An anti-Salome?

I’ve learned not to dismiss Romeo Castellucci’s work on first watching because it has a nasty habit of starting to make sense on reflection.  His 2018 production of Richard Strauss’ Salome for the Salzburg Festival may be a case in point.  Castellucci seems determined to destroy any preconceptions we have about the work and Franz Welser-Möst in the pit is a willing accomplice.

1.walls

Continue reading

That survey

Blu-Ray-Disc-89676So a few weeks ago I asked readers to help me better understand how they viewed opera on video via a short survey.  The results follow though heavily caveated by the fact that only 22 people responded.

Most people use multiple methods to watch video with 86% using Youtube, 82% DVD, 59% Blu-ray, 50% free video streams and 28% subscription streams. but only 14% (not very surprisingly) using 4K video.

The primary method results are more interesting: 45% use the Internet, 54% use some kind of disk.  The former is dominated by Youtube.  On the latter DVD tops Blu-ray 2 to 1.

Continue reading

Vanessa

Samuel Barber’s Vanessa doesn’t get performed much and the recently released recording of the 2018 Glyndebourne production is the only video version available.  It’s pretty interesting, if perplexing at times, and I’m not as convinced as many of the people interviewed in the “extras” portion of the disk that this is an “under-rated masterpiece”.

1.flashback

Continue reading

Das Wunder der Heliane

The video recording, made at the Deutsche Oper in 2018, of Korngold’s rarely seen Das Wunder der Heliane is yet another lesson in holding off on making judgements on an opera or production until one has seen the whole thing.  I still don’t think it’s a lost masterpiece but I’m feeling a lot less derisive than I was at the end of Act I.

1.dress

Continue reading

Reimagined Zauberflöte

The 2018 Salzburg Festival production of Die Zauberflöte really pushes the envelope of reenvisioning the piece.  Is there anything to say about this piece that hasn’t already been said?  Lydia Steier thinks so and goes some considerable way tp making her point.  So what’s the big idea here?  Essentially the kicking off points are that it’s about (in a sense) a dysfunctional family and it’s a fairy tale.  So we open on the dining room of a rather depressing bourgeois Austrian family in the mid 1930s sitting down to dinner.  There’s the mother, the father, the grandfather and three boys; all rather formally dressed.  A portrait of a bride hangs behind the table.  The father has a hissy fit and storms out.  The mother, who appears to drink, starts breaking things.  The grandfather takes the boys off to the nursery to read them a bedtime story.

1.dinner

Continue reading

A French Comte Ory

Rossini’s Le Comte Ory was written for Paris so it’s appropriate that there should be a recording from the Opéra Comique.  It’s directed by Denis Podalydès who chooses to set it around the time of the opera’s creation (1828) with the “crusader” element replaced by the French conquest of Algeria.  The sets and costumes are pretty conventional with a heavy emphasis on religious symbolism; some of it rather awry.  There’s also a heavy element of sexual frustration.  The comedy is all very much there but it’s not too slapstick and there’s none of the annoying cheesiness of Bartlett Sher’s New York version.  It all feels very French.

1.hermit

Continue reading

Giulietta e Romeo

Nicola Vaccaj was a contemporary of Rossini and composer of numerous operas of which only his 1825 work Giulietta e Romeo survives.  It was produced and recorded at the Festivale della Valle d’Itria in 2018 on the outdoor stage of the Palazzo Ducale in Martina Franca.  Giulietta e Romeo, like Bellini’s work on the same subject, is based on earlier material rather than the Shakespeare play and it’s quite different apart from the basic faked death and dual suicide at the end.  Here we are less concerned with two young lovers.  There’s more broad-scale political stuff.  Romeo commands the Ghibelline army that is besieging the Guelfs (including the Capulets) in Verona.  He has already killed Giulietta’s brother in battle and the lovers have known each other for some time.  So Romeo is rather more than a boy though still sung by a mezzo.  The themes are more about bereavement and revenge than young love.  The conflict is more than a quarrel between two urban dynasties.

1.wolves

Continue reading