Monday, July 29, 2013

Bayreuth Festival, Siegfried

Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Jujly 29th, 2013

Siegfried - Lance Ryan
Mime - Burkhard Ulrich
Der Wanderer - Wolfgang Koch
Alberich - Martin Winkler
Fafner - Sorin Coliban
Erda - Nadine Weissmann
Brünnhilde - Catherine Foster
Waldvogel - Mirella Hagen
Conductor - Kirill Petrenko
Director - Frank Castorf
Sets - Aleksandar Denic
Costumes - Adriana Braga Peretzki
Lighting - Rainer Caspar
Video - Andreas Deinert, Jens Crull

Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

I'd been all set to eat my hat and concede that Frank Castorf is a genius, I really had.
But then in the final scene of Siegfried, two giant crocodiles crawled on stage, copulated and proceeded to eat the Forest Bird.

My initial reaction was to agree with someone behind me who complained that they really felt someone was "taking the piss." 
After a night's reflection, however, I hoped there could be more to Castorf's reading. But he certainly doesn't make it easy for the audience.

The first two acts had been superb, easily the most gripping and successful of Castorf's Ring so far. 
In the first, Mime brings up Siegfried in a caravan at the foot of Mount Rushmore. But it's not the heads of former US presidents that are carved into the cliff face, but those of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

Siegfried, who literally grows up in the shadow of the different faces of communism, has become a seedy little gangster (like his grandfather Wotan in Das Rheingold). He dresses like a pimp, has long, slicked-back hair and wears clunky neckchains.

He and Mime keep a slave chained like a dog to their caravan, reminiscent of Lucky in Waiting for Godot.

In Act 2, we encounter Der Wanderer and Alberich, easily recognisable as the two sleazeballs we first met in Castorf's Tarantino-like Rheingold. And Fafner is another ganglord, this time wasting money on tacky gifts for his hookers in Berlin, Alexanderplatz.
(That's actually where we briefly see the crocodiles for the first time,  But there is so much going on at the time that they go almost unnoticed.)

In Die Walküre,  Castorf  whisked us away to Baku, Azerbaijan. Here, we're back on more familiar territory, at least for those who had experienced a divided Germany and who recognised Alexanderplatz in East Berlin with the distinctive facade of the Centrum Warenhaus department store, the World Time Clock and the underground and suburban train stations.

(However, I did ask myself whether non-Germans would recognise and understand the very specific historical references.)

Communist East Germany was ruled -- Castorf was telling us -- by the same gangsters and small-time criminals.that we had seen in the Golden Motel on Route 66 in the capitalist USA in Das Rheingold,

The weapon that Siegfried forges in Act 1 is not Nothung the sword, but a Kalashnikov rifle, which he uses to mow down Fafner. And he stabs Mime to death with a switchblade.

Just as in the first two parts of the Ring, Aleksandar Denic's sets take your breath away, as intricately and meticulously designed and visually arresting as they are.
And unlike in Die Walküre, Castorf's direction was consistent and thoughtful, utterly believeable in its careful recreation of a gangster milieu.

I was hooked.
Even when Siegfried tries to hump the Forest Bird -- cast here as a dancer from the carnival in Rio -- and things then get really graphic in Scene 1 of Act 3 when Der Wanderer forces Erda, a whore, to perform fellatio on him.

Here, it seemed, Castorf was not merely the notorious shocker and provocateur, but a thinking man's director who could tell a good story with the fast, breathless pace of a gangster movie.

But then, suddenly, things got very weird. 
In their final love scene on Alexanderplatz, Siegfried gets drunk and practically ignores Brünnhilde -- who stands forlornly in her wedding dress -- and the two giant crocodiles appear.

The story had been  so grippingly told, the milieu so convincingly recreated that you could almost overlook the little inconsistencies that arose between the libretto, the music and Castorf's updating of the story.
But he then completely threw us all with this surreal, bizarre final scene.

For the first time in this bicentenary Ring, I felt like joining in the deafening chorus of boos (which I didn't, I hasten to add). 

I still wanted to clutch on to the hope that someone like Castorf doesn't introduce such elements for no reason. He was trying to tell us something.
On my daily morning run, I had plenty of time to try and figure out what.

