Posts Tagged ‘Royal Opera’

Il Viaggio a Reims, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2012

20 July, 2012

This anniversary gala concert united Jette Parker Young Artists with several earlier performers from that programme who have since gone on to international careers, and Il Viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Rheims) was the perfect piece to bring them together. Written by Rossini to celebrate the coronation of Charles X in 1825, it all takes place at a spa hotel, where the staff are preparing their international guests for onward travel next morning to the coronation at Rheims, where French kings had for centuries been anointed. None of the bon vivants actually get to Rheims, owing to a sudden lack of transportation, but they create their own celebration at the hotel before going on to festivities in Paris.

Daniele Rustioni conducted the ENO orchestra on stage, producing just the right tempi and occasionally joining in the fun himself, acting as a stooge for the singers.

With eighteen solo parts this is quite something to put on, but when Madeleine Pierard came on as the French Countess, concerned about the apparent absence of her fine clothes, the performance moved superbly into high gear. She was wonderfully expressive, her coloratura excellent and her voice effortlessly changing amplitude. Marina Poplavskaya was equally fine as Corinna the French poetess, appearing first at stage rear in an elegant grey skirt and jacket and giving a lovely rendering of Arpa gentil. In Part II after a complete absence of transportation has been announced she changed into a long dress for the celebrations they will all make in the hotel itself.

Among the men, Jacques Imbrailo sang in an appropriately commanding voice as the retired German major Baron Trombonok, and at the end of Part I, Lukas Jakobski as the antiquarian Don Profondo gave a wittily entertaining fast monologue, with the conductor hopping up and down on his podium in a Hoffnung-esque performance. Jakobski’s duet earlier in Part I, with Matthew Rose as the Englishman Lord Sidney, was terrific and Rose himself sang with huge power — his rendering of the National Anthem done with a ready wit.

Among the smaller roles I particularly liked Jihoon Kim as the doctor Don Prudenzio, Daniel Grice as Antonio the maître d’hotel, and Zhengzhong Zhou, who appeared as Zeferino on the conductor’s podium to announce the complete absence of horses, upon which Ailish Tynan as a strongly sung countess invites the whole company to Paris. The ending celebrations at the hotel with the various national anthems was super fun, and the whole evening immensely enjoyable.

Good lighting design by Nick Ware made the proscenium arch glow in gold, with the dome above in blue, and house lights low throughout. What a pity it was only a one-off performance.

Otello, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, July 2012

13 July, 2012

We are surely lucky that this revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s wonderful 1987 production — the first since 2005 — was directed by the man himself, and it was hugely effective. The sets with those vast pillars help give the impression that a mere human tragedy is being played out against a world that will carry on as before, even though one man has succeeded in destroying first the happiness and then the lives of others.

Opening scene, all images ROH/ Catherine Ashmore

That man, Iago almost gave his name to this Verdi opera, and Lucio Gallo, who also sang that role in the previous revival, gave a riveting performance. In Act III when Otello reads out the message from the Doge that he is being recalled, and a successor appointed, Gallo showed a smug expectation that he would be the man. It is of course Cassio, but this fine acting helps give meaning to Iago’s evil schemes.

As Otello, Aleksandrs Antonenko made a very fine entrance with his Esultate!, going on to portray a gullible leader, and he and Gallo were a perfect match. After Gallo has brilliantly sung Iago’s Credo in Act II, their duet exhibited his cleverness, and Antonenko’s voice showed how very troubled Otello is. And their later duet gave a gloriously strong ending to that Act.

Otello arrives to quell the fight in Act I

Anja Harteros gave a very fine portrayal of Desdemona, and her soliloquy in Act IV was beautifully done, followed by a heart wrenching Ave Maria. Antonenko, Harteros and Gallo gave this performance immense emotional heft, and were well served by Antonio Poli as a delightful Cassio, Hanna Hipp convincing as Iago’s wife Emilia, and Brindley Sherratt showing fine gravitas as the ambassador from Venice.

