Cher Public

The burning Ghars, or Ghats, or whatever they are

Lots of chatter in the British press about the Rowley rowdydow at the Garden, but what interests La Cieca the most is the pictorial evidence that Laurent Pelly‘s production of Robert le Diable looks exactly like a biscuit box.

  • Edward Burne-Jones meets “Finding Nemo”.

    • manou

      Not really Pre-Raphaelite -- more like Les Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. But definitely Disneyfied.

      • Often admonished

        Of course it’s superficial and boring -- it’s the new Werktreue.

        • oedipe

          Have you seen it?

          • Often admonished

            quite enough, thank you

          • oedipe

            The run of this production hasn’t even started though.

          • manou

            Criticising a production before is opens is a sacred Parterre right.

          • oedipe

            THIS is a fundamental truth, Manou!

  • MontyNostry

    Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry was the inspiration for a production of Count Ory (in English) at ENO 30 years ago. I somehow doubt whether Pelly will manage anything more than a series of attractive, but undeveloped tableaux, which seems to be pretty much what he does in every production he comes up with.

  • oedipe

    No, I don’t think this has to do with either the Duc de Berry or Disney. More likely, Pelly had in mind Les Histoires Vraies de l’Oncle Paul, a series of albums which presented “French history in comic strips” and which appeared in the ’50s-’70s in “Le Journal de Spirou”. Most French kids of his generation knew and loved “Le Journal de Spirou”.

    http://www.bedetheque.com/serie-968-BD-Histoires-vraies-de-l-Oncle-Paul.html

  • manou

    However -- this promises something completely different:

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Burning Garhs

      • Oh dear god no. His monthly waxing bill would be enough to force someone to bankrruptcy

  • papopera

    Oui oui Pelly, mais on savait tout ça

  • Sorry is Pelly like LePage and Zambello??? We start commenting before the curtain has gone up and anything other than publicity photos have been seen?

    • phoenix

      the art of superficiality must continue

  • danpatter

    Well, I like Meyerbeer and I like colorful sets, so I’d probably enjoy this. I’ll wait for the DVD.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Photo of the Meyerbeer looks horrible. So does the new MET Rigoletto: http://nyluxury.com/article.cfm?colid=79234

    • Oh, honey. That Rigoletto is an upgrade on this classic tale.

      I for one found the picture quite interesting. I am looking forward to this Rigoletto more than other productions, Parzifal included.

      • armerjacquino

        That ENO RIGOLETTO is well worth watching. McLaughlin and Rawnsley are on great form, and there’s a young John Tomlinson as Sparafucile (BRILLIANT storm trio from Tomlinson, McL and Rigby). We had it on video when I was a kid and I used to watch it endlessly.

        *wearily awaits some kind of vicaresque snidery about Gwen Fucking Catley*

      • brooklynpunk

        Lindoro:

        Mille Grazie for posting this…!!..I didn’t know it was on Youtube, and hadn’t seen it it for IONS, but always think of it in the most fondest memory, since seeing a production of it done in NYC, in …the 80’s..?..late ’70’s..?

        THANKS AGAIN..this production has ALWAYS made the case for the possibility of a good up-date , valid—for ME…

        • manou

          Hi brooklyn -- glad to hear you are on the mend. Look after yourself and try to stay out of hospital for at least a year now!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • papopera

      génial! love the nuns scene

  • I’m sorry Cieca carissima but that is the new Ballo. Didnd’t you recognise la Rad’s fake brittish accent? i would not expect you to recognise Marcelo after weightloss, but the sets are a dead give away.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Even though Meyerbeer was of great help launching Wagner’s career, Wagner detested him. Here, Margret’s possible replacement tells us all about Wagner

  • manou
    • MontyNostry

      Oh dear, Bryan looks a little peaky there. Hope he doesn’t cancel.

  • actfive

    I DO love a good “Private Lives” reference! And here are two! Brava, Cieca! And for NYCO: “It certainly is horrid when one begins to crumble.”

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Need shoes?

  • Camille

    Is anyone back from the Diabolical Prima yet, in Londres? We are waiting for word from you all as to WHO actually showed up to sing what.

    • phoenix

      No one want to be accused of being observantly intelligent in Great Britain.
      -- Alas! All we have right now is pornography from that insipid Intermezzo site (gagh)!

