conducting lent the work both the edge and romanticism it needed.

Act II brings a climactic resolution of its own as Edmea is reunited with Oberto and begins a path to regaining her mind, so you wonder where this is going to go in Act III. Then you remember that in the real world, Edmea is still married to Ulmo. The closing Act tidies that matter up in a dramatic but fairly conventional way with a tragic conclusion, one that at least is sympathetic not just to the heroine but also recognises that Ulmo isn't a villain. In some way he is the tragic pawn in this drama as much as Edmea. The music emphasises this, but it is also fairly conventional. Again the production design works to make this a little more interesting and follows through on the idea of exploring the mind of Edmea on two levels, with the sedate surface above and the emotional undercurrents beneath. It's not a wild idea but it does introduce an air of ambiguity about how much is real or the imagining of a young impressionable woman and it does prevent the opera slipping over into simply pure melodrama.

With Francesco Cilluffo conducting, there was never any chance of that. Again, not unlike how the festival's Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi found a way to bring out the spiritual dimension of Alfano's Risurrezione in the revelatory 2017 Wexford Opera Festival production, the team here (again with Anne Sophie Duprels and Leon Kimfind a way to tap into the deeper nature of the subject that can be found in its music. Edmea too has all the vocal challenges of a typical Italian opera of this period, which means that it has conventional arias, love duets and a drinking scene in a tavern, but it also presents challenges for the emotional and vocal ranges. Anne Sophie Duprels was well cast to achieve that and bring something of the aforementioned human and spiritual character of Edmea. She was also impressive in her transformation to the dreamy Edmea of Act II who has lost her mind. Leon Kim was warmly received for a beautifully sung and sympathetic account of Ulmo. Luciano Ganci's warmly Italianate tenor worked well for Oberto and his Act II aria was one of the highlights of the evening.

The 22nd October performance of Catalani's Edmea will be streamed live from the Wexford Festival Opera on RTE and ARTE Concert.

Links: Wexford Festival Opera, RTEARTE Concert

Thursday 14 October 2021

Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov (New York, 2021)

Modest Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov

The Metropolitan Opera, New York - 2021

Sebastian Weigle, Stephen Wadsworth, René Pape, Ain Anger, Maxim Paster, David Butt Philip, Aleksey Bogdanov, Ryan Speedo Green, Miles Mykkanen, Richard Bernstein, Bradley Garvin, Tichina Vaughn, Brenton Ryan, Kevin Burdette, Erika Baikoff, Megan Marino, Eve Gigliotti, Mark Schowalter

The Met: Live in HD - 9th October 2021

The opportunity to see a staged performance of the original 1869 version of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov - even in a streamed live performance from the Met in New York - is something that should not be missed. Up until recently, you would have been more likely to see the 1872 revised version or a hybrid of both versions, but rarely nowadays (I haven't seen or heard one in my time watching opera) the Rimsky-Korsakov version. Watching Mussorgsky's original version of the work in a staging at the Paris opera in 2018, was something of a revelation and a sign that it could very easily become the canonical version of the work. The Met's production consolidates that reputation somewhat, but there are still a few reservations about how to best present this problematic opera.

There are certainly valid reasons why the later revisions of the opera were more favoured. Obviously no one wants to lose the additional music and scenes that Mussorgsky composed for the 1872 version, but principally there's the fact that the original wasn't considered to hold together dramatically. There's validity in that and it is something that is confirmed by Stephen Wadsworth's production, but what is also confirmed from the Met's performance of the work - as it was in Ivo van Hove's rather more successful staging of this version in Paris - is that even in its 'embryonic' form Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov is still indisputably a masterpiece.

The Met production consequently struggles to find a way to reconcile this contradiction between the quality of the music and the challenges of representing the dramatic material. Where Ivo van Hove was perhaps more successful than Wadsworth is in the efforts he makes to make the stakes of the drama feel more real - and indeed dramatic - by presenting it in a more recognisable context than the Russian history of the years 1598 to 1605. There are obvious connections to the modern world that can be made in a ruler's handling and manipulation of the people, and how that reliance on populism can turn just as quickly against him, but Wadsworth's production - like most 'safe' Met productions - makes no effort to even hint that there is still relevance in this situation today.

