Can you imagine if you ordered a 'trio of rare seafood' dish in a quay-side restaurant but before it came you were served a large course of pork and dumplings? You might justifiably think this was an odd balance in menu planning. Less meat and potatoes and more of the subtle fish you were expecting, you might very well demand. Now, imagine. that without a by your leave, your maitre d' plonked an observer with a camera at your table to film your grub for a promotional video to market his restaurant, I suggest that you might be less than happy.
Which brings me to an evening titled Voices to Thrill at the NCH on Friday. There was an embarrassment of vocal riches as the RTE NSO engaged not just one but three leading international sopranos. Tara Erraught darling of the Bavarian State Opera was joined by Ailish Tynan, doyenne of London scene and Dublin's favourite soprano, Celine Byrne. All three girls looked radiant and you couldn't imagine them looking or sounding any better. Tynan sang Mozart's Exultate Jubilate as though her hear would burst with the sheer joy of it all. In the trio from final scene of Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss, the formidable vocal team knocked us out with sheer beauty of tone and seemingly effortless expression in this highlight of late Romantic opera. The orchestra under Buribayev after a slightly overblown opening found a comfortable dynamic that supported the singers without overpowering them. A fabulous evening at a sold out house and one to remember for years to come.
There was a sour note though among the opera gala crowd in my area in the stalls as we headed for our interval saunter without a titter of vocal action in a programme title that suggested otherwise. Why engage three of the most sought after sopranos and leave them twiddling their thumbs in the dressing room until the second half of the evening. Which bring me back to the pork and dumplings While the gals cooled their heels, the RTE NSO dished up a large dollop of Teutonic symphonic fare in Brahms 4th Symphony. Good solid stuff but just not what I was in the mood for. There were lots of singers and opera buffs in the house and judging by the interval chatter, my view was not an isolated one. Moreover , throughout the playing of the symphony, a video camera man and photographer were placed slap bang in the centre of choir gallery to record the proceedings without a by your leave. This might be alright if the performance were a cut price matinee but not for a full price gala occasion. The following evening, a performer asked for the audience's indulgence to film a 5 minute sequence during his live show. At the end of the evening, Vladimir Jablokov thanked his audience at the Theatre Royal Waterford and repeated the number for the audience to enjoy it without the distraction of cameras, a small but significant courtesy.