While Friday night at the ROH had been dedicated to men in skirts on Saturday we switched to men in tights. I didn’t intend to see Nicholas Hytner’s somber period Don Carlo twice within only a few months, but I happened to be in London and I’m very glad I did. When I saw this same production at the Met in March, it was most notable for not being laughable; this London version was genuine high drama.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
According to the Royal Opera House’s new production of Rossini’s La donna del lago, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. But while the production’s vague juxtaposition of barbaric highlanders and European-style courtiers doesn’t really work, there’s a lot of exciting singing, Joyce DiDonato as the titular aquatic lass, and Juan Diego Florez in a kilt.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I went to see La Périchole at the New York City Opera and I wrote about it for Bachtrack:
Henri Bergson famously defined comedy as “something mechanical encrusted on the living”. One suspects that Jacques Offenbach would have been a fan of this definition, and that Christopher Alden most certainly is. Alden’s new production of La Périchole, which closes the New York City Opera’s season, is strange, abrasive, and also extremely funny, careening past the everyday to end up somewhere deeply bizarre.You can read the whole thing here. I highly recommend this show! It is a great piece in a top-notch and hilarious Alden production, and that's a winning combination (check out the video below). It's actually been quite a fortnight for opera in New York, between Giulio Cesare, Mosè in Egitto, best of all David et Jonathas at BAM, and finally after all those Egyptians and Romans, then Israelites and Egyptians, and then Israelites and Philistines, finally ending with this insanely delightful farce that just has Peruvians.
It's also basically the end for me of this season's operatic adventures in NYC, though the Phil's Dallapiccola in June will provide a coda. I recommend y'all go see Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Met, but there are only three performances and unfortunately none of them fit into my schedule. As you may remember, I have mixed feelings about this piece and have seen it twice recently, once in Robert Carsen's excellent traditional staging and once in Calixto Bieito's excellent non-traditional staging, so I don't regret it too much. It will spare you my habit of nun puns (sorry).
Anyway, I have some other stuff elsewhere coming up, so I'll see you soon-ish in any case.
Photo copyright Carol Rosegg
Friday, April 19, 2013
I went to see David et Jonathas by Les Arts Florissants at BAM and I wrote about it for Bachtrack:
New York is again lucky to host William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Their visits are always special, and it’s not just because the unique nature of their repertory – Baroque opera, usually French, which is neglected by most of New York’s major companies – nor the virtuosic ease with which they embody this otherwise-foreign idiom. Their productions have a passionate unity of purpose and a loving, handcrafted quality that somehow seems antithetical to many of our more slick and snarky local efforts. Their present offering, a touching production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s David et Jonathas, has little in common with 2011’s Atys, but fortunately these virtues are again in full force.You can read the whole thing here. Highly recommended. It's a great and extremely unusual work with a fantastic musical performance and a smart production. Performances that meet one of these three requirements are unusual enough, ones that fulfill all three far more so. Still could have used some program notes, however.
This production will also be released on DVD on April 30.
Photo copyright Julia Cervantes
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
I went to see the New York City Opera's production of Mosè in Egitto at City Center , and I wrote about it for Bachtrack.
In recent seasons, the New York City Opera has largely limited itself to chamber operas. Its newest production marks a renewed ambition: Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, a proto grand opera that ends with nothing less than the parting of the Red Sea. Fortunately this scrappy but worthwhile performance showed that the company can tackle large-scale works on its own terms, albeit with a few stumbles along the way.You can read the rest here. It was a frustrating afternoon: some very talented performers and interesting production ideas (Harry Kupfer's Rossini video game) that ultimately didn't quite make a full show. I still think it's worth seeing, though: it's a unique spin on an unusual piece, and that's something in itself.
A few other notes, though. I wish City Opera would show some care with its presentation. (Their website doesn't even give the address of the theater where they're performing. I had to Google it.) This performance was trumpeted as the "original version." Putting aside the problematic construction of "original" and its implied superior status, that can't be true: the third act of the first version was lost, as you can read in the introduction of the critical edition. (This production didn't even use that critical edition; the program credits Hendon Music/Boosey and Hawkes.) I would have liked some program notes, but maybe I'm alone there. If you're going to claim scholarly status, you have to do your homework.
But enough of that, the actual performance did exceed my expectations. The LED video (more like a TV than projection scenery) occasionally looks like the VHS version of the Met's Parsifal Blu-Ray. Jayce Ogren isn't a Rossini conductor but the orchestra is sounding much better than it did last season and it's good for the City Opera to have him on board as music director. There's some good singing. So still recommendable, if you like Rossini.
Photo copyright Carol Rosegg.
Monday, April 08, 2013
Elina Garanča can always be counted on for a coolly polished performance. Her silvery mezzo is beautiful, even throughout her range, and impeccably on pitch. She is musically tasteful, and her sound has grown in recent years. But something often seems to be missing. While she’s too accomplished to call bland, her performances rarely show evidence of a beating heart. On Saturday night, her Carnegie Hall recital debut kept in character, showing an excellent singer rather than an effective communicator.You can read the rest here. For all I know Elina Garanca is the nicest, warmest person in the universe, but she still has trouble portraying humanity onstage. This recital was very well-prepared and she really was trying, but the effort was all too obvious.
I'll be going to Giulio Cesare at the Met at the end of this week.
