Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne, 1998 – Part 2: Relax and Float Downstream

John Tomlinson
So, what the heck is this opera about anyway? Golaud is so angry. He is abusive and bullying, especially towards Ynoild and Mélisande.  Did he abuse his first wife, or did his personality change due to anger and grief over her…death? …abduction? …escape? …nervous breakdown? He’s dismissive of the young lovers—maybe he is in denial about their romance—referring them to as children engaging in child’s play. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne, 1998 – Part 1: Turn Off Your Mind...

In an impressionist work of art nothing can be assumed to be as it appears; it's symbolic. How can people possibly complain about the setting not being literal? Isn't that the point of impressionism?

Richard Croft
What the heck is Pelléas et Mélisande about, anyway? Maeterlinck and Debussy deliberately left things vague, and I wonder if any physical production by its very nature will place more interpretive weight on the story than the composer and playwright intended. Perhaps the closest one could come would be to sit in a quiet room and silently read the score. However, this opera is much better heard and seen, even if you disagree with the vision.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Rolando Villazón sings Sì dolce è 'l tormento da scherzo

Rolando singing Monteverdi?!? OMG, what are they thinking!?!?

This clip and the related discs remind me of those old Monteverdi recordings, back in the day, before "historically informed performance" practices became more widespread. And when singers didn't specialize quite so narrowly

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Schubert: Fierrabras (Finale)

And speaking of Fierrabras (well, I was speaking about Fierrabras in yesterday's post), here, to round out our JK weekend, is the finale of Act 2. The choral, solo, and orchestral writing is lovely. It's too bad it never goes anywhere dramatically. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

(Do I need a) Nom de Blog? (also Fierrabras' Aria)

So, I have noticed that very few people use their real names on their blogs. I find this interesting, and feel slightly naive that I have never come up with a cute, clever, or fanciful pseudonym under which to air my lofty opinions. Also naive because it didn't occur to me that it might be safer, yea even necessary, to remain more anonymous.*  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Jonas Kaufmann is Lohengrin

Jonas Kaufmann is too polite to say what he really thinks about some of the more Regie-oriented productions he's appeared in. I have a feeling this may be one that he didn't care for so much. I really admire him for sticking with it; and oh my goodness, he sounds wonderful!
I haven’t seen the whole production yet. It's hard to say much about it based on a couple of  6 or 7-minute clips. However, according to Zerbinetta’s review at Likely Impossibilities, even after watching the whole opera it still may be difficult to grasp director Richard Jones’ point of view. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Bayerischer Staatsoper, Munich, 1980 (Part 2: It Must Never Excite Disgust)

(This is actually the quartet at the end of Act 3)
I’d forgotten how much beautiful music there is in this opera. My current favorite is the quartet at the end of Act 2. The nobles and servants each get slightly different styles of music, although when the men beg forgiveness, Pedrillo takes his cues from Belmonte, and echos his entreaties. This scene could be the basis for a whole opera, and the conflict is over pretty fast. But I don’t thing Mozart meant us to take this story very seriously.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Bayerischer Staatsoper, Munich, 1980 (Part 1: Time to Get Down On Your Knees!)

The booklet with this DVD of Die Entführung aus dem Serail contains liner notes from 1980 that defend the idea of opera on film. Nowadays, we take it for granted—film or video being medium through which most of us get to experience more “live” opera than we otherwise would. I appreciated the 1980s camera work, which captured the live experience well. I noticed when fast-forwarding that there are not a lot of edits, or different camera angles. The camera lingers so that you really do get a sense of watching a staged production.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Otterphile – Berlioz: Les nuits d'été: Villenelle

This is not opera or regie. But even in concert, Ms. von Otter is a wonderful and expressive interpreter.  There are far too few videos of her at all, let alone singing opera.  

Ms. von Otter sang the entire Les nuits d'été in this concert. The songs are all on YouTube individually. 

Villenelle from Berlioz' Les nuits d'été

Monday, October 22, 2012

DVD Extras – The Making of...