Venetian ambassador arrives in Act III

Supporting the entire performance was the hugely sensitive conducting of Antonio Pappano, which allowed the music to swell forth when needed. The chorus were in fine form as usual, and this was a terrific performance in a production whose attention to detail helps Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s drama to move us enormously. There are lots of clever touches, such as the sudden change of lighting in Act IV after Otello has entered and placed his sword down, the Act III off-stage brass heard from the front corners of the auditorium, and the lightning in Act I that appears both on-stage, and off-stage from the front of the lower slips.

After a seven year absence this revival is not to be missed.

Performances continue until July 24 — for details click here.

Les Troyens, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, June 2012

26 June, 2012

As the Euro crisis deepens, it is salutary to see Cassandra on stage — her foresight ever accurate but never believed.

The City of Troy, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

In the first part of this grand opera, Cassandra is the main character, superbly sung and acted by Anna Caterina Antonacci. It all starts with the chorus happily expressing their joy that the Greeks have been routed, but then Cassandra appears and the music abruptly changes mood. Les Grecs ont disparu! … but what dread plan lies behind their departure she asks. The first part leads up to the destruction of Troy, and is the perfect start to this great tale — pity Berlioz never lived to see it performed! A complete five-act production was first seen in Karlsruhe in 1890, 21 years after his death, but even then it was spread over two nights. Yet the whole thing takes a mere five and a half hours, including two half-hour intervals. Productions are rare, but it’s not the length alone — we’re used to that with Wagner — the trouble is you need a quiver full of first rate singers, including two brilliant performers in the mezzo roles of Cassandra and Dido, a Trojan horse, a ship, two walled cities, open countryside … oh, and two dance interludes.

The horse enters Troy to Cassandra’s consternation

Fortunately, David McVicar has overcome all difficulties in this new co-production with the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, and San Francisco Opera. He places the action in an undetermined time that could easily be seventeenth/ eighteenth century, which is not a problem. After all, scholarly opinion and tradition places the Trojan War about 1200 BC, Dido in the late ninth century, the founding of Rome in the mid-eighth century BC, and Troy had not yet been discovered when Berlioz wrote his opera. Costumes by Moritz Junge are wonderful, sets by Es Devlin (who is also designing the Olympic closing ceremony) are super, and lighting by Wolfgang Göbbel is magical. For instance in Act IV when Dido and Aeneas fully express their love, the model city that was on the ground turns upside down and suffused with a violet glow, its buildings twinkle with light as if it were the starry sky. The model city was a clever idea, and at the start of the second half when the Carthaginians sing with happy grace to their queen Dido, I almost expected her to respond Euch macht ihr’s leicht (Hans Sachs) … just kidding, but Moritz Junge’s costumes for this act reminded me of the final scene in Meistersinger, where Covent Garden’s staging includes model houses. Here, Dido tells us it is just seven years since she left Tyre to escape the murderer of her husband, and with the myth and history so well explained in Berlioz’s own libretto, this opera is Wagnerian in conception.

The happy people of Carthage surrounding Dido

The singing was terrific. Eva-Maria Westbroek was a gentle yet powerful Dido, Bryan Hymel gave a remarkable performance as Aeneas, and their rapturous duet in Act IV came over beautifully, enhanced by lovely changes of lighting. Hanna Hipp sang with great feeling as Dido’s sister Anna, and Brindley Sherratt was a striking vocal presence as her chief minister Narbal. Fabio Capitanucci came over strongly as Cassandra’s fiancé Coroebus, and Barbara Senator was entirely convincing as Aeneas’ son Ascanius. Excellent performances in all the solo roles, not just vocally but in terms of movement and stage presence. For example, Pamela Helen Stephen had huge presence as queen Hecuba of Troy, and Jihoon Kim was very effective as the ghost of Hector.