      • phoenix

        Thanks Monty! I’ve never seen Ciofi live, but I personally find her voice very one dimensional and lacking color -- she was not good in that live performance they broadcast awhile back of Il crociatto in Egitto. My question to you is: why do you think the audience loved Ciofi? Does she a have an engaging stage personality, interpretive ability that distracts the audience from judging how she actually sounds (as R. Scotto had)? Or do audiences nowadays just assume the soprano is the main reason to be enthusiastic about any performance? Or were the other leads so mediocre that she was loved by default?

        • MontyNostry

          I think the audience was expressing its gratitude for her ‘saving the show’ and also perhaps because she was the biggest name in the line-up (though, having read Jennifer Rowley’s bio in the programme, I wished I’d had the chance to see her instead). I didn’t enjoy watching Ciofi tonight, though I liked her as Gilda about three years ago. Pelly had clearly asked her to camp things up, and I find very physically effortful singers (like she is) rather painful to watch. And she pulled lots of faces while she was singing. Personally, I thought Hymel was easily the best of the four leads.

          • phoenix

            Thanks again, Monty -- camping it up & pulling lots of faces seems to work every time, doesn’t it? If La Ciofi does the bdcst, we will find out if she is as painful to listen to as she is to watch.
            -- Have a goodnight!

    • MontyNostry

      Yes! Facetious, weak, inconsistent production with no attempt to create relationships between the characters,l which would maybe have helped the weird dramaturgy a little; sluggish conducting; Hymel excellent; Relyea generally strong, but lacking charisma; Ciofi a bit out of her depth, and at times painfully strenuous, but valiant (audience loved her); Popsy had her moments and worked hard, but she is far too inconsistent and manufactured-sounding; good supporting singers, especially Jean-François Borras as Raimbaut. The Nuns were like something out of George A Romero movie. Overall, it should have been better.

      • Camille

        Thank you, M. Monty!! I know I can always trust your opinion. I am a leetle bit surprised that your should find la Ciofi a bit out of her depth, though, as she had sung the role before and thought she would have been more at her ease than others. Well, Poppy ist ewig Poppy!!! At least she has the long blonde hair of a blameless naïve virgin!!!

        Mucho thank yous!

        • MontyNostry

          Camille, dearest, Ciofi is a good artist, but she seemed underpowered and effortful in the role in this auditorium. The voice had a husky, breathy edge to it and the high notes were clearly achieved with great effort (and an odd attack).

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Exactly what I thought of her Donna Anna, Monty.

          • MontyNostry

            Cocky, several times last night I thought that the role needed a singer who would also be a seriously good Donna Anna.

          • MontyNostry

            It doesn’t help that Ciofi’s apperance and manner frequently reminded me of the diminutive Esme Cannon, a fixture of British comedy films of the 1950s and 60s (Carry On’s etc …)

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/hytam/3185878905/

          • oedipe

            A general question: why is it OK around here to comment negatively on singers’ being “diminutive”, or “too thin”, but it’s not OK to mention singers’ being grossly overweight? This reeks of a double standard. (To wit: on average, Latins tend to be shorter and thinner, Anglo-Saxons tend to be taller and fatter.)

      • grimoaldo

        Yes, thank you for this early and interesting report.
        Of course, ideally this and every opera would be presented in good productions with excellent musicians and good soloists, but this particular opera, Robert le Diable, HAS to have (in my opinion)three things to make it work --
        interesting visuals
        a charismatic Bertram
        and a good conductor

        Otherwise it will turn into a long and tiresome mishmash.
        Maybe it succeeds with the interesting visuals but it sounds like it doesn’t get there with the other two.

        • MontyNostry

          I thought the visuals were the weakest part of the production. They reference (seemingly randomly) iluminated manuscripts, 19th century engravings, modern interior design and occasionally use ‘skeleton’ structures too (eg the cathedral in the last act). All over the place and with no dramatic resonance. The characters just gesture and don’t relate to each other (rarely touching, for instance). This feels less like a conscious decision than a lack of knowing what to do.
          By the way, if Jennifer Rowley’s voice was considered too ‘dramatic’ for Isabelle, then Ciofi’s is too soft-grained and lyrical for the part. Some of it (especially earlier on) seems to presuppose an heroic gleam in the voice. I can see exactly why June Anderson was cast in Paris in the 80s.

      • MontyNostry
    • PushedUpMezzo

      Independent review just in. Selected quotes:

      the principals have clearly been told to camp things up, and to hell with the fact that this work was once thought meaningful.

      a bunch of carousing knights straight out of a D’Oyly Carte production: this is G&S without the jokes, but drilled in joke-choreography.