I know a composer who is reluctant to provide program notes, feeling that the work should speak for itself.  In so many cases, art does speak for itself. But sometimes art needs a little help, especially when it comes to Regieoper

Kušej does not, in fact, tell us why
the Three Ladies are blind. Sigh.
Personally, I am a firm believer in program notes. I don’t need a step-by-step walkthrough of the piece, but a little background would be nice so the audience isn't going in blind. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Handel: Rinaldo - Il vostro maggio de' bei verdi anni

Sunday Brunch Silliness

The plot of Handel’s Rinaldo is strange and hard to follow, which somehow encourages directors to make interesting interpretive choices. This Robert Carsen production from Glyndebourne is a delicious concoction of beautiful singing and playing, and a slightly silly, lighthearted take on the story. In this scene, the sorceress Almida has conjured up sirens to lure Rinaldo to her lair.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More Stupid Reviewer Comments

(I used to have a tortoiseshell cat. No matter what
her mood was, she always looked annoyed.)
To date, my most-viewed post of all time is the one called Stupid Reviewer Comments. Making fun of what other people write seems to strike a chord with a lot of folks; so I decided the 101st post was a perfect time to present another batch. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Kaufmann, Strehl, & Banse in Fierrabras

Eginhard, King Karl, Fierrabras,
Schubert, and Roland
The passion isn't very passionate, the drama isn't very dramatic, and the conflicts aren't very conflicted. Sadly, this opera doesn't have much going for it beyond the typically lovely song stylings of Schubert. And the music is indeed quite lovely.
Director Claus Guth addresses this lack of dramatic interest by inserting the composer into the action. It seems Schubert is still writing this opera as it's being performed, and in doing so, he is working out some of his own issues with his father. Note that four of the male characters (Eginhard, Roland, Fierrabras, and Brutamonte) are dressed just like Schubert  in case you weren't confused already.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Additional Blog Posts I Wish I had Written

Now and then, I come across a blog post that really speaks to me.  It might be deep, thoughtful, spiritual, analytic, or just silly. Here are a few more that I wish I had written. 
When I was getting ready to start my blog, I looked around to see who else was writing.  Fortunately I didn’t do too much research, or I probably would have given up before my first post.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Flock of Fiordiligis– Malin Haretlius, Dorothea Röschmann, and Gundula Janowitz

Adriana Ferrarese del Bene
the First Fiordiligi
In her Act 1 aria, Come scoglioFiordiligi is adamant that none shall sway her from her beloved. Everyone else seems to be used to her overly dramatic behavior. In the first two clips below, her outburst is taken in stride by her sister, her lovers, Alfonso, and Despina.
This aria is considered to be a parody of Opera seria. Mozart is sending up the overly dramatic statements of that old form that he knew so well. Some productions of Cosi fan tutte play up the parody, pushing the action over the top.

In others, one senses that the soprano singing Fiordiligi is treating the emotion completely seriously–sometimes a funny situation is funnier if it's clear that the character is dead serious.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Expecting L'Elisir d'Bore – Got L'Elisir d’Like: Met in HD

Maybe it’s because I read all the lukewarm reviews of opening night and was prepared for the worst; maybe it’s because I was excited by finally getting to see my first Met in HD broadcast; or maybe it’s because it just wasn't all that bad.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Philippe Jaroussky & Nuria Rial

In 2000, Christina Pluhar formed the loose-knit early music group L'Arpeggiata. Her performances may annoy the purists. In addition to early music performance practices, her group incorporates elements of jazz and world music. One thing I especially like is her addition of drumming to early dance music, which is more authentic than we might think. You might consider L’Arpeggiata’s style as "Renaissance/Crossover."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Joyce DiDonato Sings Bach

Joyce DiDonato is way too busy and way too famous to be playing the role of Soprano II in Bach’s B-minor Mass these days. What a loss to Bach and the world of choral music! Her 2006 performance from Notre Dame in Paris gives us yet another reason to love her.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Messiah – Theater an der Wien, 2009 (Part 3: Not Your Mother’s Messiah, Either)

Claus Guth's staging of Handel's Messiah is strange and wonderful; weird and exquisite; disturbing and comforting. 

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
Wonderful, exquisite, and comforting all describe the musical performance; and all six adjectives describe the staging. His alienating gray and institutional set is on a turntable, making scene changes swift. This plus the stark contrasts of light and shadow give the production a cinematic feeling. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Messiah – Theater an der Wien, 2009 (Part 2: Strange and Wonderful)

I noted in the previous post that Claus Guth has chosen to add a new layer of narrative to Messiah. He builds on the emotions and images from Handel's text, but doesn't stage the oratorio in a literal way.

