sun 18/08/2019

Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera | reviews, news & interviews

Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera

Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera

Agostino Steffani's baroque obscurity is an unmissable operatic revelation

An equivocal baddie: Véronique Gens as Niobe in a triumphant performanceBill Cooper

One after the other they came. Stunning aria after stunning aria. Affecting in their harmonies, infectious in their rhythms, arresting in their textures, vivid in their melodies. The Royal Opera had taken a mighty gamble with Agostino Steffani's 300-year-old Niobe, Regina di Tebe, a forgotten opera by a forgotten composer. But they were completely right to do so. For Niobe is a masterpiece. And last night's performance was a triumph.

The story was told, the touches of surreal genius were delivered. One couldn't ask for more

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ye gods, you must be joking - never been so bored in all my born days

Is this a review or an advertising pitch to the ROH ?

Loved it absolutely. Gorgeous music and great perfomace by everyone. Just amazing: I was totally transfixed by it

You really can't be serious calling it a masterpiece or the operatic revelation of the year! This has filled a slot for the ROH, quiet cheaply I suspect, while their orchestra is on tour. Midly interesting at best. I read the synopsis before going and still had no idea what was going on. Some of the production was pointless and stupid. Agree the best part was the conducting and orchestral playing and the thrilling high notes of the male soprano. But your review is totally over the top and needs to be a bit more balanced.

Wonderful and amazing production. A creative team which really worked so it was visually stunning, musically moving, constantly surprising - the audience was entranced. It was witty, sophisticated, glamorous - all the kinds of things I do not associate with baroque music. Agostino Steffani is not even in Kobbe so I did not know what to expect. On the edge of my seat for three and a half hours- what a treat!

Flew halfway around the globe to witness this event and found it well worth the trip. At times fascinating, intruiging, glorious music, occasionally palls but not enough to detract from what was on the whole a wonderful performance of this rarity. Very sad then, as seen from a few comments made here, that some patrons were seemingly incapable of appreciating what was undoubtedly a highly innovative, entertaining and clever production. Congratulations to all inlvolved.

For what it's worth I was also there and wholeheartedly shared Igor's enthusiasm (with a few more reservations about the male soprano). There were beautiful unfamiliar tunes, elegant visuals, and some astonishing playing going on in the pit. We need to stop being quite so knee-jerk suspicious about rediscovered works, or assuming that those who feel genuine enthusiasm are somehow engaging in an emperor's new opera type exercise. If those arias had been heard on ClassicFM everyone would have lapped them up.

I came away from the first night feeling disappointed despide the inventige staging. I felt little sympathy for the characters. I think it must have been the singers who often weren't up to the job in a large house, a notable exeption being the soprano Niobe. Jacek Laszczkowski had some beautiful music but I was concerned from the outset that he was saving his voice to ensure he made it to the end. It was interesting to hear the mini da capo arias as a foundation for more elaboate versions later from Handel, etc. If you want to hear magnificent male sopranos, try the William Christie DVD of Landi's Il Sant'Alessio. A unique work. Philippe Jaroussky is a revelation of Alfred Deller proportions.

I absolutely loved this work. Steffani's music is glorious - wonderful melodies, beauty of texture, gorgeous harmonies especially in the duets, originality, subtlety and sheer expressive power - in other words, just about all of the qualities which make Baroque music so appealing to us today. Hengelbrock and his orchestra sounded superb and played magnificently, and most of the singing and acting were well up to the task - my own favourites being Iestyn Davies, Amanda Forsythe and a truly wonderful Veronique Gens. Visually, the production has its ups (heavenly smoke and spheres) and downs (male costumes), but altogether the opera was an absolute delight. Just as well, because we travelled 400 miles to see it. In summary, please can we have more Steffani, from Covent Garden or anywhere else with the enterprise to perform it? Congratulations to Thomas Hengelbrock and to all concerned!

Ultimately I agree with the more positive punters, and I'm glad your review - and the raves of several students - prompted me to go, Igor. Only heard about three numbers in the first act of stunning originality, but the invention and the production's more haunting aspects proliferated in Acts 2 and 3 ( I dreamt celestial spheres last night). Committed singing from all, despite the Polish male soprano's bizarre technique and dematerialising middle range. So a personal note of gratitude for making me see something I'd otherwise have missed.

I absolutely loved the music and the singers - though I would really like to hear Michael Maniaci have a go at the male soprano role. However, I thought the staging was really crude and let the whole thing down. I have recently seen the Glyndebourne Fairy Queen and the ROH Artaxerxes in the Linbury and both were FAR better as far as staging went. Nevertheless, an event I really wouldn't have missed for anything. You could always shut your eyes - which I did. Also,sitting in the Upper Amphi, the surtitles were often blotted out by the fierce lighting below - did the director ever go that far up in the house to check?

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