This massive team effort, with its magnificent chorus, was held together with consummate skill by Antonio Pappano in the orchestra pit, and as he said in a recent interview, this is just the sort of project the Royal Opera House should be undertaking. Quite right, and though there were some boos for the production team at the end, I didn’t understand why — it was a remarkable achievement. The Trojan horse’s head from the end of the first part was matched by a similar human torso and head at the end, which I took to indicate future battles between Carthage and Rome, brought on by Dido’s ritual curse of Aeneas and his descendents, and her foreknowledge of the mighty Hannibal.

A minstrel sings for Dido and Aeneas

McVicar’s production somehow manages to make sense of a world we have lost, where ghosts urge people on to great deeds, and gods issue commands. Perhaps some of our political leaders today would love to justify their actions as heeding urges of ghosts or gods, but in this remarkable story that’s what happens, and the production brings it to life. The Royal Opera have needed to score a goal, and they’ve got one here — it’s a beauty.

The performance on 5th July will be streamed live on The Space, available at thespace.org, or by viewing on TV (Freeview HD channel 117). It will also be broadcast live on French television — information at www.mezzo.tv .

Performances at the Royal Opera House continue until July 11 — for details click here.

Salome, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

1 June, 2012

With superb vocal power and control from Angela Denoke as Salome, and thrilling sound from the orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons, it doesn’t get any better than this.

The executioner with the head, all images ROH/ Clive Barda

This was the second revival of David McVicar’s production, first seen in 2008, and Angela Denoke’s second turn at the title role, since her earlier appearance in 2010. As the opera progressed she only got better, and after Herod has offered her everything … ending in desperation with the veil of the Tabernacle, the final repeat of her demand, “Gib mir den Kopf des Jokanaan” (Give me the head of Jokanaan) was hugely powerful. After she gets the head, her voice blended most beautifully with the orchestra. Beauty and horror combine, and following her final words that the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death she lies down with the head. Duncan Meadows as Naaman the executioner sits with his back to the horror being played out, but finally he turns … slowly … in disgust, and when Herod gives the command he breaks her neck.

Herod, Herodias and others

There are some fine aspects to this production, and the blood is cleverly done. She first gets it on her dress by putting her arms round the executioner, but as she nurses the head there is more and more of it. And the moment when the prophet first comes out of the cistern, and is knocked over by one of the soldiers, is very well judged. But it is absurd the way one of the soldiers keeps aiming a rifle at him. He does this particularly when Jokanaan is trying to get away from Salome, yet no-one draws seems to care when she puts her head in his lap. Surely that is the moment of danger for the princess, if there is one. And should the gun go off when there is no immediate danger to Salome, the soldier is a dead man. Herod has given strict instructions the prophet is not to be harmed.

Salome and Herod, end of the dance

But the singing is glorious. Stig Andersen gave a wonderful portrayal of Herod, and he and Rosalind Plowright as Herodias were both excellent. Egils Silinš was a fine Jokanaan, his voice coming across very clearly when he’s in the cistern, though it seems to come from elsewhere. Will Hartman sang beautifully as Narraboth, but in this revival his death occurred quietly in the background, unlike the first revival, which was a pity. Scott Wilde and Alan Ewing both sang well as first and second soldier, Peter Bronder was superb as the first Jew, and Andrew Greenan came over well as the first Nazarene, describing the miracles of Jesus. It was a strong cast, working well as a team, and held together beautifully by Andris Nelsons, who drew enormous power and lyricism from the huge orchestra.

Diners upstairs invisible from the Amphi

The lighting was brighter in this revival, which was good, but from the front of the Amphitheatre only the legs of the upstairs diners can be seen, and the backdrops to the dance are barely visible. But go for the music and the singing — they’re terrific.

Performances continue until June 16 — for details click here.

La Bohème with Calleja and Giannattasio, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

1 May, 2012

This production by John Copley, first staged in 1974, has been revived twenty-four times so far — not surprising since it just gets everything right. So indeed did Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo, bringing real depth and lyricism to the role.

