What can you say when a production is this good, except ‘Wow!’?It takes a theatre as prestigious as our premier national opera house to stage a show of such high quality.
Which other venue could match the sumptuousness of the costumes, the solidity of the sets, the subtlety of the lighting? Excellent as these theatrical devices were however, for opera, it all depends on the singing.
Settled into Row D, I had come to see the current world number one tenor, Jonas Kaufman, but I got so much more. He delivered on expectations for the voice, the acting and the charisma, but it was the depth of quality throughout the whole cast that was astonishing.
I had initial doubts about about Eva-Maria Westbroek as Maddalena (I have to admit it, she did not look right for the part to me) but they were blown away as she matched Kaufman note for note.
As the tumbrel waited at the prison gate in the finale, her Sidney Carton-like sacrifice was highly affecting.
The revelation of the evening was Zeljko Lucic as Gerard.
From his first appearance as the malcontent servant, secretly in love with Maddelena, to the later stalwart of the Revolution, his powerful baritone and brooding presence dominated the stage. If A Tale of Two Cities was one inspiration for Giardino, then Pucccini’s Baron Scarpia was another.
What more can you say about Antonio Pappano?
The man never puts a foot wrong. He extracted the maximum from the orchestra, the huge chorus and the soloists. Whatever they are paying him, it is not enough.
Director David McVicar gave us an evening to satisfy the most ardent of traditionalists.
His reputation is more commonly associated with re-imagining the standard repertoire.
Was he doing it just to prove his total command of the the genre? If so, he succeeded.
I suspect that Modernists will have gone home shaking their heads.
The normally reticent Live Streaming audience loved it, caught up in the power of what was happening on-screen.
For once, we joined in the applause of the Royal Opera House audience, feeling slightly foolish, but also much more part of the experience.
By Mike Tilling