      It says much for Bryan Hymel, Patrizia Ciofi, John Relyea as Bertram, and Marina Poplavskaya as the virtuous Alice, that these fine singers should so transcend this perverse production that their arias, duets, and trios – abetted by Daniel Oren’s conducting -- make a resonant evening.

      Full review

      http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/robert-le-diable-royal-opera-house-london-8392687.html

      • manou
        • Cocky Kurwenal

          According to that Bachtrack one, Poplavskaya overcame her problems by Act III. Somebody should tell the writer that those aren’t the sort of problems that can be resolved in 2 acts!

          • MontyNostry

            I think part of the reason she was more tolerable in the later acts was that the line seems to sit differently and becomes more dramatic and declamatory. The proto-Micaela stuff of her first scene was somewhat painful, especially anything quietish and highish. But the blond plaits were good!

          • MontyNostry

            Could this be Marina’s perfect role?

          • Clita del Toro

            Monty--that’s hilarious!

      • phoenix

        This is a Church I like.

  • MontyNostry

    I agree with most of that, apart from including Oren among the positives. His conducting was lamentably flabby. Having seen several Pelly productions now, both live and on video, I think he should leave anything even vaguely serious well alone. His Cendrillon was just as vapid in its way.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Agreed. I really enjoy his Offenbach, but even in Fille he pays far too much attention to p*ssing about and leaves no room around what should be moments of pathos to allow them to have their due impact. Absolutely sick to death of his productions.

      • MontyNostry

        … and they aren’t even especially well executed technically. There is an awful lot of vamping till ready in the blocking and there was a whole key sequence last night where you could hardly see Bertram’s face.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          I’d rather hear this face as Bertram

    • PushedUpMezzo

      Agree to some extent re the Fille and Offenbach productions; but Cendrillon gave romantic and comic equal dues. The love scenes with Coote and Di Donato were beautifully handled and very moving. So fabulous I made a second visit and bought the DVD.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor


    Sort of looks like a college musical:

  • manou

    More diablerie. Here is The Times’ review (emphasis mine), with the usual apology about the length of the post :

    ……………….
    “Richard Morrison
    ** (out of 5)

    Chopin, no less, declared that “Meyerbeer has made himself immortal” after the sensational 1831 premiere of Robert le diable. Which only proves that composers make even worse prophets than critics do.
    Colossally rich and famous in his heyday, Giacomo Meyerbeer was to be virtually unperformed in the 20th century (partly, admittedly, because of Wagner’s anti-Semitic rants against him). As for the more dithering than devilish Robert, he last stalked Covent Garden’s stage 122 years ago. After seeing Laurent Pelly’s new production I would happily pack him off for another 122.
    Mixing costumes from the 11th and 19th centuries with merry abandon, Pelly piles kitsch on kitsch with his usual spray-can Gallic exuberance. The colour-coded countesses and matching toy horses in the joust are possibly the naffest things I’ve ever seen at the Royal Opera.
    But at least he and his designer, Chantal Thomas, grasp that what made Robert le diable such a succès de scandale was not Meyerbeer’s music. That veers from the banal to the ridiculous in a four-hour swirl of trembling strings, baleful brass and the sort of harmonies that announce villains in Victorian melodramas. Nor was it the preposterous plot, loosely based on a mediaeval legend that William the Conqueror’s dad was the Devil’s son.
    No, it was the spectacle and the sex. And Pelly supplies plenty of both, albeit with flippant Post-Modern twists. Knights in armour fly in on wires. A mountain range revolves. Robert’s beatific sister Alice arrives to save him on a white cloud. Hell is a mash of Dante and Disney: a lurid cartoon of flames and fiends, skewering naked sinners.
    And for the infamous ballet, where dead nuns rise from their convent graveyard to seduce Robert, Lionel Hoche, the choreographer, supplies a twitching bump’n’grind routine for zombies in see-through nighties.
    All of which is weird but welcome, because musical delights are few. The score mostly sounds like Rossini on a very off day, orchestrated by a Belgian military bandmaster. No wonder the Royal Opera had such trouble casting it. But with solid conducting from Daniel Oren the singers do well — especially Patrizia Ciofi, an 11th-hour replacement as Robert’s desired Isabelle. She sounds a bit husky, yet her impassioned singing brings the final acts to life.
    Marina Poplavskaya’s intonation varies, but she makes a touching Alice. Bryan Hymel tackles the fearsomely high title-role resolutely.
    John Relyea is properly barrel-voiced as the bad and finally ostracised Bertram (who, Pelly mischievously suggests, might be Meyerbeer himself), and Jean-François Borras sings winningly as the peasant Raimbaut.
    Meyerbeer’s doomladen choruses are splendidly hurled out. But at the finale’s dramatic climax the audience giggles. That says it all.”
    ……………………………….
    and here are a few random ones as well :

