Tag Archives: Ruxandra Donose

Ruxandra Donose + Roger Vignoles / Rosenblatt Recitals / Wigmore Hall – 6 October 2014

9 Oct

Donose RosenblattSecond time unlucky for the Rosenblatt recitals as the second one of the new season also had an indisposed singer programmed, so instead of Carmen Giannattasio we had Ruxandra Donose performing, fresh from her triumphant return to the Royal Opera as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and her recent Carmen in Calixto Bieto’s celebrated production at English National Opera.
She explained at the start of the recital that she put together arias and songs she loves despite of any strange leaps in mood. Clearly a deft decision being asked to fill in for another artist at such a short notice and also a great chance to show her taste in repertoire and to display her versatility.


Her two Carmen arias (second as encore) were predictably beautifully executed with impressive ease and sparkle. Hinting at a naughtiness inside but never becoming base and cheap. What was immediately noticeable was her easy going stage manner and personable character. All too frequently singers look so ill at ease on the concert platform without being able to hide behind make up and costume.
Her Offenbach aria was coquettish, sassy she had great fun playing with the text. The letter aria from Werther was a solid attempt at transmitting the sense of sadness and the world closing in. Her dark hued voice used with artistry to convey the mood. 

The three songs by Fauré were a good display of her ability to restrain her exuberance and not smother the material under artifice. So effective she was in evoking the dreamy mood that her Eboli was like a thunderbolt. Her rendition of this old warhorse was captivating, her dark chest voice reflecting the troubled state of mind of the heroine. Despite a certain shortness of breath at the finale she pulled off an impressive end to the first half.

After the interval the programme took a more romantic turn with Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix which was seductive and with a hint of calculation behind the pleasantry. Her use of her dynamic range to colour the aria and its different moods was very effective. A sign of how committed her signing was throughout the evening.

Donose Rosenblatt list

The sets of songs by Enescu and Bretan were beautiful and unfussy. The second set in Romanian was particularly notable for the sheer joy and abandon she invested each one of them. I always relish an artist inserting songs in their native language in a recital as it removes any residual language barrier and allows for direct a communication. Particularly the wistful last two songs were a great display of sensitivity and piano singing. The final Rossini aria showed her agility and her adept coloratura technique. What we maybe lost in not being as quick firing as some was a more rounded sound that caressed the ear at every turn. Humanising what can seem like empty fireworks in the hands of other singers.

The accompaniment by Roger Vignoles was as sprightly and joyful as Donose’s stage presence. Particularly impressive at such short notice and with presumably limited rehearsal time

As you can tell I really enjoyed her performance I was rather excited to see her after her excellent Composer at Covent Garden and she did not disappoint. Her unwavering intensity paired with her musicality were wonderful to see.

Some tweets from the evening

Edgy perfection / Carmen / English National Opera – 19+27 November + 6 December 2012

13 Dec

ENO CarmenAnyone that follows me on Twitter will know my feelings about Calixto Beito’s production of Carmen too well. It is a triumph of modernism over the flouncy overwrought productions of old and also a fresh, visceral theatrical experience.

Attending in two extra occasions it exposed what can go wrong with live performance though…more of that in a minute.

The production has been very well documented with its European and South American versions moving from opera house to opera house since 1999. It seems many companies want Bieito’s touch in a staple of the operatic repertoire that rarely works so well as a complete experience. Bieito’s transfer of the action to the last few months of Franco’s suppression of Spain is a stroke of genius, taking to heart Bizet’s political ideas in Carmen and amplifying them. Far too many productions get too much stuck in the love triangle to care and unnecessary details to care for much else. Bieito’s concept is a holistic treatment of the work, so much so any minor mishaps can be easily forgiven. The very simple conceit of Carmen singing the start of her famous entrance down the phone to an ex lover is clever as it is an instant atmosphere generator. His Carmen seems more sophisticated and cool headed than most and to a huge benefit in believability.

Ruxandra Donose gave a wonderfully committed and subtle performance never edging on smuttiness but giving an intelligent and forthright person on stage. Her vocal performance may not have been the loudest in the world but sang with the necessary glamour and style. Her darker timbre adding weight and an edge of fatalism. Unfortunately both our Jose and Escamillo were miscast but performed admirably well in context of that.

Adam Diegel surely looked rather butch and easy on the eye when he was taking his shirt off but somehow the middle of his voice was not as strong as his abs. At times he was lacking the spark and seemed fatigued by the softer passages. His chemistry with Donose and Llewellyn was undeniable and the production overall carried him through. He was extremely effective in the chilling finale and added his manly fragility to this beautifully choreographed exchange of passion, pity and defiance.

Leigh Melrose was again gorgeous in costume but somehow lacked the vocal bloom and the on stage arrogance to make his character truly resonate. But that is more the fault again of the casting and not his. In all three performances I watched he was clearly giving all he had, it just seemed to be short of what Bizet and Bieito demanded.

But what can I say about Elizabeth Llewellyn that hasn’t been said many times before? She was getting better and better through the run, her much more assertive than usual Michaela seemed a tiny bit tentative at dress rehearsal but had bloomed into a ballsy, strong-minded woman by the second performance  that concentrated the glances of the whole auditorium on her. Her appearance in the training camp setting of Act One added a dose of female sexuality in Bieito’s intensely manly world. Many a singer could have been swallowed by the garish sequinned blouse but Llewellyn made it vibrate with personality and her velvety tone offered depth and purpose to every appearance.
The direction allowed her to steal the limelight in crucial junctures in the story telling, such as in Act Three where she is left alone on stage, bar for a battered old Mercedes car and a crucifix she carries with her. And yet her charisma lit up the stage with pathos and gorgeousness. Just think how many forgettable Michaelas you have listened and watched in the past, this was not one of them. Her bras d’honneur at the  floor bound Carmen at the end of Act Three was a great touch that made everyone in the audience chuckle (at dress rehearsal the students at the Upper Circle made their allegiance with Michaela all too clear) and instantly side with the good girl of the story.

