United Kingdom BBC Proms 2022 , Promenade 19: Dukas, Respighi, Puccini: Soloists, Philharmonia Voices, Hallé / Sir Mark Elder (conductor). Recorded (directed by Helen Mansfield) on the Royal Albert Corridor, London, 30.7.2022. It’s at the moment accessible on BBC iPlayer. (JPr)
Dukas – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Respighi – Fountains of Rome
Puccini – Il tabarro
Lucio Gallo – Michele
Natalya Romaniw – Giorgetta
Adam Smith – Luigi
Annunziata Vestri – La Frugola
Alasdair Elliott – ‘Tinca’
Simon Shibambu – ‘Talpa’
Shengzhi Ren – Ballad-Vendor
Laura Lolita Perešivana – lover
Ryan Vaughan Davies – lover
Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was composed in 1897 and is predicated on Goethe’s poem of the identical title of a century earlier than. A younger apprentice magician will get into horrible hassle when his spells go incorrect and there’s water, water, in every single place (as remembered from the 1940 animated Disney movie Fantasia when he was depicted by Mickey Mouse). The opening of this programmatic music was impressionistic and redolent of Dukas’s compatriot Debussy. Sir Mark Elder and his Hallé orchestra started leisurely, laboured virtually, regardless of the usually laidback conductor being unusually animated. The tempo quickened after the acquainted bassoon motif presumably representing the errant broom (and which is able to later descend to the contrabassoon) because the Hallé constructed up fairly a head of steam. Total, it was a well-played, mercurial efficiency (with the glockenspiel concerned what else might be anticipated?) and after a pause there’s an epilogue when the Sorcerer returns and I believe the emphatic ending signifies how he chastises his wilful apprentice.
In one other oddly programmed Promenade, earlier than some Puccini, Dukas was adopted by their up to date Ottorino Respighi, however at the very least the theme of water was working by (!) the music we heard. Fountains of Rome is one among his triptych of tone poems concerning the Everlasting Metropolis. (Personally, Respighi nonetheless provides me nightmares as I used to be as soon as requested to present a pre-concert discuss and was given the incorrect details about which of the tone poems it was, no one actually appeared to note as I keep in mind!) Fountains was Respighi’s first of the three and was premiered in 1917 and is a daybreak to nightfall musical illustration of 4 fountains – apparently when they’re seen at their finest – so we now have the daybreak refrain for the Valle Guilia; Triton within the morning was extra dramatic with the Tritons pursuing the naiads and blowing on their conch shells (heard within the horns); Respighi’s music for the Trevi one at midday (very acquainted from Federico Fellini 1960 La dolce vita movie) is suggestive of the magisterial look of Neptune’s chariot earlier than its brass-led triumphalist music subsides as he recedes into the gap; lastly, we attain Villa Medici at sundown and what we hear is extra meditative, unhappy even, as birds are roosting and tolling bells inform us it’s time for vespers. Fountains was exquisitely performed and Elder performed with apparent affection. There have been many virtuosic solos, notably from chief Steven Copes’s violin, Sergio Castelló López’s clarinet and Amy Xmas’s flute.
After the interval it was Puccini’s Il tabarro, a part of the composer’s Il trittico (with Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi). Oddly, it was an opera I had already seen in its solely different efficiency on the Proms in 2008, the a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Puccini’s start. I defined then, and repeat right here, how the plot is normal operatic fare involving an sad adulterous spouse, her younger lover, a jealous cuckolded husband and a double homicide ending. (It may simply be subtitled ‘Dying on the Seine’!) Luigi and another stevedores are ending unloading the barge owned by Michele docked in Paris. Giorgetta, Michele’s lovely spouse, presents them a drink and he notices how she seems at Luigi and dances with him, whereas a Ballad-Vendor peddles a track that (intentionally) has greater than a touch of La bohème to it. La Frugola (‘the rummager’), the spouse of ‘Talpa’ (‘mole) the stevedore, arrives with a bag filled with odds and ends that she has scavenged. Earlier than he leaves, Luigi arranges a late night time rendezvous with Giorgetta when she’s going to gentle a match as an indication that their assembly shall be secure. Michele displays sadly on the ups and downs of his life with Giorgetta and lights his pipe with a match. Seeing what he believed was the agreed sign, Luigi boards the barge and is seized by Michele who forces a confession out of him. He then strangles Luigi and when Giorgetta comes on deck he grabs maintain of her too and earlier than despatching her reveals the useless Luigi. He was coated by ‘The Cloak’ (Il tabarro) underneath which Michele and Giorgetta used to snuggle in happier instances.
Elder is seemingly an advocate for live performance or semi-staged variations of opera however they nonetheless should be carried out higher than this. Not less than the singers didn’t have scores and this was to the credit score of a solid that underwent so many last-minute adjustments for numerous causes. Everybody was dressed as if attending a rehearsal and have been usually rooted to their spot on the platform and dealing with out in the direction of the microphones. Consequently it was relatively static and it was left to the singing to convey the characters to life and generate any ardour obligatory. I couldn’t see any screens offering a translation for the viewers although I perceive there might need been one thing to assist them observe what was happening. That may have been additional helped if in an opera the place a cloak is so outstanding, Michele truly had one to cowl up Luigi on the finish! Additionally why did he not – so far as I may see – give the sign which fools Luigi, how tough would which were?
Elder and his great orchestra did all they may to lift the emotional temperature after Puccini’s opening to Il tabarro which is so evocative of its setting on the Seine with the haunting sounds of the horns of passing tugboats. I imagine Elder made some attention-grabbing use of the huge expanse of the Royal Albert Corridor although this didn’t come over significantly effectively within the recording.
Lucio Gallo was a baleful Michele and he was a bit of one-dimensional in voice and manner however he summoned a terrifying diploma of vengeful anger on the finish. Natalya Romaniw gave Giorgetta’s ‘Si, Il fiammifero acceso!’ (Sure, the lighted match’) a beautiful seductive high quality and her estrangement from Michele was palpable. The luckless position of Luigi requires a tenor with a Calaf high quality in his voice significantly for the high-lying ‘io te lo giuro, lo giuro’ (‘I swear to you, I swear’). I like Adam Smith’s voice and it was a really creditable efficiency and even when he might need been sorely examined by the position, it did appear to realize impressively in youthful passion because the opera continued.
Annunziata Vestri’s barking mad La Frugola appeared to have introduced her personal eccentric costume and characterisation along with her however won’t rapidly be forgotten. There was very stable assist from Alasdair Elliott (‘Tinca’), Simon Shibambu (‘Talpa’) and Laura Lolita Perešivana and Ryan Vaughan Davies because the lovers. Shengzhi Ren revealed a really pleasing lyrical tenor voice because the Ballad-Vendor and the Philharmonia Voices made the many of the small moments Puccini gave them.