On both occasions before the crocodiles appear -- in Act 2 in the scene with Fafner and in the final scene of Act 3 -- the hyper-realistic Mount Rushmore set is transformed into a line drawing.
It's as if Castorf is preparing to take the characters -- and the audience -- away from the gritty realism of the movies to a more abstract, symbolic level.
And the crocodiles symbolised greed, eating and devouring everything in their way.

Siegfried is a user. And he is already bored with Brünnhilde, in contrast to the heroine who really is in love with the hero and is prepared to  marry him.
But he just swigs back the alcohol, bored and arrogant, and throws morsels of food to the crocodiles.
High up, we see a projection of the bloodied corpse of a blonde, dirndl-wearing woman mauled by an old man. 
Is this perhaps the fate that awaits Brünnhilde at the hands of Alberich at the end of Götterdämmerung?

Musically, there was little to complain about.
The singers were much more convincing than in the first two Ring instalments, notably Wolfgang Koch as Der Wanderer, Burkhard Ulrich as Mime and Martin Winkler as Alberich.

I've never been a great fan of Lance Ryan, whose loud, barking voice has little do with Heldentenor to my ears. But here, he seemed much better suited to the role of small-time gangster.
Nadine Weissmann was as impressive an Erda as she had been Das Rheingold and Mirella Hagen excellent as the Forest Bird. 

Catherine Foster's Brünnhilde is turning out to be a real discovery, too, less dramatic and more lyrical than usual in the role, but singing with great beauty.

Kirill Petrenko continues to astonish in the pit with a wonderfully nuanced and skilfully wrought reading.

It will now be interesting to see whether Castorf continues along this radical, highly symbolic meta-level in Götterdämmerung. If he does, he is sure to lose a great many of the audience.
But I'm sure that Castorf, being Castorf, isn't too concerned about that. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bayreuth Festival, Die Walküre

Festspielhaus, Bayreuth
July 27th, 2013

Siegmund - Johan Botha
Hunding - Franz-Josef Selig
Wotan - Wolfgang Koch
Sieglinde - Anja Kampe
Brünnhilde - Catherine Foster
Fricka - Claudia Mahnke

Gerhilde - Allison Oakes
Ortlinde - Dara Hobbs
Waltraute - Claudia Mahnke
Schwertleite - Nadine Weissmann
Helmwige - Christiane Kohl
Siegrune - Julia Rutigliano
Grimgerde - Geneviève King
Rossweisse - Alexandra Petersamer

Conductor - Kirill Petrenko
Director - Frank Castorf
Sets - Aleksandar Denic
Costumes - Adriana Braga Peretzki
Lighting - Rainer Caspar
Video - Andreas Deinert, Jens Crull

Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

Following a Rheingold that was full-to-bursting with exciting new ideas, Frank Castorf obviously decided to go for a few long, cold beers during Die Walküre.

The singers were practically left to fend for themselves, particularly in Act 2, in another breathtakingly opulent set by Aleksandar Denic -- this time a wooden-framed oil rig in Baku, Azerbaijan at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Not that a Siegmund of Johan Botha's size and stature can do much moving around onstage, anyway, let alone run through a forest in a storm, flee with Sieglinde and then fight to the death with Hunding.

But there was so much singing at the ramp that -- were it not for Denic's magnificent set -- we might not have been in Wagner's Holy of Holies at all, but watching a tired and dusty repertoire production anywhere in the world.

OK, there was Castorf's now all-too-familiar use of live video projection to reveal what is going on somewhere deep inside the set.
We see Sieglinde slipping sleeping potion into Hunding's drink and then their abortive love-making before Hunding nods off and Sieglinde sneaks down to Siegmund.

There are also faux newsreels of Russia during Stalin's time. 

For some reason, we also see a woman eating a cream cake, first daintily with a spoon, then with her bare fingers and finally greedily gorging herself on it. 
A dress is also delivered to her as a gift.
But quite who she is, or why we should care never really becomes apparent.

She wanders onto the stage during Wotan's scene with Fricka  in Act 2, to be angrily waved away by him.
Is she simply one of his infidelities and floozies, the reason for the breakdown of his marriage?

Nevertheless, the use of video  is nowhere near as intrusive as in Rheingold.

