Well, after a fashion… The good news is that Korean National Opera in Seoul is opening a run of Massenet’s Manon on June 25th. It’s with full orchestra, chorus etc but with only a restricted number of seats for sale. You can find out a lot more in the latest episode of Screaming Divas on Youtube. I’m guessing that this will likely be the only live opera on offer anywhere in the world this summer.
What is this anguish that each of us carries inside? That’s the central question of Thomas Larcher’s chamber opera Das Jagdgewehr that premiered at the Bregenz Festival in 2018. It’s based on a 1949 novel by Yasushi Inoue about a hunter, the three women in his life and the poet to whom he sends the women’s letters. It’s a stark, intense tale of love, death, secrecy, loss and betrayal told in a prologue and eleven scenes over about an hour and a quarter.
So Arts Anyway brought us dinosaurs (and where are you guys… we worry you know…). Now it’s back to the stone age with Tapestry Opera’s take on rock opera. Keith Klassen I can hear you!
Directors seem to see the 1950s as the logical time period to stage Verdi’s Falstaff though they come up with very different 1950s. Robert Carsen set his in a rather dark world that pits the nouveau riche against a declining gentry. Richard Jones went for a sort of Carry on film aesthetic that was entirely English. Laurent Pelly in his production filmed at the Teatro Real in Rome in 2019, despite some overtly English elements in the set design, gives us a distinctly continental European feel. Indeed Falstaff, Pistola and Bardolfo might easily be hangovers from the more criminal end of the French resistance. There’s much less of “class struggle” in Pelly’s rather straightforward production. In fact it seems like a fairly light comedy with the darker aspects emerging only rarely.
The Deutsche Oper’s production of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg, recorded in 2019 in Berlin, is directed by Tobias Kratzer who seems to be the rising star among young German opera directors. I can see why. This is a thoughtful and clever production that really does have something to say without being unduly gimmicky.
The COC is posting complete performance videos from the archive here. These are “technical” videos designed to inform a future revival rather than material intended for broadcast. They feature a single camera angle (full stage) and the video quality is so-so but it’s quite interesting. There will be one available at a time and the current one is Strauss’ Arabella from a couple of seasons ago.
A couple of days ago Joseph So interviewed Alexander Neef about various aspects of the current situation in a session organised by the IRCPA. Inevitably and appropriately it focussed heavily on the challenges facing performers; especially those at the beginning of their careers, but there were a couple or three things not related to that that really caught my attention.
The first was around the theme of “what does the opera world look like if and when we get back in the theatre?” One part of this question that really wasn’t addressed was “will it be the same audience?” Given the demographics of the current viral epidemic I really wonder whether the oldest section of the audience will come back; at least in the short/medium term. Which is probably linked to a question that was addressed which was “will the financial impact of the crisis make companies program more conservatively?” Alexander handled this pretty diplomatically (surprise!) by answering (more or less) “if we don’t make art, we cease to have a purpose” and saying there was a limit to how many times one could program standard rep, though to be honest I’ve never detected any such limit at the COC. My guess is that we see an intensification of the trend already apparent under the pressure of long term decline in ticket sales. That’s to say one or two marquee productions a season buttressed with unchallenging revivals of the Operabase top 20 but we shall see. That’s been a formula that has, by and large, appealed to the traditional audience but if (big if) future audiences skew younger it may merely make things worse.