We were back at the COC last night for the first performance of Carmen by the alternative cast. (First cast review) As so often seems to be the case with these double cast shows it felt almost like a different production. The biggest differences are produced by the new Don José, David Pomeroy, and the new Carmen, Clémentine Margaine. Pomeroy is a very decent singer but he doesn’t have the ease, power and bloom of Russell Thomas. What he does have is vastly superior acting chops. His Don José is a believably complex human being. We can see his decline from rather boring and provincially stuck up into despair(1). It’s palpable. Margaine’s Carmen is a similar story. Her voice isn’t as big or dark as Anita Rashvelishvili(2) but she’s much more physical on stage. Further, Pomeroy and Margaine are much more credible as a couple. The net result is the drama that was rather missing in the first two acts on Sunday. The price is not hearing two absolutely incredibly beautiful voices.
Last night Dmitri Tcherniakov’s much anticipated production of Don Giovanni opened at the Four Seasons Centre. The production is basically a known quantity. This is its fourth run overall and it was recorded for TV and DVD in Aix-en-Provence; which is a lengthy way of saying that nobody should have been very surprised by what they saw last night. Inevitably some were. Rereading my review of the DVD I find I have nothing much to add to what I said there about the first act and the overall concept so I’m going to pretty much going to repeat it here.
Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, which premiered at Glyndebourne in 1946, is an interesting work in a number of ways. Musically it marks a distinct break from Peter Grimes and anticipates the later operas in a number of significant ways. It’s written for much lighter forces than Grimes; string quintet, wind quintet plus harp, percussion and piano and there’s no chorus (in the conventional sense). It’s also not a “numbers” piece. There are no set pieces here. The orchestral writing is spare and somewhat dissonant with that absolute clarity that is so characteristic of Britten. Sometimes this almost distracts from the drama on stage.