What a difference a change of format and different venue can make. The new performance of Les Troyens by The Royal Opera’s Proms was electrifying. It is now freed from the orchestra pit and from the lackluster production by David McVicar and rivals Colin Davis’s monumental LSO concert performance in 2003 for sheer excitement, that’s probably the highest praise you can give.
Much of the playing had seemed under-powered and sluggish on the first night at Covent Garden. Here, however, there was a staggering amount of detail, clarity and impetus. The Royal Hunt and Storm, which were underwhelming on stage, were thrilling here and the previously interminable and dramatically inert Act 4 extended ballet sequence came to vibrant life after being isolated from the mediocre choreography.
The balance between the singers and the orchestra was for the most part perfect. Antonio Pappano’s players were fabulous when not supporting the vocal lines; also on top form were the Royal Opera Chorus.
Anna Caterina Antonacci was riveting as Cassandre, without the previously hampering histrionic direction. Impressive in the theatre, Bryan Hymel’s Énée was even stronger here; he earned the only round of applause for a solo all evening after a truly heroic performance.
Eva-Maria Westbroek is perhaps not the ideal casting for Didon as she lacks the refinement of Michelle DeYoung and Susan Graham; however she has a great presence and commitment. Hannah Hipp as Anna and Ed Lyon as Hylas stood out amongst the many excellent supporting performances.