From the very start Calleja exhibited a catching youthful energy, and after taking Mimi’s cold hand in his and launching into Che gelida manina he hit a wonderful high point when he sings of her pretty eyes as two thieves stealing his jewels (Talor dal mio forzieri …). Suddenly this is no longer some bohemian inhabitant of Paris but Rodolfo the poet, a thaumaturge of romantic invention whose soft notes floated like birds on the wing.

At the Café Momus, all images ROH/Hoban

In Acts I and II, Calleja sang everyone else off the stage, but following the first interval, Carmen Giannattasio as Mimi warmed up after a nervous start. She was making her debut in the role at Covent Garden, and finally hit the mark in her Act III duet with Marcello when she seeks him out at the inn. By Act IV she had become a fine match for Calleja, and in her curtain call she bent down to kiss the stage.

The other bohemians all did well, with Fabio Capitanucci engaging as Marcello the painter, Thomas Oliemans attractive as Schaunard the musician, and Matthew Rose singing a fine bass as Colline the philosopher, who sells his coat to help poor consumptive Mimi. Nuccia Focile sang Musetta with rather heavy vibrato, and her stage presence failed to match the sparkle needed for her big role in Act II. Conducting by Semyon Bychkov was restrained at the start, but things warmed up musically later, and I loved the drawn-out silence just before Mimi dies in Act IV.

Act III: early morning outside the inn

That final act pitches merriment against tragedy as the four bohemians clown around before Musetta and Mimi arrive, and when Matthew Rose used a bat to hit the bread rolls for six, the audience applauded spontaneously. All great fun, but when Colline goes off to sell his coat, and Rodolfo and Mimi are left alone, Calleja and Giannattasio sang beautifully together, recalling the time they first met. When Colline returns, and Rodolfo suddenly realises something is amiss, Calleja’s distraught cries brought the house down. This is a Rodolfo not to be missed.

Finally after the curtain calls, Tony Hall came on stage with a fiftieth birthday cake for the director John Copley, celebrating a half century of brilliant work with the Royal Opera.

Performances with this cast continue until May 17 when it will be shown live on Big Screens throughout the country — for performance details click here.

Miss Fortune, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012

13 March, 2012

The title of this opera is a play on words, the eponymous character being the daughter of Lord and Lady Fortune, whose riches have melted away, and after the chorus sings, “We think you should go to gaol”, they take off.

All images by Bill Cooper

Miss Fortune stays behind singing that, “I won’t scuttle away … I’m going to live in the real world”. And so she does, but the forces of chaos, represented by break-dancers, lead her through a course of ill-luck before she wins the lottery. Judith Weir wrote both music and libretto, reflecting the banalities of a dull life in expressions such as, “I can’t go on like this. In the end we’ll all be dead”.

In the end the opera finished rather suddenly, and the Soul Mavericks break-dancers came on to thunderous applause. They were super. The whole production by Chinese opera expert Chen Shi-Zheng was delightfully colourful with bold set designs by Tom Pye, costumes by Han Feng, and excellent lighting by Scott Zielinski. As a co-production with the Bregenz festival it was first shown in July 2011, and the cast remained the same for this UK premiere.

Break-dancers

Emma Bell sang beautifully in the title role, and Jacques Imbrailo was wonderful in the relatively small role of Simon, the attractive man she leaves with at the end. Noah Stewart was very fine in the role of Hassan, the owner of a Kebab shop whose business is destroyed by the break-dancers, Andrew Watts sang the counter-tenor role in the rather shadowy character of fate, and Anne-Marie Owens sang well as Donna the owner of a Laundromat.

A mixture of soap opera and fairy tale, the story lacks narrative drive, and the clouds of mellifluous music lack a cutting edge. The saving grace is the very effective staging, with Paul Daniel in the orchestra pit doing his best to inject life into an otherwise unimpassioned score.

Performances continue until March 28 — for details click here.

