Resembling an immersive installation rather than a traditional concert, the show was designed to accompany the Grammy-nominated album by singer and producer George Roth Costanzo, which sold out in New York in 2018. As a “promenade” concert, with the audience free to wander freely around the multiple stages, live video and art installations, the BBC Proms seems the perfect host (albeit not at the Royal Albert Hall, and not listed as one of the seventy-two concerts of the main listing).
Musically, the show is perfection. Costanzo’s countertenor is full-bodied but effortless, somehow finding new energy in every repetition: Philip Glass’ music typifies tonal minimalism, while Handel’s music similarly repeats musical and lyrical fragments. Alternating between the composers, snapping forward and backward three hundred years in time, is an even more exciting experience live.
The orchestra of the English National Opera, where Costanzo received acclaim for his role as Akhnaten in 2016, glide effortlessly from baroque to contemporary, while perfect sound tech means that no matter how far we wander, we hear everything crystal clear.
The sad news is that, for this remounting in London, there are no ushers pushing and pulling us around on specially-designed wheely chairs; we have to wander around ourselves. The result is a perpetually moving crowd, rushing to get to the “right place” before anyone else, craning necks and chattering away. This kinetic, nervous energy created by the claustrophobic environment is wildly at odds with the sublime, meditative music. The choreography and art installations are brilliant, but ultimately, it’s just all too much. You’re better off staying at home and listening on the radio.
Tickets for all 72 Proms are available from just £7.12 on the BBC Proms 2022 website.