Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Jacobin, BBCSO, Behlolavek, Barbican

Photo: Clive Barda for the BBC
The pasty grey of snow-bearing clouds began to disgorge themselves over London late on this afternoon so it seemed the perfect escape to dive into the bunker that is the Barbican concert hall for a performance of Dvorak's romantic comedy The Jacobin. It's a most parochial piece with half-hearted nationalism displaced to the margins by the fun and fulsome romance. At first it looks as if it's going to be a Czech version of Meistersinger, with the overture running straight into an off-stage chorus - the choir in church - followed by a short zoom to a couple united outside. There's even a singing lesson interlude featuring another pair of lovers, overlapping some civic pageantry.

But where Wagner's grand fabric is woven from the top throughout, Dvorak's is a more patchy affair. Though individual characterisations in the music are pretty much on the money they sit proud of the piece, belonging to the Grand Opera tradition rather than any revolutionary Gesamtkunstwerk (that had had its final essay in Parsifal five years previously). I liked Benda's silly scene with the lovers Jiri and Terinka (also with the chorus) and the climactic, touching confrontation between Julie and the Count. Elsewhere melody comes and goes (with some expert modulation of pace by conductor Jiri Behlolavek) but there seems little to get a real grip on.

The team of soloists is much the same as that which put on The Bartered Bride last year - idiomatic Czech voice production, let alone in the snap and crackle of the language. The BBC Symphony Orchestra (Stephen Bryant leading with some fine playing) was augmented by the BBC Singers and a pair of children's choirs. Kenneth Richardson produced a nice simple stage arrangement. I left with a warm heart to take on the city cold.

No comments: