By coincidence, critic Hugh Canning took in performances of North Texas’ two leading symphony directors for the Sunday Times of London — in productions of La Boheme and Die Meistersinger von Nuremburg.
The Puccini opera was directed by Jonathan Miller for the English National Opera and was conducted by Fort Worth Symphony’s Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Canning was not pleased with much of the production (“it is hard to see how Miller could have succeeded with the frankly uninspiring musical ingredients and charisma-lite singers of the principal quartet they gave him to work with”). But he saved the final bullet for Harth-Bedoya: “The evening’s real coup de grâce, however, was the penitentially slow, flatulent, antitheatrical conducting of one Miguel Harth-Bedoya. With luck, things will improve when Martin Fitzpatrick takes over on February 19 and 21.”
But then Canning went to Amsterdam and his mood improved considerably. Die Meistersinger was a concert performance at the Royal Concertgebouw, Dallas Symphony conductor Jaap van Zweden’s native ground, and just about everything received Canning’s praise:
The concert Meistersinger, performed by the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Groot Omroepkoor under Jaap van Zweden, also attracted a capacity crowd to the Concertgebouw, whose perfect acoustic affords rare pleasure in a Wagner opera. The former concert master of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a full-time conductor since 1995, has raised the standards of the Dutch RPO almost to those of his alma mater, with sumptuous, silky strings, fabulous wind soloists and characterful brass. During a long day, only a couple of horn fluffs ruffled an impeccably played account of Wagner’s great score.