Janáček’s Jenůfa was staged and recorded at the Staatsoper unter den Linden in 2021 under COVID conditions. There’s no audience and the chorus members, in black, are distributed all around the auditorium. Even without a live audience it’s extremely dramatic and intense.
Not so long ago I reviewed a production of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel and described it as “so bonkers that I hardly know how to describe it.”. So what to say about one that I found even less satisfying? First, for plot details check out the earlier review. Now for this version directed by Andrea Breth and filmed at the Theater an der Wien in 2021 without an audience but with no other obvious concessions to COVID.
I’m really not sure what to make of the recent recording of Giodarno’s Siberia made at the Maggi Musicale Fiorentino in 2021. It’s certainly a rather weird experience. It’s partly that it’s a bit of an oddball of an opera, partly Roberto Andò’s production and partly that it was recorded under COVID conditions with the chorus masked and blocking that seems, if rather inconsistently, to be designed for social distancing.
Handel’s Saul gets another “fully staged” treatment in this recording of a Claus Guth production at the Theater an der Wien in 2021. Inevitably it invites comparison with Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne version.. They are quite different though each is very enjoyable n its own way. Those not familiar with the piece might find the introduction to the earlier production helpful as I’m not going to repeat the outline of plot etc here.
The 2021 recording of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann from the Staatsoper Hamburg is fairly straightforward but it’s visually interesting and musically excellent. I don’t think Daniele Finzi Pascas’ production has a “concept” as such. It’s still about three imaginary women who make up Hoffmann’s dream woman and he still ultimately rejects even her in favour of Art. Each of the five acts is given as different and distinctive look and feel though the use of mirrors and aerial doubles is a recurrent theme. It’s worth noting up front that Olga Peretyatko sings all four ladies.
It’s becoming a bit of a habit. The Royal Opera has released a video recording of the 2019 revival of Kaspar Holten’s 2014 production of Don Giovanni directed by Jack Furness and conducted by Helmut Haenchen. I’ve already reviewed both the DVD and the cinema broadcast of the 2014 production so saying much about the production would be superfluous. Suffice to say it’s one of the better Don Giovannis available on disk.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not it’s legit to change text, music or dramaturgy for problem operas like Madama Butterfly. I get pretty frustrated by this because it happens all the time in Europe, especially in the German speaking countries, a fact which seems to escape the notice of many involved in this debate. Usually it’s the dramaturgy that gets changed. Changes to the music are rare indeed and, traditional playing with operetta dialogue aside, the libretto usually doesn’t change. And, of course it’s not just “problem operas” that get the treatment. Today I’m going to write about a “concept” production of Weber’s Der Freischütz recorded at the Vienna State Opera in 2018.
There’s a certain logic in Christof Loy following up his 2019 production of Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with Riccardo Zandonai’s 1914 piece Francesca da Rimini. Both pieces deal with overt, somewhat perverted, sexuality as the means of a woman achieving some sort of agency and both have lush, hyper-romantic scores. Loy claims his next project will be Shreker’s Der Schatzgräber for the same house so there’s apparently more to come.
Discovering a new opera that’s really good is one of life’s small pleasures and my latest is Benet Casablancas’ L’enigma di Lea. It’s a collaboration between the composer and the writer and theorist Rafael Argullol and it premiered at the Liceu in Barcelona in 201`9.
Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville’s Titon et l’Aurore is another member of that rather long list of operas that were well received in their day and then totally disappeared from the rep. It’s interesting as an example of what was happening on the French opera stage between the retirement of Rameau and the revolution (it premiered in 1753) and because it played an important role in the “querelle des bouffons”.