There, it was easy to get distracted from the music.
Here, the relative lack of action finally allowed us to sit back and listen to the music and appreciate the sensitivity and elasticity of Kirill Petrenko's conducting
Here seems to be a great Ring conductor in the making, a  musician with a fine sense for the overall architecture of the score, but one who also really listens to the singers and lets them breathe, never allowing the orchestra to drown them. 

It's just a shame that Bayreuth hasn't been able to line up a better cast to do him justice.

No matter how generous I try to be and even allowing for premiere nerves, Wolfgang Koch is no Wotan, at least not one worthy of Bayreuth, just as Claudia Mahnke isn't suited to Fricka.

With a gripping pair of actor-singers, such as I heard in Bryn Terfel and Sarah Connolly in London's recent Ring, who have the necessary scope and nobility of tone, the breakdown of their marriage at the start of Act 2 can be heart-breaking.

But here, Textverständlichkeit was far from optimal and Koch, in particular, seemed more concerned with merely getting to the end than coaxing any particular meaning out of the words.
Wotan's monologue was every bit as boring as people frequently complain it can be and -- without any supporting direction from Castorf -- dragged interminably.

Bayreuth's new
British Brünnhilde Catherine Foster is much more lyrical than we're used to in this role.
Hers is a lovely voice and the ease with which she sang her opening Hojotohos was impressive and boded well. 
But she remained so underpowered in Act 2 that she was -- unjustly -- booed at the intermission.
Neverthless, it soon became apparent that she had  been saving herself, because she switched on the drama in the final act without ever sounding squally or overtaxed.

Act 1 is, of course, everyone's favourite part of the Ring and Botha, Anja Kampe and Franz-Josef Selig magnificently did it justice. With singing like that, the lack of personenregie didn't really matter.
The Valkyries were all fine, too, and it was here in Act 3 that the stage came to life, finally. 

Rheingold must be the easiest part of the Ring to stage because there is so actually a story to tell, while Die Walküre and Siegfried have less to offer in the way of real action.
But after the almost over-busy Vorabend, it really felt as if Castorf had got bored and gone AWOL.

So it will be intriguing to see how he handles the next instalment on Monday or whether he skives off again here, too.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Bayreuth Festival, Das Rheingold

Festspielhaus, Bayreuth
July 26th, 2013

Wotan - Wolfgang Koch
Donner - Oleksandr Pushniak
Froh - Lothar Odinius
Loge - Norbert Ernst
Fricka - Claudia Mahnke
Freia - Elisabet Strid
Erda - Nadine Weismann
Alberich - Martin Winkler
Mime - Burkhard Ulrich
Fasolt - Günther Groissböck
Fafner - Sorin Coliban
Woglinde - Mirella Hagen
Wellgunde - Julia Rutigliano
Flosshilde - Okka von der Damerau

Conductor - Kirill Petrenko
Director - Frank Castorf
Sets - Aleksandar Denic
Costumes - Adriana Braga Peretzki
Lighting - Rainer Caspar
Video - Andreas Deinert, Jens Crull

Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

The only production by Frank Castorf that I've ever seen was Dostoyevsky's Der Spieler, which was so excruciating -- with the actors relentlessly shouting their lines (that is when they didn't forget them), belching and generally making pigs of themselves -- that I left in the interval.

So it was with some trepidation that I came to Bayreuth this year to see his new staging of the Ring, one of his very few forays into opera.

Nevertheless, if the tantalising glimpses of brilliance that characterised long stretches of Rheingold can be sustained over the next three parts, we could be in for something really special. 

Of course, there are stretches, too, which don't work quite so well and where Castorf appears to lose momentum or interest.
But his main premise -- of casting Wagner's Nordic tale of gods, demi-gods, giants and dwarves as a modern-day gangster movie that combines the look and feel of Quentin Tarantino with the weirdness of David Lynch -- is surprisingly cogent.

As the curtain rises, we find ourselves not on the banks of the River Rhine, but in a sleazy motel on America's iconic Route 66.

The Rheintöchter are brassy blonde prostitutes who lounge on deckchairs at the side of the motel's seedy little pool, swigging vodka out of a bottle and grilling sausages on a barbecue.
Alberich and Mime are both pimps and Wotan a gangster whom we first encounter having a threesome with Fricka and Freia.
Fasolt and Fafner are violent thugs armed with baseball bats who clearly bear a grudge towards Wotan and threaten to smash up his Mercedes and kidnap Freia unless Wotan repays his debts.

