Friday, February 24, 2017

Ready for Rusalka

I am prepping for tomorrow’s Live in HD presentation of Dvorak’s Rusalka. I know the story; I know the Song to the Moon; I know the title water nymph is a signature role for both Renee Fleming and Kristine Opolais; and that’s about all I know. This week, I listened to the official Met Podcast (rather yawn-ful) and the new He Sang, She Sang podcast from WQXR—both available at their respective websites or wherever you prefer to download your podcasts. (I need to write more about He Sang, She Sang—a delightful new and somewhat irreverent effort that helps us understand opera without taking it too seriously and being boring—they also give us some nifty singer interviews (e.g., Luca Pisaroni, Diana Damrau, Kristine Opolais)).

Then, I looked to YouTube to find a full performance. The Schenk/Met performance with RF is there, along with the Czech film (probably worth a later look) and the Carsen Paris production. I started with the Met, but the combination of the awkward set (I kept waiting for someone (or creature) to stumble and fall into the pond) and RF’s rather odd acting choices put me off quite early. I love RF; but honestly, I never would rank her among the world’s top acting singers. So, I decided to head for Paris, also with RF but in a much more interesting production.

I had to laugh at one negative Amazon reviewer (of many nay-sayers) who preferred to see a  “realistic” production. How does one do “realistic” witches, water nymphs, and goblins? I think it’s a bit pedantic and disingenuous* to insist on a “realistic” setting for an opera that is a fantasy based on a fairy tale. Contrary to what some might say, most (if not all) fairy tales are allegories. I love an applause-worthy set as much as anyone, but all the glitz and glam and fancy “realistic” and/or traditional sets can’t make up for a dull performance.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Robert Carsen is neither the first nor will he be the last to update Rusalka (for better or for creepier (e.g., Kusej)). I know Mr. Carsen’s work is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I happen to appreciate his setting here; and I think he always comes through with reliable, thoughtful Personenregie**. The set and costumes are not specific to any time or place (and there are no chairs in this production); and the production conveys the psycho-subtleties of the story quite well—especially using a variety of mirror-images to convey the water world vs. the real word. This may not be the production for a first-timer or a literalist, but I was fascinated. As I noted above, Renee Fleming stars in this production; and Mr. Carson seems to bring out her best, helping her provide a much more engaging performance here than in her (more recent) Met recording. And I find little-to-no fault with the singing or the acting of rest of this ensemble. (One writer says their Czech pronunciation is not ideal, but how would I know?)

Other bloggers and reviewers have provided thoughtful and entertaining accounts of this performance. So rather than trying to quickly organize my own thoughts (and probably accidentally plagiarizing my fellow bloggers in the process), I will point you to a one review from my blog-buddy earworm. You can find other insights around the interwebz.

This video transfer is not optimal, and the subtitles are en Español; however, one can find an English translation easily online. I am not linking directly to the YT post, because that makes it too easy for the video police. Besides, it’s easy to find it with a few key search words. That said, go watch (and listen to) it. Or better yet find it on DVD. I expect it to be a good complement to the new Met version.***

 *I couldn’t decide which word to use. I liked them both, so I decided to go for it.

**Speaking of Personenregie I was just thinking how awesome it would have been if Robert Carsen had directed L'Amour de Loin! 

***I’d promise to write a review of the new Met performance, but I think it’s safer not to just now. Then we’ll all be happily surprised if/when I do. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Met in HD and Dinner Chat

Holy Moly! Was my last post really in December? Well a few things have happened since then, so I really do need to catch up. 

1. I was really drawn in by L'amour de Loin. I do have a few things to say about it, so I will try to get together and post about that soon.

2.  Nabucco was boring as unbuttered toast from a staging standpoint. But rather well sung. I enjoyed it in spite of myself. And in spite of the obligatory encore [insert eye roll] of the famous chorus. It's pretty but…ditto about posting.

3. I am now a superfan of Diana Damrau, Vittorio Grigolo, and Gounod's Romeo et Juliette...and Elliot Madore. Ahem. (Spoiler alert: they all die.) This is one I will probably have to spring for if/when it appears on DVD.  It's the same production seen in Salzburg a few years ago (the unit set is not as convincing to me in the Feldreisenschule as on the Met stage.) I will try to get around to saying more on that soon, too.  

Meanwhile, tonight at dinner...

My cousin: We saw a Met Eugene Onegin, but I'm not sure who was in it. 
Me: Were there a lot of leaves?
My cousin's wife: Yes!! I remember the leaves!
I guess most of us (whether fans of Robert Carsen (or not)) could name the leads in that performance!

P S. I hope this iPhone-created post looks ok. I tried to add a photo. It Safari and Google simply do not play well together! I just didn't want to wait till I get home to put this up. My "fans" (?) already have waited too long to hear from me. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mozart Monday: Sesto as Vitellia – Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade seems so nice it's hard to imagine her being Vitellia; but then again, she could show us a gentler side of the character. She certainly makes a good musical case for one angle I’ve suggested now and then: Vitellia as a hurt little girl. 

Gratuitousness Updated: meanwhile, I finally caught up with my indexing. I thought I was way behind, but I didn't post many (any) random clips in 2016, so catching up didn't take long. I think I now have all the aria/duet clips cataloged (clearly I am someone with too much spare time!) The next step is to go back and un-index stuff that's been deleted from YT (or update links). That may take longer!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dmitri Hvorostovsky – no opera "for the foreseeable future"

Sad news noted by fellow bloggers Parterre Box and Kinderkuchen for the FBI: Dmitri Hvorostovsky will not be participating in any opera performances in the near future. The good news is that, in spite of complications associated with his illness, he'll still be recitalizing and recording. However, this means he will not be singing in the Met's Eugene Onegin this season. 

The consolation prize (for many of us) is that Peter Mattei is slated to cover for DH in the April 22 Live in HD broadcast of EG. 

Meanwhile, best well wishes to Maestro Hvorostovsky for skilled doctors, effective treatments, and a speedy recovery.

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