Rusalka, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2012

28 February, 2012

Can a force of nature acquire a soul? This is what Rusalka wants, to become human. As she says to the water spirit Vodník, humans have souls and go to heaven when they die. But souls are full of sin, says Vodník, …  and of love she responds. She has seen her prince and wants him to love her.

Dvořak’s opera Rusalka pits the powers of nature, particularly water, against human feelings and emotions. Like Ashton’s ballet Ondine it is loosely based on Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s fairy tale Undine that tells of a water nymph who falls in love with a prince. After acquiring human form, she loses her ability to speak, and at their wedding spurns his advances, feeling unable to compete with the fatal attraction of the articulate foreign princess. She abandons her prince, and though he searches for her and they are briefly reunited, his fate is sealed by his own unfaithfulness, and he dies in her arms.

Camilla Nylund made a lovely Rusalka, and Alan Held a very powerful Vodník. Both these performers sang the same roles in the original version of this production at Salzburg in 2008, and here at Covent Garden they enjoyed huge support from the other cast members. Bryan Hymel’s gloriously melodious voice was perfect for the Prince, and Petra Lang was superb as the foreign princess. Her body language is wonderfully expressive, and this singer who has made such a marvellous Ortrud in Lohengrin at both Covent Garden and Bayreuth, is perfectly suited to the role of a princess who feels not love but anger, determined that if she can’t have the prince then he shall be denied happiness. Compared to the princess he’s a weak man and instead of happiness he finds death as he begs Rusalka to kiss him at the end.

The power that allows this water nymph to turn into a human is the witch Ježibaba, strongly sung by Agnes Zwierko, and the singing of the three wood nymphs was beautiful, Madeleine Pierard in particular. Underlying it all was the conducting of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who imbued the music with huge emotional intensity at just the right moments. This was a terrific performance, and the singers were loudly cheered at the end, though the production team was roundly booed.

A bizarre production, photo Clive Barda

The production itself was brightly kitsch in parts, and like many other productions imported from the Germanic world, it presumably had a Konzept — in this case perhaps a brothel with Ježibaba as the madame, carefully checking the banknotes at one moment — but what’s the point? The ethereal nature of Rusalka and the watery forces of nature are better viewed without such a concrete representation. They inhabit a dark and mysterious world, yet the lighting at some points in Act III was extremely bright in a way that might work in Cosi fan tutte, but not in Rusalka.

This is a Czech opera — the very word of the title means water nymph in Czech — and does not fit easily with this Germanic-Italian production by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito. The theme of nature here is very much a Slavic one, and the term rus has an ancient Indo-European origin, meaning dew or humidity.

Do look beyond the superficialities of the production to the deeper meaning of the opera and don’t leave at the interval as several people did, because the performance is superb.

Performances continue until March 14 — for details click here.

Don Giovanni with Erwin Schrott, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2012

17 February, 2012

Erwin Schrott was a remarkable Don, good looking, devilishly charming, but with a nasty streak hidden by an insouciant devil-may-care attitude. And his singing was equally remarkable, with an easy casualness as if he were simply talking. As his counterpoint and servant, Alex Esposito as Leporello sang and acted the part with utter conviction. His Madamina aria, where he recounts to the lovesick Elvira all Giovanni’s conquests had a wonderful leering quality, and his stage actions were always expressive but never over the top.

The party at Giovanni's/ ROH image by Mike Hoban

Yet this was more than just Schrott and Esposito, and the rest of the cast was excellent. Ruxandra Donose came over beautifully in her Covent Garden debut as Donna Elvira, as did Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, who really fell for the Don at first meeting, smartly interposing herself between him and her betrothed Masetto, very well portrayed by Matthew Rose. In her first Donna Anna at Covent Garden, Carmela Remigio brought charm and power to the role. Her sudden realisation in Act I that Don Giovanni is her father’s murderer was very powerful, and her late Act II aria Non mi dir was charmingly delivered to her betrothed Don Ottavio. He was nobly sung and portrayed by Pavol Breslik, also making his role debut at the Royal Opera, and Reinhard Hagen sang the Commendatore with the presence he has shown before in this and other roles.