The set by Aleksandar Denic, which revolves to show alternatively the motel and a petrol station cum convenience store and bar, is a jaw-dropping masterpiece.

Castorf wouldn't be Castorf if he didn't have multiple video cameras placed at different vantage points around the set to project images of what's going on behind the scenes on to a giant screen on the motel's roof.  

And there is so much going on all the time that is easy to get distracted from the music.

But like lots of updatings, Castorf's reading has its weak points, too. 
There is a clear mis-match between the stage and what the characters are singing about.
There is no Valhalla, no Nibelheim and  no Rhinegold for Alberich to steal.

Puzzlingly, Alberich and Mime are already bound and gagged by Wotan and Loge when the latter "arrive"in Nibelheim, which is actually only a cramped caravan that Alberich calls home.

And in the crucial scene where Wotan wrests the ring from Alberich and the Nibelung utters his catastrophic curse, all three protagonists are comfortably relaxing in deckchairs.

But most of the time, Castorf's concept is intelligent and illuminating.

Sadly, the singers are another weak point.
Wolfgang Koch sings well, but with his slim, lightweight baritone, is simply miscast as Wotan.
Norbert Ernst made his name as David in Meistersinger, but hasn't the slippery wiliness that the part of Loge demands.

Martin Winkler also lacks the range and depth to really convince as Alberich.

The women fare better, particularly Claudia Mahnke, an ensemble member in Frankfurt, as Fricka, Elisabet Strid as Freia and Nadine Weissman as Erda.

The giants and the Rhinemaidens were also well cast.

Castorf and his team didn't show themselves when the curtain came down and the all-too-predictable storm of boos was unleashed.
But I think it's usual in Bayreuth for the leading team to do so only when the Ring is complete.
I can't imagine Castorf is chickening out in any way.

But the Bayreuthers have clearly fallen in love already with Kirill Petrenko, making his debut here.
I heard him conduct the by now legendary Ring in Meiningen about 10 years ago but can't, to be honest, remember much about it.

It's his first time in Bayreuth and he is clearly still finding his feet.
The prelude didn't always flow as readily as one could have hoped, but he soon picked up the tension and gave a nicely balanced reading, always attentive to the singers.
It'll be interesting to hear what he does with Die Walküre tomorrow.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bayreuth Festival Opening Night, Der fliegende Holländer

Festspielhaus, Bayreuth

July 25th, 2013

Daland - Franz-Josef Selig
Senta - Ricarda Merbeth
Erik -  Tomislav Mužek
Mary - Christa Mayer
Der Steuermann - Benjamin Bruns
Der Holländer - Samuel Youn

Conductor - Christian Thielemann
Director - Jan Philipp Gloger
Sets - Christof Hetzer
Costumes - Karin Jud
Lighting - Urs Schönebaum
Video - Martin Eidenberger

Orchestra and chorus of the Bayreuth Festival

I didn't much like Jan Philipp Gloger's staging of Der fliegende Holländer when it premiered at the Bayreuth Festival last year.
I found his decision to update the action to the present merely gratuitous and it offered no new insights.
Casting the Dutchman as a snappily-suited businessman who makes his first appearance with a trolley suitcase and a Starbucks coffee in his hand was simply gimmicky.

Admittedly, the opening scene is visually impressive: Daland and the Steersman are adrift in a small dinghy in some gigantic super-computer.
But that is as strong as the production gets.
And it's all downhill from there.

OK, there are some nice touches: the spinning scene is a factory floor where the women pack portable electric fans. And Erik is the factory's handyman and a likeable loser.
But that's about it.
Gloger's "reinterpretation" might be acceptable in an ambitious opera house somewhere in the provinces, but worthy of Bayreuth's fabled Green Hill it certainly was not.

For its first revival as opening night of the Bicentenary Bayreuth Festival, Gloger has added a few changes.
But they're primarily cosmetic -- Senta's dress is now black instead of red. And, artistic free spirit that she is, she splashes black paint on the cardboard sculpture she makes while the other factory girls sing their spinning song.
The model she makes isn't of the Dutchman's ship, either, as it was a year ago. But of the Dutchman himself, looking more than a little like an artwork by Stephan Balkenhol.
And the cardboard wings she pins on to become the Dutchman's "angel" were not the childish butterfly wings we saw last year, but larger more sinister black ones, turning her into some sort of Angel of Death.

