View from the "Gods" Royal Opera House 7:25 pm Wednesday February 3 2016
L'Etoile, Emmanuel Chabrier's absurdist and frothy romp, one of the most delightful of the many lesser known corners of the French 19th century repertoire, finally arrived at the Royal Opera House on Monday. I was there for the second performance yesterday, sitting high up in the "Gods" - where I spent so many happy hours during my teen years in the 1950s when company artists such as Jon Vickers and Joan Sutherland were appearing on routine evenings. Now, as then, it is the regular haunt of the rather young and the rather old. I have made the leap!
It was an enjoyable evening, enhanced by a chance encounter with my great niece who is now working in the opera business following graduation from York. The enchanting score, studded with jewels only an impeccable miniaturist such as Chabrier could have created, was the thing - sometimes buried I felt perhaps by non stop business on the stage in the rather large Covent Garden. But there were two particularly striking performances to make the trip to see this piece above average - a wonderful Canadian soprano Hélène Guilmette as Laoula, and Kate Lindsey as Lazuli - the one with the show stopping number Ô petite étoile.
Guilmette is a rare vocal beauty - wonderfully beguiling sound to stop the heart - and a complete performer. I see she will be Héro in Glyndebourne's Béatrice et Bénédict this coming summer. That may well also be worth the trip! And Kate Lindsey stole our hearts too - that she made me think of Frederica von Stade is a compliment not an adverse comparison! But Flicka would indeed have been, and was, a superlative Lazuli........
The rest of the largely French or Canadian cast (notably Christophe Mortagne, François Piolino, Julie Boulianne, and Aimery Lefèvre) were into it with impeccable style - these pieces require authenticity if they are to be exported/imported. But somehow like Swiss wine (as Hugues Gall was fond of saying) they do not always travel well. I think that by and large it is better to leave them as they are and not try to be helpful to the English audience by introducing Holmes and Watson and Eurostar into the plot!
But I am so thrilled that Covent Garden brought this delicacy to town - and with the music in the hands of the remarkable Mark Elder, refined, elegant, deliciously pointed playing elicited from the Covent Garden Orchestra, we must be more than just grateful.