The closest we get to a representation of the context of the rule of Boris Godunov within the tides of history is one that fortunately, Mussorgsky (or perhaps more accurately, Pushkin, the author of the original work the opera is based on) included with the character of Pimen, the monk who is compiling a book of Russian history. This is presented as a huge oversize volume and maps spread out on the stage, testifying to the importance of this period of Russian history, its significance and the lessons we can learn from it. Some indication of where that could go might have made more of this, but it's effective on its own terms.

As generally is the stage production as a whole, setting the mood well and generally matching the dark tone of the work, filling the huge Met stage with the chorus, putting the all-important Russian folk onto the stage. Inevitably, despite the high production values, it does feels a little am-dram period, static and 'stagy' in its depictions of the drama. It doesn't really bare any teeth to really get across just how turbulent and violent this post Ivan the Terrible period of history is. Where is it perhaps most lacking however is in its failure to make the opera work on a dramatic level. That might be as much to do with the nature of the original 1869 version as it is with any deficiencies in the direction, but it still feels dramatically disjointed and incomplete.

Part of the problem for that could be down to the fact that Wadsworth's production was originally created at the Met for performances of the longer 1872 version, so in parallel with the removal of Mussorgsky's added scenes, the production also suffers the same cuts. I don't know whether Wadsworth was involved in the reworking of the cut-back production, there would certainly be some necessary changes made. There is perhaps an extended role for the Holy Fool, present spinning and whirling, mocking Boris even in his coronation scene, a representation of his own folly and madness, an attempt to give the drama additional weight by tying it into the dark Shakespearean horrors of Macbeth and King Lear.

Whether the stage production satisfies or not, the success of the production is nonetheless assured under the musical direction of conductor Sebastian Weigle. Musically its an absolute treat, if somewhat heavy going in its unwavering dark lugubrious tone that plays out for nearly two and a half hours without intermission. If the dramatic representation doesn't beat Boris Godunov down into submission to his fate, the music certainly does, and so too - all importantly - does the chorus. The work of the chorus is simply outstanding, ensuring that the solemn heft of the work carried the necessary weight and depth that was clearly audible in its impact, even in its livestream broadcast.

(On a side note, the quality of these broadcast livestreams - from the Met, Covent Garden and the Paris Opera as well - has improved considerably over the years with stunning HD quality images and powerful sound recording, with no more stream interruptions and breakdowns of communication. Alongside some good camera work - the Met's production directed well for the screen as usual by Gary Halvorson - that captures angles and closeups, it's becoming a great way to experience live opera in a time of restricted travel).

The quality of the musical performance and chorus certainly played an important part, but good principal casting and singing can make all the difference to any failings in the dramatic presentation. That was certainly the case here with René Pape singing the role of Boris. It's the performance of an experienced bass with great technique who also has the maturity to bring real human emotion to characters like Boris just as he has done with Philippe II in Verdi's Don Carlos. He puts real dramatic weight and character behind Boris, savouring the beauty and conflict of the role and Mussorgsky's extraordinary writing for it.

Pape's tormented magisterial performance is supported by similarly fine performances from Ain Anger as Pimen and Maxim Paster as Shuisky, both bringing long previous experience of heavyweight Russian opera and indeed prior experience of these Mussorgsky roles to similar effect. Supporting roles were also well handled, from Miles Mykkanen's Holy Fool to an enjoyable performance from Ryan Speedo Green as Varlaam, his reading of the ukaz, the wanted edict for the Pretender Grigoriy, enlivening a scene that can otherwise seem random and at odds with the tone of the rest of the work. All of this went a considerable way towards bringing across the sheer brilliance of this great opera despite some minor reservations about the stage production and direction.

Links: Metropolitan Opera, The Met: Live in HD 2021-22 season