Editor: Marc Bridle

 

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

 

 

                    

Google

WWW MusicWeb


Search Music Web with FreeFind




Any Review or Article


 

 

 

Seen and Heard Opera Review

 

Berlioz The Trojans Soloists and Chorus of English National Opera/Paul Daniel, Coliseum, Sunday October 3rd, 2004 (CC)

 

Having heard (if not reported on) earlier incarnations of Berlioz’ epic Trojans at ENO, it was interesting to hear the entire work. Inevitably Daniel is to be compared with Colin Davis in his fairly recent Barbican performances (now enshrined on LSO Live for a giveaway price,) as well as with his earlier self. The good news is that Daniel’s interpretation has grown in stature and depth as time has passed. Of all composers, it is perhaps Berlioz who most of all suffers in unsatisfactory performances, and who shines brightest in an inspired one. If Daniel was not the noonday sun, at least the celestial appeared sporadically in his reading.

 

A reading that was helped no end by the casting of the astonishing Sarah Connolly as the heroine, Dido. Connolly impressed while ENO resided at the Barbican, in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia and as Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (both Autumn 2003.) In both she was sublime, and here at the Coliseum she loses out to no one in her assumption of Dido. Her curse in Act V plainly came from the heart; her pain as she asked for a funeral pyre to be raised was visceral. She was mesmeric throughout. Not only does Connolly possess great stage-presence, she holds a liquid legato and an interior expressive world that revealed all of the heroine’s desolation as she gave her noble farewell. Right from her entrance (Act III,) dressed elegantly in black, Connolly made every word, every nuance count, exuding an appropriate regalness. Happily, she was matched in excellence by her sister, the mezzo (although she sounded more contralto) Anna Burford. Although Burford’s resumé reveals an artist who has not yet strayed far from these shores, I predict great things for her. It was quite amazing to hear such burnished lower-range power from someone so appealingly compact. Her actions reflected the feisty youth and energy of her character, and every inch of the way she was entirely believable.

 

Enter Aeneas, then. John Daszak has a big, but not huge, tenor voice (he’s apparently previously taken on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, on present evidence a brave step.) Daszak needed more confidence to convince; his acting abilities similarly were short. He came closest to melding with his part in the Act IV duet with Dido, heard though an effective star-gauze, yet even here there were moments of vocal strain.

 

Susan Bickley was an impressive Cassandra, her diction true and her phrasing beautifully shaded. Her Chorebus, Robert Poulton, has a lovely warm, rounded voice. Act I, Scene 1 houses opportunities for both to shine, and so they did. Christopher Gillett’s Iopas was light and musical if somewhat bleaty up top; Mark Padmore’s Hylas was lovely and pure. Clive Bayley’s Narbal (Dido’s minister) was large of voice and commanding.

 

Two points shone through - Daniel’s new willingness to give space when required, and the over-riding certainty that Trojans is infinitely better in the original language. English just sounds clunky in comparison to that beautiful language. Staging was bare (part of a fuselage littered a generally dark stage.) Modern dress forced us to speculate about what concept we were undergoing this time and would it illuminate (to recontextualise a timeless myth - it is timeless for a reason - and to anchor it to a particular historical time and/or personage is necessarily to weaken the universality of its message.) So the black-and-white projection in Scene 2 of US-style presidential goings-on (a speech with an emblem of a horse draped over the lectern,) impressive though it was technically, seemed like so much gimmickry.

 

Containing some of the action in a box (the production is big on boxes of various kinds) was an interesting ploy, but again one with limited mileage. The dead Hector was to be found reclining in what looked like a dentist’s chair. The dances that accompanied the Royal Hunt and Storm (against a backdrop of splashy paintings) seemed more redundant than anything else; the succession of paintings were typical of production values that strive for effect that is at best transitory in the memory.

 

If there was an element of short-changing in the staging, then, musically there were sufficient triumphs to act as recompense. The spectacle of the huge horse was impressive, true (as was the - dispensable, lovely though they are - footage of dolphins); the film of the ‘Kennedys’ was effectively optional and easily forgotten. Richard Jones returned to recreate his production (his Lulu returns in Spring next year.)

Despite many impressive moments (and whole spans, thanks primarily to Connolly,) this account did not fully convince me of the greatness of this work. Trojans needs an inspired conductor to fan Berlioz’ flames into life. Daniel is not this conductor, despite the improvements heard (just like his improving Ring cycle is still some way off, from a conductor’s viewpoint, from a mature interpretation.)

 

Colin Clarke

 

 

 



Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page


 





   

 

 

 

MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here




EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Past and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.