Three for the Royal Opera House, three for the ENO. Well who else is seriously going to get nominated in the opera categories?!
I'm most pleased about Christian Gerhaher getting nominated in the singer category - I've long been a fan of his singing of the German lieder repertoire - rare to get such intelligent sensitivity to the text, intensity and beauty of tone from the same singer. His approach in opera seems to be the same - very thoughtful, beautifully nuanced performances, the effect a combination of understated acting, lieder-like delivery, and a well projected, but never less than beautiful sound. You'll notice I'm using the word beautiful a lot, but that's what comes to mind: his was a truly beautiful performance in the role of Wolfram von Eschenbach which made you really believe that this was a great epic poet in front of you, and raised the tone of the production from quite good, to almost magical. He's a very serious singer and I imagine will keep a very narrow repertoire of mainly German roles - certainly nothing frothy and Italian.
Jonas Kaufmann was born in the same year as Gerhaher and is a much more visible star in the constellation of opera singers. I enjoyed him in Adriana Lecouvreur and he was certainly better than the rather subdued and tiny voiced Gheorghiu, but again I feel he is best in German repertoire - his Verismo CD is excellent, but it's his Strauss lieder CD and German Arias CD which are really special. Though I'm an unashamed Strauss fanatic, the lieder with piano accompaniment had always seemed unfinished, a half way house on the way to the miraculous orchestral versions that were bestowed on some of them, that is, until I listened to his Strauss recital. It really has to be heard to be believed: the soaring, burnished tone convinces one that Strauss could write for the male voice after all! As I say though, magnificent though it is, his Italian singing isn't quite in the line of the greats, at least not yet, whereas I think his German repertoire is truly stellar.
Onto the productions. Adriana Lecouvreur was actually stunning to look at, quite traditional, but just so inventive and well done. It just felt right. If only the opera was more deserving: it's got a couple of good arias, but in general, it's just generic verismo schlock with one of the most confused and annoying plots in opera. I never understand when people complain about opera plots being "ridiculous" - the whole conceit of opera is ridiculous - obvious examples include: singing your innermost thoughts; singing duets would be people talking at the same time if translated into real life; Salome, the prurient nubile teen being played by 50 year olds etc. etc. Whether the scenario is realistic is not what ruins opera plots; what really ruins them is if they are difficult to follow, lack internal logic, and require characters to contradict themselves to move the plot forward. Adriana Lecouvreur seems to get done quite a lot though, and I've noticed that a lot of opera singers are oddly sentimental about it.
A Dog's Heart was classic ENO at what they do best - modern and contemporary opera, in a modern staging, unbeholden to operatic convention or audience expectation. The best bits were the projections and the dog itself (the puppetry, the voices), and though the music was decent enough, I'm not sure it was good enough to warrant a recording say. A long but enjoyable evening though, and I'm sure it'll get revived. Purely as a production though, Adriana deserves to win.
How much do these things actually matter in the Opera World? Surely not all that much, but it's nice to see your favourites recognised by others, and it's a good excuse to write about them! Other people that need to win something, somewhere: Elizabeth DeShong for her recent stunning Orsini in the ENO's Lucrezia, and also Amanda Roocroft for her Makropulos also at the ENO (the wonderful production was a revivial and therefore not eligable for Olivier nomination).
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