The 2016 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro from La Scala had me really puzzled after three acts. There’s nothing to help with the production in either the booklet or on the disk so I went looking on line. According to the Financial Times, Frederic Wake-Walker’s production replaced a much revered version by Girgio Strehler and is a sort of homage to him filled with references to other of his productions.
La Scala and Riccardo Chailly have embarked on a project to record all the Puccini operas. The first one, recorded in 2015, is Turandot with a new completion of the third act by Berio rather than the usual Alfano version. The director was Nikolaus Lehnhoff with Nina Stemme as Turandot and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Calaf.
Once in a while one comes across an opera DVD that’s so “ordinary” that it’s extremely difficult to write about it. The 2002 Cagliari recording of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is one such. Stefano Vizioli’s production is set in 1750s Rome and plays the piece about as straight as a madcap comedy can be played. The singing is rather good and, if the acting is a bit Brian Rix farce that’s hardly inappropriate. At the heart of the piece is Alessandro Corbelli who must be close to being the ideal Pasquale. He gets good support from Eva Mei as Norina and Antonino Siragusa as Ernesto. Roberto de Candia is also quite good as Malatesta but he’s not Mariusz Kwiecien. The chorus is a lot livelier than the average Italian chorus and the orchestra, from Bologna, might be a bit thin on string tone but isn’t bad at all and Gérard Korsten’s conducting is perfectly OK.
I’ve been looking really hard for a video recording of Tristan und Isolde that I felt I could recommend because, frankly, nothing is worse than a badly executed Tristan as those who suffered through the Met HD broadcast a few years ago will know. In the 2007 La Scala recording I have found one I feel confident about. Is it perfect? No. A perfect Tristan is probably beyond mere mortals. I’m never sure whether I find it more astonishing that anyone can sing this music or that a composer might have imagined that he could find people who could. That said, the La Scala recording is very close to an ideal Gesamtkunstwerk.
William Kentridge’s La Scala production of Die Zauberflöte is mainly notable for its use of black and white projections. The intention, apparently, is to tell the story as seen by, or even as seen inside, a Victorian camera. In places this works rather well but at times it’s quite hard to figure out what is actually going on. Whether it was that hard to read in the theatre I can’t say. Video recording projections is really hard and i have a lot of sympathy with Patrizia Carmine who video-directed here. The film of a play of a film thing is really difficult to capture remotely faithfully.
There is, finally, a recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes on Blu-ray. It’s a Richard Jones production with a largely British cast, recorded at La Scala in 2012. The sound and picture quality are first rate. Unfortunately the production and performances aren’t so much.
Richard Jones has chosen to set the piece in the 1980s and to portray the inhabitants of the Borough as a sort of inbred hive mind fuelled by prejudice, alcohol and drugs. Actually it’s not a bad concept but it comes off as exaggerated with cast and chorus repeatedly making more or less coordinated middle aged disco moves. He also portrays the nieces as the sort of permanently stoned bubble heads one wants to avoid on the last train home. There are some neat touches. The Moot Hall, The Boar and Grimes’ hut are all formed by box like spaces that are tilted and rotated to good effect. The lighting is effective too. Unusually for a modern production Jones doesn’t provide any staging for the interludes, leaving the theatre dark with the curtain down. Overall, it’s a production I’d want to take a second look at but I suspect it’s just painted too broadly to be really effective.