The theme for this weekend in the classical world is: Singers We Should Like, But Which Recent Press Coverage Has Made Us Skeptical Of.
Exhibit one: Xerxes at the ENO, which was supposed to open on Wednesday until it the whole show was cancelled due to required "stage maintenance". Uh, would that be "planned engineering work"? We're sorry, but when did London Underground take over the English National Opera?
Anyway, the real opening night will be tomorrow. The singer in
the title role the role of Arsamenes (oops), Lawrence Zazzo, sounds pretty exciting. His mini-profile in Time Out by Martin Hoyle (alas, not online) manages to be vacuous and exasperating at the same time. This quote is representative:
He does admit that English is 'the hardest language to sing in. I've wrestled with it more than with any other language' but sees there's 'a narrow path' getting words over without losing lyricism.
See what they did there? Moving from a blatant falsehood to an empty truism so fast we got rhetorical whiplash? Watch this space; we'll let you know how the opera is.
Meanwhile, over at Covent Garden, Un Ballo in maschera opened yesterday, with a fantastic-looking cast under the baton of living legend Charles Mackerras. The next performance in on Monday. The production stars Nina Stemme as Amelia, whom a profile in the Telegraph by Rupert Christiansen terms "one of the great dramatic sopranos of her generation." The profile's hook, though, is that she really just wants to stop this Verdi and Wagner nonsense and sing the ethereal, quiet herione of Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande. We suspect that this was an offhand remark on her part, that Christiansen blew up into the headline, but still... the comment sounds like the supermodel saying "if only I weren't so thin and beautiful." Shut. Up.
The best singing in London this weekend will almost certainly be the Sunday afternoon Wigmore Hall recital by the tiny, armless force of nature, Thomas Quasthoff, who has thankfully refrained from saying stupid things to the press recently. He's singing Die Shöne Müllerin. Trust us, this should make you all very, very excited. Good luck getting tickets, though — it's been sold out for weeks.
Image from DanielBowen.com