First review of Zurich’s Covid-era Boris (hint: terrible)

First review of Zurich’s Covid-era Boris (hint: terrible)


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2020

Christian Berzins has the first review of Zurich’s phoned-in Boris Godunov.

He begins:

The Zurich Opera House defies the virus, streams the orchestra live from the rehearsal room into the hall: It’s more terrible than you can imagine.

A season opening at the Zurich Opera House has never been so terrible. And everyone in the house who cheered and clapped rhythmically at the end knew it. …

Do you have to describe how terrible it is when the orchestra is not in the house, when it can only enter via fiber optics? Should you write that the fortissimo choir and orchestra became a brutal, booming metal sound? That it sounded like the death knell …

Read on here.


  • William Safford says:

    I have not heard this performance, so I have no comment on it.

    That said:

    “Do you have to describe how terrible it is when the orchestra is not in the house, when it can only enter via fiber optics?”

    That is a primary reason why I rarely attend Broadway musicals. That, and the awful amplification of the voices.

    Summer opera companies now do a better job of performing Broadway musicals than Broadway does.

  • Onegin says:

    It’s not the first review, and it’s the only one to be negative, by someone who has always been negative about everything the opera is doing, even before COVID. Norman Lebrecht, be fair, and do your job. This is just ridiculous and unacceptable.

  • Minnesota says:

    The Zurich Opera is trying to see what can work in the current environment. Of course it is not ideal, and no one expected it to be. I’d guess the critic’s hysterical acting out was the worst of it.

  • Helen says:

    I think it would have been preferable to wait for discussion by some of the more generally regarded German-language publications in the field of opera rather than reproducing all this stuff from a small local newspaper like the Aargauer Zeitung.
    The NZZ, for instance, while expressing some specific reservations, wrote that the choir and orchestral sound was extremely good for long stretches and also made comparisons to the sound in an open event.

  • Novagerio says:

    Ever been in Bregenz?

  • operacentric says:

    At least they have some opera and some audiences…

  • Sue says:

    This type of clickbait title is appalling. You wrote “Hint: terrible”, does that mean that the orchestra and the singers were terrible? Why don’t you use a renowned newspaper like NZZ instead of using the local newspaper nobody reads and the critic who makes habit out of writing negative reviews of the Opera House? Do your research!

    I give a big applause for Zurich Opera House for trying and using the available technology to make the performance happen, instead of scaling down or worse yet, letting go of all the musicians and giving it up. The fact is it will never be as good as the live in house performance (and thank god for that!), but for now, they are trying and bringing music to the audiences in the Covid time, and ALL the musicians can go on performing all the while keeping everyone safe. That is saying a lot about the Zurich Opera House.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Can you read? This was the first review, many hours ahead of NZZ. And the writer is a respected music journalist.

    • Bruce says:

      He only “hints” that it’s a terrible review — i.e., the critic hated it — not that it was (necessarily) a terrible performance. As we all know, critics are wrong a lot.

  • Lachera says:

    Well, it is exactly the way they are doing at the Bregenz festival, even when the virus is not around.

  • Bob says:

    Norman- you know very well the impression your blog post gives by reposting the only negative critic from this premiere. Just because it was first doesn’t make it representative. Why did you post this one? Why do you choose to spread such negativity when musicians and the world need these performances more than ever?