Hunchback Hoffmann

Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann recorded in Bilbao in 2006 isn’t nearly as weird as the interviews on the first disk might lead one to expect.  It has its moments but in many ways is more “by the book” than the Laurent Pelly production I looked at last week.  The interviews talk of a “Sartrian” Hoffmann and a Freudian approach to Antonia.  Ok so Hoffmann is portrayed as a hunchback and he’s fairly damaged but he’s basically your standard drunk poet fixated on a woman or women he can’t have.  I can’t actually see this dude nailing his hand to a nightclub table with a knife or drowning his cat to prove a point.

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Tancredi in Schwetzingen

Rossini’s Tancredi isn’t performed particularly often but it was Stendhal’s favourite opera and it’s not hard to see why both these things are true.  It’s got some really lovely music but the plot is pretty thin and it’s hard to cast.  It needs a very versatile low mezzo/contralto for the title role and a crackerjack soprano and tenor too.  I watched it in a well cast 1992 production from the Schwetzingen festival and enjoyed it despite some frustrations with the staging and the implausibly drawn out plot of the second act.  Continue reading

Cool and refined Barbiere

Emilio Sagi’s 2005 production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia is incredibly elegant and restrained. It looks like something by Robert Carsen.  The sets are all constructed and transformed in full view and just about everything is black and white until the final scene.  There is a lot of background action and commentary from a talented group of dancers who give a very Spanish feel to the piece.  The final scene bursts into vivid, even loud, colour and the finale is just gorgeous to look at. The direction of the actors is well thought out too though they do seem to sing from on top of furniture a lot of the time.

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