SEX, VIOLENCE AND RIGOUR

Les Troyens.jpg

This Season: for his classical music choice, Michael Church selects two productions by David McVicar, including an Olympian one...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2012

David McVicar—46, Glaswegian and notoriously wary of the press—is now director of choice at all the world’s great opera houses, yet there’s absolutely no sense of a production line. Each show is freshly and boldly imagined—even if, like his production of “Die Meistersinger” at Glyndebourne last year, it shocks everyone with its old-fashioned naturalistic charm. He is more likely to shock in the other direction, as with the sex orgy in his Covent Garden “Rigoletto”. He often deploys violence, but never gratuitously: he’ll mine the text of a familiar classic with passionate rigour, and induce his singers to do the same.

Notoriously fuelled by anger, McVicar has had many hurdles to surmount, from his grim childhood, to his AIDS diagnosis, to the prevailing conservatism of the operatic establishment, notably in New York. But after therapy and the start of a solid relationship, what now powers him, he says, is love—both for opera and the people he makes it with. In March Scottish Opera, to whom he remains loyal, unveiled his new production of “The Rake’s Progress”. He is everywhere at Covent Garden, with his “Rigoletto” and “Salome” in revival, and a new production of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens” (above), touted by the Opera House as “an Olympian work to celebrate the London Olympics”.
Salome, Royal Opera, from May 31st; Les Troyens opens June 25th. www.roh.org.uk

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

Siegfried (Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, May 27th). Lance Ryan sings the title role, but the egregious Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke’s performance as Mime is likely to upstage him; Andreas Kriegenburg directs, Kent Nagano conducts.

Simon Rattle and the OAE (Southbank, London, June 10th). Returning with his beloved Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Britain’s expatriate superstar also ropes in Pierre-Laurent Aimard for Ravel’s extraordinary "Piano Concerto for the Left Hand".

Michael Church is the classical-music critic for the Independent

Photograph by Es Devlin