Monday, April 01, 2013
Today Met Opera general manager Peter Gelb announced several new measures that will hopefully spurn increased interest in opera among younger audience members. “As I’ve been saying for years, opera is theater,” Gelb began. “But who goes to the theater anymore? Apparently not enough people. So we’re trying a new project next season: Opera is TV!”
Replacing the slate of internationally renowned opera directors (plus Bartlett Sher) will be a variety of familiar figures from the small screen. “TV is in a golden age right now, and I see no reason why we can’t copy, I mean, translate that into our own special medium. OK, so the Met stage is a little bit bigger, but we can always make the proscenium a little smaller! Plus the HD audience, you know.”
The highlight of the offerings, Gelb said, would be the Met debut of Lena Dunham, the creator of HBO’s Girls. She will helm a production of Così fan tutte set in Bushwick. Editorial assistant Ferrando and barista Gugliemo reportedly shed their plaid and disguise themselves as Goldman Sachs analysts. Gelb promised that it would be “really hip!” and the subject of approximately 100,000 blog entries from people who are weirdly offended by younger women directing something.
Other season highlights are said to be the revival of Battlestar Galactica in the form of Die Frau ohne Schatten (featuring Anne Schwanewilms as “the most ass-kicking Kaiserin you have ever seen”) and a new production of Norma inspired by Homeland. The popular favorite, however, will surely be the new Fledermaus directed by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey. It is said to be “very shiny and features excellent hats.” In addition, Gelb will be importing Andrei Serban’s Werther production from the Wiener Staatsoper and calling it Mad Men because “some blogger apparently did that already, and she compared Elina Garanca to January Jones too.”
Reports that a new production of Don Pasquale in the style of Two and a Half Men were cancelled at a late stage were neither confirmed nor denied.
In the second half of the press conference, Gelb confirmed the widespread rumors that April 2013 marked the final appearance of Robert Lepage’s Ring Cycle on the Met’s stage. While a 2017 revival was planned, slow ticket sales and the threats of ruinous liability insurance sent “The Machine” packing. Yet Gelb has a solution: he has commissioned German music video director Wolfgang von Regiekopf (reportedly a pseudonym for Spike Jonze, who doesn't want to accept blame) to stage a new Ring. The new production will take as its centerpiece the human faults that created the Lepage debacle, ending with the Met’s redemption, all without the dangers of utilizing the Machine itself.
While telling the story of the Ring, the cycle will simultaneously survey Gelb’s reign at the Met, all by using sets from previous Met productions. This will reportedly begin in the aestheticized wonderland of Anthony Minghella’s Butterfly, move to the wackily fantastic world of Bartlett Sher (Gelb’s office/Vallhalla), and also include excursions to such locations as the rehearsal room from Mary Zimmerman’s Sonnambula (Nibelheim), Peter Grimes’s hut (Walküre Act 1), Faust’s lab (Siegfried Act 1), that wall of greenery from Attila (Siegfried Act 2), and the airplane in Nixon in China (Götterdämmerung Act 1). One suspects the final scene may involve Gelb’s biggest Wagnerian success to date, Parsifal--though whether that would be a happy ending remains to be seen.
Met announces new initiatives
Met announces new initiatives
Posted by Zerbinetta at 6:24 PM
Monday, March 25, 2013
I went to see Francesco Cavalli's Eliogabalo as produced by the Gotham Chamber Opera at The Box and I wrote about it for Bachtrack.
Describing its new production of Francesco Cavalli’s 1668 opera Eliogabalo, the Gotham Chamber Opera compares the exploits of titular depraved Roman emperor Heliogabalus to Salome. There’s an obvious mistake here: Salome is an opera; Heliogabalus was a historical figure. While the Gotham Chamber Opera has done a valuable service by bringing this compelling, interesting opera onstage, the production unfortunately makes the same mistake, confusing a few historical accounts with the very different aesthetic of 17th-century Venetian opera.You can read the whole thing here. (In my discussion of the intersection of seventeenth-century orchestration and burlesque, I introduced the Bachtrack editorial staff to the phrase "bump it with a trumpet.") This production didn’t work because it was one-note while seventeenth-century Venetian operas are heterogeneous. Venetian opera is closely associated with Carnival (in that respect the timing of this production was really bad--sorry, you go through one Viennese Holy Week of Faust, Parsifal, and Dialogues of the Carmelites and the idea sticks with you forever). But Eliogabalo is something far more interesting than a celebration of excess.
I thought of Calixto Bieito’s fantastic production of Platée, which I saw last summer at the Staatsoper Stuttgart (and didn’t blog about, sorry). It’s set in a nightclub, though not in the environmental theater sense of The Box. The Studio 54-like club (a good modernization of the ancien régime) provides an ostensible freedom for an outsider like Platée. But the hierarchy of court life is always lurking just beneath the surface, and the outsiders never escape their eventual punishment. Eliogabalo never leveraged its similar setting with this kind of dramatic intent.
The singing was fine but most of it was not very stylish. New York doesn’t attract enough people with extensive experience with this music. (The Wooster Group's utterly bonkers sci-fi La Didone mashup was better sung, actually, and far more compelling.) The US's cavernous opera houses and conservative programs confine all but the most famous Baroque operas to boutique outfits like Gotham, but unfortunately based on this production they lack the expertise to present these works to their best advantage. Gotham is, usually, a very strong company, and I hope they'll try another early Venetian opera soon with better results.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
my earlier review, I chatted with him about it a bit.