After opening with Ben Frost’s critically mauled adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory, the ROH brings its 2013/14 season of operas in the Linbury Theatre to a triumphant close. Luca Francesconi’s Quartett is a triumph, an intricately crafted work which would reward multiple viewings and listenings. It is certainly a work which should become a staple of the contemporary opera circuit, and suggests that the composer’s full-scale opera for the company in 2020 will be unmissable.
Tuesday’s concert saw the Oxford Philomusica displaced from the Grade I splendour of their home in the Sheldonian Theatre to the larger venue of the art-deco style New Theatre. The reason? Nigel Kennedy was in town. The violinist’s three previous appearances with the ensemble had attracted full houses, and he drew a large and enthusiastic crowd again this time. Despite this overwhelmingly positive response, Kennedy’s concern for showmanship meant that he often failed to hit the mark musically.
Revolution, faith, and martyrdom: Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites tackles some weighty themes. The Royal Opera House certainly did them justice in a powerful production that balanced intensity and turmoil with moments of warmth and humour. Last seen at Covent Garden in 1983, the opera is unusual in many ways: much of the vocal writing is recitative, occasionally breaking into arioso; the nearest thing to a love duet is the dialogue between Blanche and her brother; and the cast is unusually large. Musically and dramatically top-notch, this production is simply exceptional.