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/07/robert-le-diable-review

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-07/female-caesar-funny-robert-bodyguard-u-k-theater.html

    http://www.whatsonstage.com/reviews/theatre/opera/E8831354885463/Robert+le+diable.html

    http://www.theartsdesk.com/opera/robert-le-diable-royal-opera-house

    • MontyNostry

      The more I think about it, the more I think Pelly’s production was a cop-out, and not even an intelligent send-up of the piece, which could have been presented ‘au deuxième degré ‘ in a more insightful way that respected the audience’s powers of perception. And why is Ciofi being seen as such a heroine? Yes, she got through the part, but it was all rather uncomfortable.

    • grimoaldo

      Thanks for posting the reviews manou.
      The singing has been generally praised, opinion on the production and opera itself mixed.
      Here is an article from 1988 from the NYT “Does Meyerbeer Deserve His Years of Obscurity?” in which Samuel Ramey succinctly puts the truth, as I see it,on the quality of the music of Robert: ” There are great moments; although most of ‘Robert’ is not great music, a lot is fun music.”
      I do not have anything against fun music, in fact I like fun music.
      Of course, peoples’ idea of fun varies.
      Another interesting point of view from this article from Eve Queler:
      “It is not adventurous to do ‘Lulu.’ It would be adventurous to do ‘Robert.'”
      Whatever the results of the ROH production (and when it appears online or on DVD, I fear it is going to make me break my resolution never to listen to or watch Popsy again), I applaud Covent Garden adventurousness in mounting a production of the work.

      • grimoaldo
      • MontyNostry

        My feeling on the music of Robert is that it is less than the sum of its part. There are some daring and clever ideas (for instance, vocal line accompanied solely by timpani) and plenty of ‘dramatic’ gesturing (especially in the coloratura flourishes and big high notes coming from nowhere), but they don’t add up to anything very compelling. In fact, there is no sense of compulsion in the music. It seems an exercise rather than an outpouring.

        • MontyNostry

          This is the only number that has any emotional impact (and clearly Verdi thought so too …)

      • Meyebeer Pastiche?

        The only operas of his with which I’m familiar are Huguenots and L’Africaine. But I think that Ramey’s sentiments about Robert can apply to Meyerbeer in general (though Huguenots has a particularly high quotient of great moments). So, I think the best way for the Met to get in on the Meyerbeer action is to do a pastiche. Take the best parts of his operas and put them together in a big, flashy spectacle.

        • MontyNostry

          Le Continent enchanté? (Those five acts need a lot of space)

          • LOL. Someone call Zeffirelli. On second thought, never mind!

          • MontyNostry

            I’m sure Francesca Zambello would be pleased to oblige with some of her pseudo-Zeffirelli if needed. Cheeky moppets, patient animals, ‘local colour’ … You know the kind of thing.

  • Camille

    Hi C’s A Plenty — this is a notice for you regarding the “Mario Aria” from Robert le Diable:

    First off, I must say I am sorry for getting to this almost a week later than I should have.

    Secondly, the edition of Robert le Diable which I own is G. Brandus, Dufour & Cie., which would mark it out as having been published between 1854 and 1858, the years the company was known by this name. M. Dufour became a full partner in 1858.

    The “Mario Aria” is in the “Supplément” at the edition’s end. It reads:
    “Scène et Prière, Composées pour les débuts de M. Mario”……..[p.] 426.

    It consists of five pages, the first two are Récitatif which lead promptly onto the Prière, itself, at top of page 428. The tessitura is of midrange, with a B double flat in the récitatif, and about three A naturals, culminating with a cadenza at the finale with a B flat corona. It has nothing of the nature of the Sicilienne, with its several high C’s in alt (there are variants for those C’s, by the way) — but since you have those C’s “A Plenty”, doubtless, they hold no terrors for you!

    If you would like, and if you can manage to get an address, via La Cieca, to me — I would be only to happy to make a copy of this material for you. Please, please, it is not a big deal and I would be happy to share, so no profuse undying gratitude need be necessary.

    Yours truly,
    in fede
    Camille