Don Tom

There are over 40 video recordings of Don Giovanni in the catalogue, dating back to 1954, and Thomas Allen sings the title role in quite a few of them.  This one was recorded at La Scala in 1987 and features a very strong cast in a careful, traditional staging.  It’s also pretty decent technical quality for the era.  The director was Giorgio Strehler in a comparatively rare opera outing.  His sets and costumes are of some vague aristocratic past with liveried footmen, big hats and twirling capes.  It’s quite handsome but not in any way revelatory.  Nor is any aspect of the production really.  We are clearly in an aristocratic milieu.  Tom Allen’s Don Giovanni is arrogant and proud with plenty of swagger.  There’s no hint of ambiguity about  Edita Gruberova’s Donna Anna or Ann Murray’s Donna Elvira and Francisco Araiza is a properly dutiful chump of a Don Ottavio.  It’s all quite serious with comic relief only in the most obvious places.  Having said that, there are some very effective scenes; especially the ending which has a an interesting lighting plot and manages not to be anti-climactic.

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Less than the sum of its parts

Ken Russell’s 1985 production of Gounod’s Faust at the Wiener Staatsoper makes an uneven and somewhat unsatisfying DVD.  The music making is fine, sometimes very fine, and the production has some very interesting and effective scenes but the overall concept doesn’t quite work.  Add to that quirky video direction and a picture quality that’s not good even by 1985 standards and the package as a whole just doesn’t quite make it.  It’s a shame as this is more interesting than most opera productions of the period.  Continue reading

A rather straightforward Cenerentola

Rossini’s La Cenerentola takes almost three hours to tell a very straightforward version of the Cinderella story.  Generally directors, despairing of the this, either camp it up (for example the Els Comediants production seen, inter alia, in Houston and Toronto in recent years) or they try to find a few more layers of meaning as in Ponnelle’s film version.  Michael Hampe does neither in his 1988 Salzburg production, preferring to tell the story as a straightforward morality tale.  I guess if one really loves the music and it’s really well sung this could work but, ultimately, I found it rather dull.  Continue reading

Ponelle’s Cenerentola

There’s been a fair amount of discussion of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s film version of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito over at The Earworm so I thought it would be a good time to dig out his La Scala production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.  They have a lot in common; an obsession with statuary and heavy focus on verticality that makes the picture often seem taller than it is wide are just two.  The Rossini, despite being filmed at La Scala is very filmic.  It’s much more like a movie than a video recording of a staged performance.  Continue reading

Hockney’s Flute

It seems to be “looking back at older Metropolitan Opera productions” week here in the blogosphere.  Over at The Earworm there’s a series of posts on a 1980 production of Don Carlos.  Our subject will be the 1991 Die Zauberflöte.

The production was designed by David Hockney and the look varies from the whimsical; the opening scene, to the grandiose; the final scene, with bits of Egyptiana in between.  It’s very handsome.  The direction is described as “original direction” by John Cox and “direction” by Guus Mostart.  I’m not entirely sure what this means as there doesn’t really seem to be a production concept and the Personeregie is pretty basic.  Basically it looks like acting is considered to be an optional extra.  Some of the singers are good actors and some don’t even try.  There’s no consistency.  The impression is that the “production” is just a backdrop for the singers to do their thing. Continue reading