Zerlina and the Don/ Hoban

The singers were very well served by this Francesca Zambello production, superbly revived by Barbara Lluch with attention to detail everywhere. The dialogue between Giovanni and Leporello at the start of Act II was enlivened by the Don almost fainting as his servant says they have to leave the women alone, and it was then really played for laughs as he temporarily left the stage. After he had brutally shoved Leporello into a wall, and later beaten up Masetto leaving him lying on the ground, Zerlina came along to her betrothed and started slapping him, to great amusement from the audience. The joke about Leporello’s wife came off beautifully too, giving just the right degree of lightness before the statue made its ominous pronouncement. Then at the end, after Giovanni has been consumed by the flames of hell, Masetto offers his hand to Leporello and gives him a hug. A nice touch. The flames were so bright they lit up the whole auditorium, and Paul Pyant’s lighting was particularly good in showing the darkness at appropriate times.

Fires of hell, the Statue and the Don

Finally, the orchestra was very well paced under the direction of Constantinos Carydis, and the dramatic moment just before the statue appears at the banquet came over very strongly. One cannot easily find Don Giovanni better performed than this, and Erwin Schrott is unmissable.

Performances with this new cast continue until February 29 and seats are still available, though not in the Amphi — for details click here.

La Traviata, with Bobro, Grigolo and Gavanelli, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 23 January 2012.

24 January, 2012

This performance on January 23 was to have been the first of two with Ermonela Jaho as Violetta, and Vittorio Grigolo as Alfredo, but Ms. Jaho was unwell and her place was taken at the last minute by Slovenian soprano Bernarda Bobro, making her debut at Covent Garden. She has recently sung the role in Estonia, Schleswig-Holstein and Stuttgart, and worked with the Royal Opera House cast throughout the rehearsals, so she was well placed to fit into the production, and gave a fine performance.

Vittorio Grigolo and Bernarda Bobro

This reminds me of 17th January 2008 when Ermonela Jaho took over from Anna Netrebko in the same production. Act I is a tough one to pull off for Violetta, veering from party girl to someone who wonders whether she should continue disdaining love in favour of her life of arid pleasure. Ms. Bobro’s voice sounded a bit light here but her top notes were glorious, and in the scene with Paolo Gavanelli as Alfredo’s father in Act II she really came into her own, both of them beautifully restrained, yet dismissive and finally respectful of one another. Great stuff, preceded of course by Vittorio Grigolo giving vent to his frustrations and his boundless love for Violetta. Huge applause from the audience, and at the end of the opera Mr. Grigolo came forth to claim his due, holding his heart and opening his arms to centre, left and right. His singing was superb, as was his acting in Act III as Violetta is dying. He stood rooted to the spot, until his father gestured to him to go to her.

Paolo Gavanelli as Germont

This Richard Eyre production still works very well indeed. It has an intimate quality sometimes lacking in Traviata, and in the final act I love the big mirror where Violetta sees fleeting visions of her past life. Hanna Hipp was lovely as her maid Annina, and the way Jean Kalman’s lighting falls on her and Violetta at the start of the final act is a work of art.

With fine musical direction from Maurizio Benini in the orchestra pit, the principals, Bobro, Grigolo and Gavanelli were wonderful together. It’s always interesting to see how the baritone plays Afredo’s father — there are so many possible interpretations — and Paolo Gavanelli gave it a memorably restrained gravitas. But main plaudits must go to Bernarda Bobro who was surely not expecting to be on stage, and her very pretty voice infused the role of Violetta with a quiet tragedy. At the end she looked so young, and so washed out, that one could believe her life had come full circle far too soon. The frail one could live no more.

