Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Seen and Heard Opera Review
Carl Nielsen: Maskarade – Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera / Michael Schønwandt, conductor; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 19 September, 2005 (ED)
in English (trans. David Pountney) with English
How nice, one might think, to go to the opera and
not be forced to think too hard.
might be taken as defining the boundary between opera and operetta
in the early years of the twentieth century. The music is upbeat
from the start, and wholly accessible to the most inexperienced
of opera-goers. In fact, on the surface of things the only people
likely to be disappointed are those used to the more intense
sound world of Nielsen’s symphonies. In Denmark, of course,
it is accorded classic status – so maybe it’s about time it
reached a wider public.
main problem with the work is that it owes too much to too many
and lacks identifiable originality. The plot carries half-shades
of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro about it in the master - servant layering, whilst
the music steers a course between Lehar
and Offenbach (the latter particularly in the third act, where
dance forms dominate). Only in the delicate nocturnal opening
of Act II is there anything remotely akin to Nielsen’s orchestral
writing – and this was indeed atmospherically played. I left
feeling as if I’d just sat through a meal consisting almost
entirely of deserts. If only there were other passages to give
contrast to the all-pervasive fun, the cumulative sweetness
would have been dissipated somewhat.
is it entirely successful? Not really. My reservations are not
with the production in terms of its overstated staging, or Marie-Jaenne
Lecca’s bold and brash costuming.
Rather, they are with certain performances, and specifically
with Poutney’s all too predictable
rhyming translation. Performance-wise Kyle Ketelsen was most impressive, his insightful baritone finding
its way with ease around the text. Likewise, Robin Leggate’s
character tenor as Leonard made the most of his allotted part.
Emma Bell, in her Royal Opera debut, was the most obviously
operatic assumption of the evening – demonstrating that great
things are indeed on the cusp of realization for her. She easily
outclassed Michael Schade, both in
terms of tone and diction – it was clearly not his night, rather
unfortunately as this left their duets rather one-sided. Gail
Pearson’s Pernille provided a well characterised contrast to Leonora
in Act III, and well acted too, which should be said for all
concerned. Overall though it must be said no single role is
long enough to make a strong mark and allow character development:
what you see is what you get.
RICHARD GAUNTLETT AS CUPID
MICHAEL SCHADE AS LEANDER & KYLE KETELSEN AS HENRIK
PHOTOG © BILL COOPER – SEPTEMBER 2005