Sunday, June 14, 2009

How perceptions change!

I was at home, idly musing into another blog, having just made a coffee and looking forward to a bite of pre-concert dinner, when suddenly I looked at the clock of my computer and found it was 18.28. Performance at the opera house starting at 18.30 - I was wearing my shorts and a t-shirt I had bought secondhand.

I have never changed so fast, and run so fast, as I did to the opera house today, to see, for the second time, Robert Wilson's production of the St John Passion by Bach. Made it in time for the first chorus - impressive or what?

Last time I reviewed it I was quite down on it, what with the sort of slow and symbolic movements on the stage. This time, after the very static performances by the Mariinsky Theatre, I found it quite lively! (I heard a couple of days ago that after the Parsifal there was no standing ovation, and the primadonna apparently was in tears....).

I had meant, obviously, to come on time and find a nice seat in the front row. As a latecomer, I was lucky to be let in at all but had to go to the balcony. Went to the first balcony instead of the second I had been told to go to, and found a wonderful seat! Ok, it was at the side of the theatre, but quite close to the stage and I had a great view of the orchestra - that's a seat worth checking out in future.

The performance was fine; the orchestra was struggling in places (a rather rough obligato for two violins), but with the very fine cellist of Musica Humana who was playing non-stop (more than anyone else apart from the organist) it was held together well; they tried to play in the historically correct style, too. Some of the singers had some intonation problems; the counter-tenor (Charles Humphries) singing a tenor role (seems a bit over the top, using a countertenor for this) in his second aria produced some melismas which reminded me of the histrionic singer in the original version of La Cage Aux Folles (film) - it's the most politically correct way of saying this.... But the diction was great and it was easy, in general, to understand the words (I've been in a choir of this myself, and I know the piece well, maybe that helped, too). The evangelist (Kestutis Alcauskas?) was wonderful!

I felt sorry for the choir who in every appearance had to stand there, holding the right hand up as if they were holding a glass of wine - some of those appearances were so long that I wondered if someone had given them false arms to make it easier, but it seems not. What if someone's nose had started to itch? And then there was the woman dancer who, it seems, was representing something akin to inner conflicts, and was rushing about all over the place, in the same stylised kind of way that all other movements were, by everyone.

The penultimate chorus, 'Ruht wohl', was too fast (Rolf Beck conducting; seems to do a lot of it in Vilnius these days). I don't know what it is that makes these so fast (it was the same in the St Matthew's passion in the Filharmonija last year) - if a guy has just died, and maybe his soul is still in his body, he wants to 'ruhen' (rest), not take off at a sprint!