The other performance with the same cast is on January 25, again with Bernarda Bobro as Violetta  — for details click here.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, December 2011

20 December, 2011

This was Antonio Pappano’s first Meistersinger for the Royal Opera, and from the start of the overture to the final chords of Act III, more than five hours later, his peerless conducting drove Wagner’s comedy forward with huge effect. The chorus too was excellent, from the first four-part harmony in the church to their final embrace of Sachs and Walther on the meadows by the river Pegnitz.

Wolfgang Koch as Sachs, Emma Bell as Eva, Simon O'Neill as Walther, all images Clive Barda

Among the principal singers, some could hardly have been better. John Tomlinson was the best Pogner I ever remember seeing. This man, who is happy to give up his daughter as bride to the winner of a song contest, can sometimes appear a bit pompous, but Tomlinson’s delivery of Pogner’s Act I monologue was hugely powerful. This is where he extols the art-loving German burgher, frequently misrepresented abroad as caring for nought but money. It’s a key moment and so often comes over too weakly. Tomlinson’s characterisation of the role was so strong that the revival director even had him pushing Sachs around towards the end of Act III, urging him to embrace Eva and Walther. Add to that the excellent portrayal of Kothner, the head of the guild, by the ever reliable Donald Maxwell, and you only wish everyone on stage fitted their roles this well.

Toby Spence as David with the apprentices

Some did, and Toby Spence was an enormously likeable David, whose Act I explanation to Walther of what makes a mastersinger, along with the extraordinary list of tones he delivers, was riveting. Here is surely a future Walther. His fiancée Magdalena was very well portrayed by Heather Shipp, who seems to make a speciality of these awkward supporting roles, and Eva was well sung by Emma Bell, who showed angst and joy in equal measure. Her adored Walther, with whom she is willing to elope and defy her beloved father, was Simon O’Neill, whose voice I found too heldentenorish for the role, though he certainly delivered Walther’s various songs with great power. I only wish the costume department could have provided him with a better white outfit for Act III — cloaked for his delivery of the prize song it was better, but those shoulder wings … I know it’s Christmas, but this is not pantomime. Beckmesser’s black costume was much better, and his role was finely sung by Peter Coleman-Wright, though several comic moments were noticeable by their absence, perhaps due to a lack of stage direction. However the fight scene after he has attempted to serenade Eva at her window is cleverly staged, as is the appearance of the Nightwatchman, strongly sung by Robert Lloyd.

Emma Bell as Eva with John Tomlinson as her father Pogner

And then there is the main character, Hans Sachs, sung by Wolfgang Koch, who has performed the same role in Frankfurt (2006) and Vienna (2008). In Act I he came over less strongly than either Pogner or Kothner, and I found the Flieder monologue of Act II disappointing. Of course it’s a huge role and he must reserve himself for Act III, where his response to the crowd in the final scene and his final speech, Verachtet mir die Meister nicht (Don’t despise the masters) to Walther and the assembled company, came over well. But earlier in Act III, the Wahn monologue in the first scene and the later response to Walther’s question on what makes the difference between a beautiful song and a master song, were delivered in a matter-of-fact way as if they were academic lectures. With the Wahn monologue I felt I was listening to a defence of the Euro by a male version of Angela Merkel. Koch has a lovely tone to his voice, but I missed the repressed emotion of these important soliloquys, and the unrestrained emotion when he threw a chair across the room, just before Eva sings O Sachs! Mein Freund! was by contrast quite over top, though that would be due to revival director Elaine Kidd.

This production by Graham Vick is immensely colourful and I loved the lighting design by Wolfgang Göbbel. The blue light shining on the front curtain for the prelude to Act III, the light coming into Sachs’s study through the windows, casting shadows as people moved in front of them — it was all very carefully thought out. With a raked stage in Act III the view from the Amphitheatre was as if one were looking down on the proceedings, which was good, but I would have preferred some images of the river and meadow, rather than plain sides and a wooden floor.

But this was a musical triumph brought to fruition by Pappano, the orchestra, the chorus, and some superb singing.

The New Year’s Day performance of this opera will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 14:45, and performances at the Royal Opera House continue until January 8 — for details click here.