Video projections have been added to, massive globs of black paint that dribble down the factory walls.

Maybe because I've now seen the production three times -- twice last year and once this year -- I found the storyline more coherent than on the first encounter.

The Dutchman is a businessman of limitless wealth, but suffering from existential ennui and the general emptiness of modern life, self-mutilating, bored by money and freely available sex.
Senta is the spoilt daughter of a factory owner who doesn't hesitate to pair her off with a wealthy suitor.

Nevertheless, Gloger's updating still comes across as a little trite and I left asking myself, "So what?".

Vocally, the evening was similarly unspectacular, and a long way short of festspielwürdig.
Last year's Senta, Adrianne Pieczonka, is in a completely different league to Ricarda Merbeth, who only ever sounded really comfortable in her middle range. And she has a distracting wobble.

Samuel Youn simply hasn't got the vocal clout needed for the Holländer, and his intonation was frequently off, as it had been last year, too.
Franz-Josef Selig was much more satisfactory as Daland.
But it was Tomislav Mužek as Erik and Benjamin Bruns as the Steersman who both really stood out.

Bruns' voice is light, but has a pleasant burnish to it, and his diction was always clear.
Mužek was suitably plaintive as the downtrodden Erik, a big bulky bear of a man.

It almost goes without saying in Bayreuth that it was Christian Thielemann who really stole the show.

The Dutchman, for him, is no "Sturm und Drang" piece and his orchestra never sounds brash or loud.
Every detail and dynamic is carefully and expertly shaded, but never exaggeratedly so.

It seems that Thielemann can never do wrong in Bayreuth, anyway, just as he can't in Vienna.
But he deservedly got the most rapturous reception at the end of the evening.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rheingau Musik Festival: Britten, War Requiem

July 18, 2013

Kloster Eberbach, Basilika

Christoph Prégardien - tenor
Thomas E. Bauer - baritone
Susanne Bernhard - soprano

Bachchor Mainz
Chor der Hochschule für Musik Mainz
Mainzer Domchor

Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern

Ralf Otto - conductor

Would it not be for the War Requiem, I've a nagging feeling the Britten Centenary would pass almost unnoticed in Germany.
OK, in this neck of the woods, Karlsruhe and Mannheim are staging, at the very end of their 2012/2013 seasons, Peter Grimes and Turn of the Screw respectively. And both productions are thankfully being revived in September, so I hope to see them then.
But inexplicably, Frankfurt Opera has shunned Britten completely both this season and next, surprising given its very solid Britten pedigree, with a memorable Owen Wingrave a few seasons ago and a perfectly presentable Death in Venice
And it doesn't feel as if performances of Britten's concert works -- never really a mainstay of German programming anyway -- have been any more numerous this year than in the past.

Except, that is, for his op. 66.
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra gave two blistering performances under Mariss Jansons with Christian Gerhaher, Mark Padmore and Emily Magee in March.
And then followed the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle with soloists Matthias Goerne, John Mark Ainsley and Emily Magee in June.
Here's hoping that one or both of the concerts will be released on CD at some point.

Of course, the apparent rush of interest in the War Requiem in the centenary year is gratifying for someone  who used to drive his family to distraction as a schoolboy by repeatedly replaying a scratched and worn set of LPs of the composer's still unrivalled recording but didn't experience a live performance until much later. (If I remember correctly, it was under André Previn in the Royal Festival Hall in the late 80s.)
Since then, performances haven't really been ten-a-penny, even if the list of recordings continues to grow steadily.

Following the Munich performances in March and, after having missed the Berlin concerts in June, I must admit to having had some misgivings about what seemed a bit of B-grade line-up for a performance in Kloster Eberbach as part of this year's Rheingau Musik Festival.

I've never consciously heard the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern before, nor the conductor Ralf Otto.
I've long admired Christoph Prégardien as a Lied singer, even if his voice has aged noticeably in recent years. And whether he still had the vocal range for the demanding tenor part, not to mention a requisite command of English for Wilfred Owen's poems, was, in my mind, open to question.
I've always been very impressed by baritone Thomas E. Bauer the few times I've heard him in Austria.
But the soprano soloist, Susanne Bernhard, was a new name to me.

