I managed to catch the fourth performance of the COC’s current run of Verdi’s Otello last night. It’s a David Alden production that first aired at ENO and it’s a very dark take on an already dark story. It’s set maybe circa 1900 and the sets are stark but the lighting is dramatic with lots of contrasts and giant moving shadows. The overall Zeitgeist seems to be of a society that has seen too much war; a sort of collective PTSD. This comes over in a number of ways. The scenes that usually lighten things up a bit; the victory celebrations in Act 1, the children and flowers in Act 2, don’t here. In fact they are downright creepy. There’s also a female dancer, used rather as Christopher Alden used Monterone’s daughter in Rigoletto, who clearly doesn’t expect good things from returning soldiers.
The fall season will open with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in the Carsen production as predicted yesterday. The (pleasant) surprise is that Gordon Bintner will sing the title role. Joyce El-Khoury sings Tatiana and Joseph Kaiser is Lensky. Johannes Debus conducts.
Just back from a second look at the COC’s production of Rossini’s Maometto II. This time I was sitting on the orchestra level and a bit closer which helps with this production. Basic impressions remain the same as opening night; great singing, visually spectacular, but I did have some additional, and related, thoughts about both the libretto and the production.
Rossini’s rarely performed opera seria Maometto II opened at the Four Seasons Centre last night in a production by David Alden and with substantially the same cast as when it played in Santa Fe on 2012. This is the restored Maometto in the edition prepared by Hans Schellevis in an attempt to get as close to Rossini’s initial Naples score as possible. So, no happy ending and all the complexity of Rossini’s original design.
The new COC creation Pyramus and Thisbe with music by Monteverdi and Barbara Monk Feldman opened last night at the Four Seasons Centre. I was expecting abstract and cerebral, which it is, but I was rather expecting that I might admire it more than enjoy it. As it turned out it was a remarkably satisfying show on many levels.
The COC’s first main stage production of a contemporary Canadian work in over fifteen years; Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe, is now in the early stages of rehearsal and, yesterday, some of us got a bit of a preview by way of a working rehearsal. What seems to be happening here is that the COC is creating a show of a kind that has not previously been seen on the Four Seasons stage and will shake up a lot of preconceptions of what a company like COC can offer.
Last night was the “event” at which the COC brass and guests, with a bit of help from Brent Bambury, announced the upcoming season to a packed house of subscribers and friends. What struck me was how much news was packed in. It was far more than the usual schedule presentation with announcements of several major new projects. But first the season. Continue reading →
In an age of co-productions many opera productions are seen in multiple houses. Some of them we get to see in multiple guises. For example I’ve seen Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni on DVD and will be seeing it live later this season in Toronto. Spmething that’s been fermenting in my brain for a while now is why the same production can get a drastically different reception in different places. The piece that first made me think about this was Chris Alden’s Die Fledermaus. This was generally well received in Toronto (more perhaps by my friends and acquaintances than the print media but that’s par for the course) but universally panned in London when it played at ENO. Bryan’s interesting comments about the Carsen Falstaff kicked off the train of thought again and made me want to put some tentative thoughts into writing.
The latest entrant to the live HD cinema broadcast market is ENO. The first broadcast, on 23rd February, will be the current David Alden production of Britten’s Peter Grimes which will, current lurgy permitting, feature Stuart Skelton in the title role. As his is a Grimes I haven’t seen and particularly want to, I am not best pleased that no cinemas in Greater Robfordia seem to be carrying this program. You can check out the details here. May the tidal force be with you!
I’m never quite sure what to expect from David Alden. Some things are predictable; striking images, bold colours and a degree of vulgarity, but beyond that it’s hard to be sure. Sometimes he seems to be trying to be deep (his Lucia for example), sometimes more kitschy (Rinaldo) and there’s always a slight undercurrent of him thumbing his nose at the audience. His production of L’incoronazione di Poppea at Barcelona’s Liceu is a curious combination of all these things and I think it works pretty well.