Songs from a Hotel Bedroom, Linbury Studio, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2010Posted on 5 November 2010
Kurt Weill is the composer of two operatic works that I like very much — The Threepenny Opera (Berlin, 1928) and Street Scene (New York, 1947) — along with lots of glorious songs from other stage works. I was delighted to hear many of those songs in this drama created by Kate Flatt and Peter Rowe, with choreography by Ms. Flatt.
The main idea is a love affair between Parisian chanteuse Angélique, and American song-writer Dan. Their relationship catches fire in various hotel bedrooms, but is doomed in the more mundane world of careers and the prospect of homemaking. What I particularly liked about the show was the clever use of two tango dancers, who express the protagonists’ emotions by their movements, demonstrating physical passion and ardour, or distancing and yearning, after each song is over.
Frances Ruffelle sang Angélique with a wistful melancholy, and her voice had a gloriously smoky quality with a cutting edge that was quintessentially Weill. Nigel Richards came over forcefully as Dan, but I thought his voice was too strongly miked-up at times. The tango dancers, Amir Giles and Tara Pilbrow, were wonderfully sensuous, helped by Kate Flatt’s excellent choreography, and the atmospheric lighting by Anna Watson that allowed the singers to fade away as the dancers came on, making the combination of the two very effective.
As for the songs themselves, I loved the early ones from the 1943 musical One Touch of Venus with lyrics by Ogden Nash. She did a great job with Foolish Heart, followed by the duet Vive La Difference, and later by I’m a Stranger Here Myself. Other songs followed, including One Life to Livefrom Lady in the Dark with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and It Never Was You from the 1936 musical Knickerbocker Holiday. When he returns to her, with not much time left to live, she sings To Love You And To Lose You from the even earlier musical Johnny Johnson. These songs, and more, are all Kurt Weill and were very well played by the band whose members were all in costume and joined in the action on stage. The production helps to bring the songs to life and makes for a charming hour and a quarter, with the singing very well complemented by the choreography and lighting.
I’m delighted the Royal Opera House has put this on. Performances continue on November 4, 5 and 6 (mat. and eve.) — details here.