Schade rocks

Today’s summer second thought is the 2004 Salzburg festival production of Purcell’s King Arthur.  I really enjoyed this first time around and I think it stands up extremely well to repeat viewing.  I pretty much stand by my original review but certain aspects of the production did stand out on repeat viewing.  The first thing that struck me is how these English 17th century works are very much a blend of the vulgar and the sublime (one could argue that that is the defining characteristic of English culture; from Chaucer to Trooping the Colour).  This production, like Jonathan Kent’s The Fairy Queen, successfully blends the two elements.  There’s a really good example at the very end where Michael Schade’s panty strewn rock star “Harvest Home” is followed by a gorgeous and dignifieed “Fairest Isle from Barabara Bonney but there’s lots more; much of reinforced by the sort of special effects that a Restoration audience would have loved.  There’s also some real depth in how it’s done.  First up I found the Merlin dressed as banker’s wife episode very funny but just that.  On rewatching I realised that much more is going on as the scene segs into Merlin explaining to Arthur that everything around him is an illusion.

1.sceneThe second main thing that struck me is how much this production leans on Michael Schade.  When I first saw this DVD I wasn’t especially aware of Schade.  Since then I’ve seen him on stage and in concert on at least five occasions and my admiration for him as a stylish singing actor has grown.  Here he really shines.  He pops up in so many different personae it’s really amazing that he can pull it off and everyone, from sinister pagan something or other at the beginning to boxing MC to rock star, has its own deft touches.  He sings rather well too.

2.schadeAnother thing that struck me is how startlingly jingoistic the last act is.  It could do duty as The Last Night of the Proms.  I struggled to get my head around this a bit, partly because the dialogue is in German so one isn’t quite sure what’s Dryden and what’s not, but mainly it’s the proto-Imperial England predicting future greatness, now long gone, in a production in a country that has actually come to terms with loss of empire in a way the UK (or at least the English part of it) never has.  If you see what I mean.

3.smokeFinal thought; it’s really hard to film a production effectively in the Felsenreitschüle.  The DVD audience misses a lot in this recording but it’s really hard to see how the video director could have done much better given the size and odd configuration of the space.

4.rockstarBottom line, I got to the end of this longish production and had the urge to just watch it again from the beginning.  That doesn’t happen with Wagner.


5 thoughts on “Schade rocks

  1. Pingback: How to do Purcell | operaramblings

  2. This is one of my favorites, too. Every time I see it I am reminded how deeply beautiful the “how blessed are shepherds” section is – and I also love the airplane director lights for “hither this way.” It’s great beginning to end.

  3. I love your reviews. They’re always so thoughtful.

    I’m part of an upcoming production. I’d love it if you’d come. Here’s the info:

    It’s a great cast. Ryan Harper and Cassandra Warner are Don Jose and Carmen, so it will most definitely be excellent. It’s fully crowd-funded too, so we’re always looking for a bit of exposure to find donors.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s