Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 10

by Megan Meister

A poster for Verdi's SIMON BOCCANEGRA at ENO

I had lunch with British composer Iaian Bell and his youthful exuberance and passion for opera is highly contagious.  Although he has written several song cycles, he is now working on his first opera, which will be premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in two years, and is being written for Diana Damrau.  It certainly sounds like an exciting project.

After lunch I went over to the Royal Opera House and heard fourteen singers represented by various British artist management firms.  Most were quite good, but I heard one exceptional Lithuanian tenor named Edgaras Montvidas.  He started with Lensky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN, and then I selected one of Mozart’s most difficult arias from his list, “Ich baue ganz” from THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO.  He sang it with such ease and seemingly endless breath and exquisite control that I actually asked to hear a third aria simply for the pleasure of listening to him sing.  After a stunning rendition of Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima” from THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, I had to go on and hear the rest of the scheduled singers, but trust me, this was a hard act to follow.

This evening was a performance at the English National Opera of a new production of Verdi’s SIMON BOCCANEGRA, staged by Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov which starred Bruno Caproni in the title role.  Bruno sang “Enrico” in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR at TDO about ten years ago, and it was nice to hear him again.  Although there were some striking things in this contemporary “take” on the opera, particularly the prologue, which looked like a painting by Edward Hopper,  there was much about the staging that I simply didn’t “get.”

I ran into  Sarah Billinghurst from the Metropolitan Opera again, and we discovered that we were both going to BUTTERFLY and TOSCA at the Royal Opera tomorrow and Thursday.  Obviously, we must have the same travel agent !

I also ran into Anthony Freud, who is set to take over Lyric Opera of Chicago in the fall. I nearly didn’t recognize him—he has lost 62 pounds over the past year by adhering to a rigid diet, and he looks wonderful!

Walking back to my hotel after the performance I was cutting through Covent Garden and saw another familiar face, Christopher Koelsch, from the Los Angeles Opera.  He had been to hear the TOSCA at the Royal Opera (which I will attend on Thursday) having just arrived from Paris this morning.

I can’t quite believe how many people I have stumbled upon on this trip.  It will be interesting to see who else is in London when I venture out tomorrow…

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

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