Foaming at the mouth

I am developing a pathological hatred of the people who do the video direction for opera DVDs. The sole exception I can think of is François Roussillon. Brian Large, Humphrey Burton, Kriss Rumanis, Gary Halvorson and the rest I could happily roast over a slow fire while poking them with a sharp stick. I do not want to see the tenor’s dental work or the soprano’s tonsils. I certainly don’t want a head shot of someone who isn’t even singing filling the whole screen. I do not watch opera on a 1950s television with a ten inch screen. Who does? FFS let us poor viewers see what is going on on the stage. It’s quite likely that the stage director does all that stuff deliberately(1) and maybe we might be able to understand the production if we could only see the bloody thing. This rant brought to you courtesy of trying to decode David Alden’s Ariodante while looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

This is what I want to see much/most of the time:

With tons going on all around and in the background this isn’t helpful:

And as for this…

Words fail me.

fn1. OK this may not be true of Zeffirelli or similar Met favourites. If the alternative is a furniture catalogue I’ll take the close ups.

6 thoughts on “Foaming at the mouth

  1. Three real horrors to add to your hate list

    Benoit Jacquot, who ruined what should be my favourite Werther DVD (with Kaufmann and Koch) by constantly cutting backstage so we could watch people warming up or waiting to come on, or stagehands going about their business. Heaven forbid that we shoudl be caught up in the action.

    Chloe Perlemuter, the director of the Tannhäuser with Peter Seiffert, who trained her camera constantly in close up on the title character, profuse perspiration and all, regardless of who was singing (again Kaufmann sang a whole aria without us once seeing his face).

    Barrie Gavin, director of the opera ballet Mlada, who cut off the dancers’ legs in every single ballet sequence.

    • One that mercifully never made it to DVD was the MetHD broadcast of Tristan which tried to make up for an exceedingly dull production by split screening, with moving “cells”. There were times when as many as five “cells” were on the screen with characters exiting one “cell” and entering another. It was like watching a game of tetris.

      • The only thing I liked about that production was that the gender symbolism of the staging was pitched to the nosebleeds. (It’s nice when set designers remember we’re up there.) I missed the HD, but given how they usually do things, I’m guessing none of that showed up on camera.

      • I’ve often wondered to what extent stage designers and directors consider the view from different parts of the house. My experience at the FSC is mostly either from the Orchestra Ring or Ring 5 (the nosebleeds). Certainly the “flat on” view from the Orchestra is very different. It’s good in its way but sometimes stage elements are mostly invisible. I’m sure we missed quite a lot in “Death in Venice” for instance. The ‘bleeds are far away but with glasses the view is not so different from the expensive seats I think. I did sit right up front once. That was a mistake! The view was good but the pit at the FSC is wide and it was very hard to hear the singers over the orchestra. Oddly, for Opera Atelier performances I like to be right up front. I guess the pit is narrower at the Elgin and Tafelmusik are not as loud as the COC Orchestra playing Puccini.

  2. Pingback: David Alden’s Ariodante | operaramblings

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