So it all seemed a bit of a mixed bag.  And with those two moving Munich concerts still very much in my ear, there was ample room for disappointment.
And then, of course, there were the acoustics.

As spectacular a setting the former Cistercian monastery in Eberbach is in the beautiful wine-growing area of the Rheingau, as a concert hall it is dire. And I've boycotted it ever since the misery of hearing a performance of Bach's B-minor Mass by John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi forces transformed into a distant, indifferentiable gloop of sound.

When I looked, only the cheapest tickets were still available online, which meant sitting somewhere at the back in a side aisle -- not an option at all.
So, when I called the hotline on an off-chance and was offered a top-price ticket in the front row, I didn't hestitate.

Things also began to look (or sound) up as I queued to collect my ticket.
The choir and orchestra were having a warm-up in the basilica and from outside, it sounded very promising.

Audiences in Eberbach aren't the most discerning or open-minded and I'd wager that only a handful had ever actually heard a work by Britten before, let alone the War Requiem.
So I steeled myself psychologically for a fair amount of fidgeting and bored leafing through the programme.

The basilica must be one of the only concert halls in the world where the risk of interruption by a swallow's cry is greater than the danger of a mobile phone going off.
The swallows nest in the apse high above where the orchestra is seated.
And their chirping was the only sound to be heard before the opening bars of the Requiem aeternam.

It immediately became apparent that my favourable impression of the snatches of the "Anspielprobe" I'd heard outside was correct.

Ralf Otto, chief conductor of the Bachchor Mainz, the main chorus of the evening, was in perfect control, with secure and astutely judged tempi, given the cavernous acoustics.

The small stage was crowded, with the chamber orchestra forming an inner circle around the conductor in the middle of the full-scale symphony orchestra.
The boys' voices were placed slightly behind to the right, in a side aisle.
Not really an ideal set-up for the contrasting sound-worlds that Britten had in mind.
Surely in a space as cavernous as this, more imagination could have been put into the positioning of the different ensembles instead of huddling them all together.
It certainly might have helped overcome some of the basilica's acoustical difficulties.

Prégardien proved to be the biggest surprise of the evening.
His voice does not have the ease or gleam it used to have in the top register.
But as well as being a consummate Lied singer, he is exemplary in oratorio, particularly as the Evangelist in Bach's Passions.
His experience and near faultless diction served him well here.
While his voice no longer has the shine and beauty of younger Britten tenors, this was a truly searing performance.
The final single rising line in the Agnus Dei -- "Dona nobis pacem" (the tenor's only snippet  of Latin text) -- was all the more moving precisely because Prégardien's voice cracked at the pianissimo top.

Baritone Thomas E. Bauer is much younger and his voice more supple and beautiful.
His German accent was also more audible than Prégardien's, but since Britten originally wrote the part for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau -- and it has become something of a tradition to give it to a German singer -- that was fine.

His is still a comparatively small voice, so I'm not sure Bauer would have been audible much further back. But his and Prégardien's interpretation of the final Wilfred Owen poem, "Strange Meeting", was suitably moving.

Just as Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau have still never been matched in the work, no soprano has ever surpassed Galina Vishnevskaya, either.
Susanne Bernhard has a nicely rounded voice, full and even across the range, but nowhere dramatic enough for this part.
In fact, according to the programme notes, Bernhard seems to specialise in lighter, more lyrical roles such as Susanna or Sophie, so one senses she was a little miscast here.

Indeed, situated further back behind the orchestra and in front of the choir, she also had trouble making herself heard at times and was totally drowned out in the closing pages of the Libera me where the soprano line should really soar.

The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern may not be the Berlin Philharmonic or the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, but acquitted themselves very ably. The chamber orchestra in particular seemed tuned in to Britten's idiom.
No complaints either about the Bachchor Mainz, which was always alert, every word clearly audible.

Predictably, the Eberbach audience -- here for the event rather than the music -- gave the performance standing ovations.
But it should be noted that the most vocal shouters of "Bravo" were precisely those who had flipped endlessly and noisily through their programmes for most of the evening and shattered the magical closing silence with premature applause.
Enough said?