Proms FrockWatch: Anne Sofie von Otter and Felicity Lott

By Greg Last edited 161 months ago
Proms FrockWatch: Anne Sofie von Otter and Felicity Lott

As we walked out of the Royal Albert Hall at the interval of last Friday's performance of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, we pondered which was more shocking: the fact that a hall packed

with several thousand punters was forced to wait a full hour for the concert to begin while the technical staff of the Royal Albert Hall attempt to stop a high-pitched whine of microphone

feedback, or the fact that Anne Sofie von Otter (pictured)was wearing a flowing gown of oversized paisley print. With puffy sleeves!

Okay, clearly the first was more shocking, for while we were informed by the management of the hall that the high-pitched whine "had never happened before", Madame von Otter has been

known to wear bizarre shouldn't-work-but-they-do outfits on many occasions in the past. It is, we suspect, a Scandanavian thing.

The evening got off to a bad start, when we were informed that the revered conductor we had come to hear, Neeme Järvi, was "unwell" and was replaced by the diminutive Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. (Those of us who read Heat immediately began to speculate about the nature of the indisposition — Rehab? Bulemia? Plastic surgery?) This also occasioned the wholesale deletion of Eduard Tubin's Toccata from the program.

After the jump: Dame Felicity Lott makes us cry.

The orchestra and conductor were on stage ready to begin before it became clear that the quiet, yet ear-piercing feedback was not going to go away. After five minutes, maestro Dudamel left the stage. Twenty minutes later, the orchestra did the same. The punters made the most of a rather irritating situation, particularly that adorable but perhaps a bit too amused-with-themselves clique of arena prommers who collect money for musical charities and speak in unison during the interval. "Arena to audience" they announced, in unison, "the Tubin has been replaced by Stockhausen" Ha ha! (Not to be pedantic, but the feedback actually bore a much closer resemblance to certain site-specific installations by Swiss composer and sound-sculpture aritist Walter Fähndrich, but no one asked us.) Subsequent unison announcements were less amusing.

An hour later, the concert finally began. After a slightly bloodless reading of Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini (featuring, however, a truly astonishing clarinet solo by Urban Claesson), the mezzo-sporano of the moment arrived. Not just paisley, if we may reiterate: Oversized paisley. On a coral background. Or was it salmon? Blood-orange? Plunging ruffly neckline; no discernable waist. Somehow, it worked. Another thing that worked was her reading of the Mahler Rückert-Lieder. Full, yet intimate, lyrical, but with consonants that cut like a knife.

We had a romantic rendez-vous at 9:30, and with the concert an hour behind schedule we skipped out of the Sibelius Symphony No. 5. (A girl's gotta have priorities...) If any Londonist readers

stayed until the end, please post your thoughts in the comments.

Then this afternoon, Dame Felicity Lott presented a program of French song at Turducken Cordogan Hall. She wore a long cream skirt under a stiff bodice adorned with a pink-on-pink appliqué and some discreet sequins. And, as if we needed to tell you, a string

of pearls. We hate to use the word, but no other is quite right: she looked flawless.

Rarely have we been so struck dumb by recital. Her voice is no longer young; her diction isn't perfect either; but I had a hard time, in the moment, of imagining these songs ever sung better. The utter evenness of the phrases, the perfectly timed swells, the sense of complete spontaneity and complete control — she showed us how it should be done, and when she, in her second encore (Poulenc's "Les chemins d'amour") she reached the line "Chemins du désespoir/Chemins du souvenir"... we admit it, we reached for a tissue.

This week at the Proms: Everyone's favourite California surfer-boy Kent Nagano conducts Bruckner on Wednesday, Nielsen's amazing Fifth Symphony on an all-Scandinavian program Friday, and perhaps Senegal's most famous singer, Baaba Maal, in a late-night prom on Saturday.

Last Updated 09 August 2005