The action begins at a funeral. People are sad, some are angry. In Every valley the minister (tenor Richard Croft) preaches comfort, but is uneasy, and seems to know more than he is telling. An angry man, perhaps the deceased’s brother (bass Florian Boesch) opens the casket to reveal that the deceased slashed his wrists. Another brother (?) (countertenor Bejun Mehta) freaks out, exhibiting remorse, fear, grief, and anger. Meanwhile, the chorus seem to be the people that are walking in darkness. Asking, questioning, reassuring, usually clustering together or moving close to walls, and almost always moving as a unit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Messiah – Theater an der Wien, 2009 (Part 1: Not Your Father’s Messiah)

If you want a traditional concert performance of this hallowed oratorio or if your entire idea of Messiah is the Christmas section plus the Halleluiah chorus, this DVD is not for you. On the other hand, if you have heard Handel’s Messiah at least once a year for the past (mumblemumble) years, have sung it many times, know it well and/or have many recordings of it, and you wonder what new light could be shed on this work, this version staged by Claus Guth just might be the thing for you. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Did Entführung Ever Do To You?

Reri Grist as Blonde - 1980
My readers know I am a fan of reworking the classics. Many new angles and insights are revealed when we rethink tradition.  Sometimes these Regie-rethinkings are crap; sometimes they tell us something vaguely interesting, and sometimes they can be real eye-openers.  No opera is immune to a regie approach, but some get much more attention than others.

Lately, I've been pondering why Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail gets the regie treatment so often. More importantly, why do directors feel free to add and/or delete spoken text willy nilly?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

At least there are no rats in this one – Jonas Kaufmann & Anja Harteros in Lohengrin

In her blog, Likely ImpossibilitiesZerbinetta noted that Richard Jones' Lohengrin "...features an absolutely exquisite musical performance with compelling lead singers." She went on to add that the production "…is an interesting failure with a few too many nifty ideas that never really develop." At Opera Ramblings, John felt more positive about it, commenting, “The Personenregie seems almost obsessively detailed and…the acting is first class."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is it better not to watch? – Singers in the Recording Studio

Philippe Jaroussky &
Max Emmanuel Cencic
This post started as a complaint about singers who wave and gesture and direct as they sing. It seems only to happen in recording situations. But nearly everyone does it. Anne Sofie von Otter, Elena Garanca, Patricia Pettibon (scary!!), Rolando Villazon, Jonas Kaufmann, etc. (check out any of the promo videos for new recordings.) And these two dudes: Max and Philippe. How do they manage to stand still in concerts?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Eric Stoklossa Sings Handel

I first encountered Eric Stoklossa as Aljeja in this DVD of From the House of the Dead. He also made his Met debut in this roleand was in most if not all of the European iterations of the Chéreau production. The Met performances seem to be his only visit to the U.S. However according to his website he is active in Europe as a concert soloist. In addition to all the major sacred choral works, he has the major Mozart roles and more in his repertoire. I managed to track down a few arias on YouTube, including this lovely Handel excerpt.   

Thursday, October 4, 2012

So, What’s up with Don Giovanni & Leporello?

This is not quite what it looks like. Or...hmm
Sometimes I wonder, when Leporello tries to convince DG to stop playing around and chasing women, if he has more than one motive.  I don't think he disapproves of philandering. I do think he is tired of being in danger because of DG's exploits, and probably is tired of following DG around and cleaning up after him.  I wonder more in some productions than in others.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Richard Strauss: Capriccio – Paris, 2004 (Part 2: The Decision Not to Decide)

Strauss is great at setting conversation, which is good, since Capriccio is “A conversation piece with music.” When everyone is teasing La Roche about his mythical presentation, the poet and composer play with the model set and the costumes; the Italian singers squabble, the Countess, Count, and Clairon chat and laugh, and poor La Roche blusters indignantly. (Here the subtitle folks do finally give up on trying to represent every word of text.) A backdrop flies in from above and the stagehands wrestle with it. The dancer dances. And it all makes musical sense.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Richard Strauss: Capriccio – Paris, 2004 (Part 1: Opera about Opera)

Somewhat like Ariadne auf Naxos, Capriccio is an opera about opera. During the prelude (seen in a previous post) we see the Countess entering the opera house and sitting down to hear Flammand’s music. Here, we are clearly in the theater.  Robert Carsen seems to love this kind of stuff—using a novel setting that allows us see and hear the piece from a different angle. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Danielle De Niese and Philippe Jaroussky

Danielle De Niese

Philippe Jaroussky
So, Nerone does end up with Poppea after all, in the final scene of L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Their beautiful love duet is an ironic ending to a cynical opera. 
This is the Pizzi production again.  
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