From the smaller supporting roles, Duncan Rock’s narcissistic Morales was a great addition to Act One that provided a focus and some strong singing. The glorious card scene in Act Three was lit up by the Frasquita of Rhian Lois and the Mercedes of Madeleine Shaw, giving an over the top performance with a rather tart edge that made a great counterfoil to Donose’s much darker, more composed character.

The chorus were tremendous once more,  investing their performance all three times with vibrancy and the boorishness that Bieito demanded in Act Four where they jumped and screamed like a real audience to a bull fight, facing the audience and only separated with a tensed rope from the orchestra pit. And then dramatically parting to reveal Escamillo in his bright yellow toreador outfit. Especially when one puts into account they were alternating their Carmen performances with the chorus heavy The Pilgrim’s Progress it is even more impressive how they managed to retain the level of vibrancy required by the direction.

The orchestra was a sad shadow of its usual self on the 27 November performance when Martin Fitzpatrick was conducting. And it seems it was not even his fault, as on the night there were a large number of substitutions in the pit, making the sound sounding unbalanced and at times too predictable.
On the other hand the other two performances under Ryan Wigglesworth were wonderfully paced readings of the score with an innate sense of structure and avoiding the clichés that most conductors seems to impose on this overall lyrical and gripping score. He did not force the dynamics and over-emphasise the “ethnographic” content but instead opted for a singer friendly pace that allowed the story to be engaging and at the same time allowing some much needed pauses. Proving ENO’s  investment in him truly worthwhile (he is the composer in residence) and a vindication of this young and fast rising talent that he will make his conducting début with the Royal Opera, replacing Antonio Pappano at Covent Garden by conducting the upcoming revival of Birtwistle’s Minotaur.

I could spend another 1000 words describing this truly wonderful staging by Bieito but what you can do is go and get the DVD/Blu Ray and see for yourselves. It is a production that deserves the cult status it has acquired over the years and hope that it will be revived by ENO very soon. At least I’ll allow myself the mention of how great the lighting design was by Bruno Poet, being both naturalistic and reactive to the on stage action.
As for all the people I know that were put off by the fact it was staged in an English translation at the Coliseum. They sadly missed a great production with two extraordinary ladies on stage and a wonderful orchestra and chorus. Looking forward to the day that superiority complex of the usual Covent Garden offenders will allow them to go to ENO and enjoy it for what it is…London’s second and mainly much edgier opera house.

ENO Carmen list

Production shots by ENO

Related Podcasts

Edward Seckerson interviewing Calixto Bieito.

Christopher Cook was in conversation with Ryan Wigglesworth.

Curtain call video

[youtube http://youtu.be/_3DSBJ56T6I]

Carry on Don Giovanni / Royal Opera House, Covent Garden – 26 February 2012

28 Feb

Francesca Zambello’s 2002 staging of Don Giovanni has been revived more frequently than most. Have passed on the opportunity to see it the last few times, but a coincidence of price cuts and the chance to see Erwin Schrott strut his stuff was good enough to lure me. The staging (if you haven’t heard already) is tasteless, full of vulgar catholic kitsch with a certain propensity to grand gestures in the last 10 mins of each act. The only Coups de Théâtre being the use of the revolve, some fire and a dangling hand pretty much summarises its banality.

Messrs Schrott and Esposito were pretty much covered in glory, despite the directing which is too frequently anchoring the singers at centre stage, encouraging more a stand and deliver attitude than acting and a more natural delivery. They clearly worked well together and bounced off each other’s energy…despite  getting at times too carried away and almost reaching carry on movie territory. But so much enthusiasm at least stops us from looking at all the awful crucifixes just behind.They managed to bring their characters to life and with a high calibre of singing throughout. Breslik also sang with assurance and style, adding charisma and spark to Don Ottavio’s pretty mundane part in the proceedings. Hagen was very stylish despite the breakneck speed of the conducting which robbed him of his true dramatic momentum.

The unfortunate low  point of the evening was the three women. Donna Anna was passable but the wooly sound and the out of control vibrato marred Non mi Dir which should really be a show stopper, even in this pedestrian production. Our Donna Elvira was not in much better shape struggling to be heard at times and despite the convincing acting the vocal finesse was lacking. Her Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata was far from definitive, failing to create the moment of emotional release needed. As for Zerlina, if this was a competition for a beautiful blonde girl in a dress she would have won, but unfortunately singing was required and her hard timbre was frequently unpleasant to listen to.

Unfortunately Carydis was back at the helm (he was replaced on the previous performance, due to sickness) and gave us a flat and bizarrely dispassionate reading of the overture which was a let down, with little variation in speed or colouring. His conducting did improve a bit, allowing for some beautiful lyricism to come out. But he doesn’t strike me as a singer friendly conductor, as quite a few times they were left to fend for themselves, out of breath and not getting much attention from the pit. I would go to the extreme of preferring a pre-recorded accompaniment (I know…I know) than such a terrible live orchestra that paid little attention to Mozart’s exquisite score and the performers on stage.

And a special mention for the audience, which was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced at Covent Garden. The coughs of one person with what sounded like developed bronchitis two rows behind me. The incessant clapping in inappropriate moments made the evening feel like a game show, if you get annoyed with clapping at bel canto performances this was 90 times more irritating. And to top it all off, a group behind us who had no volume control kept chatting during the performance. I’ve surely been to pantos with better audiences than this. Such a shame.

PS Veronique Gens and other sources have confirmed that this was the last outing of this substandard production. We are due a brand new one for 2014, hurray!

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