Monday, July 10, 2017

Monteverdi Monday (with Haim Hair)

Eyebags pointed out that last week was Haïm Week at France Musique. To ensure that "Haïm Hair" remains a thing, I am posting this Warner Classics promo video for her recording of Monteverdi's Orfeo.

(Incidentally, I finally heard Haim the Band—they're not bad, but they're no Emmauelle!!)


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Frustrating Carmen (Audio Only – That's the Frustration)

I learned today from Michael Fabiano’s Facebook post that the new production of Carmen by Dmitri Tcherniakov at Aix-en-Provence is being broadcast on Arte.tv (but not in the U.S.) and on France Musique radio (via website or phone app* ).

I am listening to it now as I type. I am pleased with the musical performance but perplexed by the production. There is a whole dialog** scene before the overture starts. Tcherniakov (as is his wont) has layered a new concept over the opera, and the visual element (apparently) is not what one usually expects from Carmen.  The point is there is a lot going on that is not music. I want to see what's happening! Hence my Carmen Frustration.

As I listen, I tracked down a few reviews in English, so I now have an idea what I am missing. The idea of enacting Carmen as therapy*** is interesting (though I doubt it would ever catch on over here in the U.S.) and I look forward to seeing the realization. The production also stars a favorite mezzo: Stéphanie d'Oustrac.

I do have a quibble—one that is pointed out by more than one reviewer: apparently Tcherniakov created this new concept because couldn’t really “get into” the traditional bullfighter/gypsy/soldier story. I echo one of the reviewers, wondering why T. accepted the job if he really didn’t “feel” the opera.

All that said, I hope for video access soon, if not online, then via my friendly bootlegger. Meanwhile, here are links to the reviews:

Bachtrack Carmen as therapy: Tcherniakov challenges clichés but is stumped in Aix
Opera Today Carmen at the Aix Festival
New York Times ‘Carmen,’ Boldly Rewritten as Therapy for a Modern Man

My followers in Europe can probably access the Arte broadcast now or later. We all should be able to replay the France Musique radio broadcast for a while at least. 

*I need to do a new Tech Tuesday post about the France Musique app.
** Actually, almost all of the dialog is unfamiliar (I don’t speak French or understand it very well; but I am fairly familiar with the spoken bits of Carmen).
***According to the reviews, the therapy session is not successful.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Madama Butterfly “en Cinema” – so what?

As pop-star Basia (what’s she up to these days?) once sang, “Hello again, it’s me!” (the actual song title is A New Day for You from her Time and Tide album.)


The new production of Madama Butterfly from the Teatro Real in Madrid is wonderfully sung and played. (Some sing better than others, of course.) It happens to be Independence Day here in the U.S.; so, it seems oddly appropriate to watch this “ugly American” tale. In reality, this is the first absolutely free day I’ve had in a while. And it was just broadcast (streamed) live on the Opera Platform (OP) on 30 June.

Sadly, when you click to watch it on demand, you get the following message: “Sorry, this video is no longer available.” However, if you scroll down further, you’ll learn that there were “complications during the live streaming.” So instead of “no longer available,” it’s really only “not available yet.” 

Anyway, Teatro Real also live-streamed it on their Facebook page and you can find that on YouTube (with Spanish subtitles.) It’s a beautiful production, and it's the description on the OP site that tempted me to watch an opera that is low on my “Operas I Love” list:

Director Mario Gas sets his new interpretation of the opera on the stage of Madrid’s Teatro Real in a 1930’s film studio where they are working on a film adaptation of Puccini’s opera. Gas opens the opera’s plot up by adding a film crew, offering two interpretations simultaneously: the acting in front of the camera and the actual film.

What the director actually does is merely capitalize on the current trope of live streaming the opera on screens above the stage (see La Clemenza di Tito from La Monnaie, where it’s a news camera crew doing the filming; and several Don Giovannis in which one or more of the singers use their iPhones to live stream their antics.) In Clemenza and Giovanni the cameras/projections added another dimension to the story.

In this Butterfly, I kept waiting for the “film” layer to add new ideas; maybe showing us the relationship of the singers to one another off camera. However, all the cameras and crew do is get in the way, distancing us from the drama. Maybe that’s what the director intended. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Stefan Herheim. I’ve read about his Butterfly (I wonder if a video exists) in which Puccini has an active role; he had a subplot involving the Statue of Liberty (no, that was his Manon Lescaut); guest appearances by Manon, Mimi, and Tosca; and the concept that neither Puccini or the soprano want her to die; but she does anyway. That’s opera.
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