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So how was your devil? Two critics at opposite extremes

Like most of the world, I hid under the bed when Covent Garden announced a Laurent Pelly production of Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable. Into every life a little Meyerbeer must fall, and mine has taken its fill.

Others, however, ventured forth. They got home very late and slept in this morning. First reviews have just appeared.

Edward Seckerson hated pretty much every endless, long minute of it.

Igor Toronyi-Lalic raved about ‘a surprise winter hit’.

Go figure. (Or wait for Fiona on Sunday).

UPDATE: Ah, here she is.

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  1. Charles Rosen writes perceptively on Meyerbeer in his book ‘ The Romantic Generation’
    ” The charges against Meyerbeer are heavy : his melodies are undistinguished, his harmony commonplace, the rhythm repetitive. None of these assertions is false, although many honorable exceptions can be found to each, but it makes one wonder how such despicable means enabled him to construct such long sequences of extraordinary effectiveness in the operas from 1830 onward”

  2. Andrew Powell says:

    In the space of a few London months, Bryan Hymel has substituted for both Jonas Kaufmann (in the Berlioz) and Juan Diego Flórez (in the Meyerbeer). Either he’s Superman or the Fach gurus need to merge some of their cells!

    … or the ROH should not have been casting Kaufmann and Flórez in the first place.

    • Kundry's Therapist says:

      Kaufmann will certainly work his way to Enée in time. Florez would have been inaudible as Robert. Yes it has high notes galore, but it’s for a much heavier voice and Florez probably worked out very quicly that it is too far from anything else he sings….

  3. Nothing new here Norman. Punters and Musicians have huge discrepancies of opinions. Never ceases to amaze me. Meeting the players after a performance of Mahler with the LSO under Boulez. The range of opinions went from the performance being an abomination to genius conducting!!! Personally I would have agreed with the former, but musicians who I greatly respect thought it was fantastic. It’s all about the terms of reference of the listener and what he/she brings to the table. :)

  4. I went yesterday, and the extremely mundane score is a huge stumbling block.
    Anna Picard in the Observer spoke of ‘Mozartian cadences’….if only this had been the case.
    However, I’m glad the ROH mounted the opera, as this is a work of considerable historical significance.

  5. I enjoyed it, mostly. It’s such a strangely inconsistent work, as if either written by committee or by a composer with his mind partly on other things. Some parts are staggeringly good – an unaccompanied trio for singers in particular seems to point all the way to the twentieth century (and Hymel poured meltingly soft high – as in stratospheric – notes out of nowhere, there as elsewhere). Others, such as most of the last act (in which the hero is caught between the devil and the deep blue heaven, for ages – make a decision!) and some of the first, are deeply routine. But it’s well worth seeing; as Norman suggests, nobody is likely to be left sitting on the fence. Oh, and there’s a group of nymphomaniac undead nuns, which always enlivens any opera.

  6. I’m going on Saturday…and wanted to see it simply because it’s never likely to be performed again in my lifetime. I was also tired of ENO’s dull English translations, but that’s another story. I’m looking upon it as An Experience – rather like the Messiaen St Francis, semi-staged at the Proms at couple of years ago!

    • I found Messiaen’s St. Francis gripping on a musical level, and i don’t count myself a huge fan of his music.
      By contrast Meyerbeer’s pitch content perilously dull, though i’d agree that texturally he pushes the bounderies: the unaccompanied trio which James Inverne mentions is a case in point.

      Tate Britain’s exhibition of John Martin a few years back was similarly enlightening from an historical point of view. Once acclaimed artist who has fallen out of fashion.

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