Ariadne goes to war

Katherina Thoma not unreasonably chooses to set her 2013 Glyndebourne production of Ariadne auf Naxos in a country house in the south of England (though I suppose equating the Christies with a rather boorish Viennese bourgeois might be thought a touch unkind).  She also chooses to set it in 1940 which sets us up for an almost Marxian dialectic not just between high art and low art but between art and life; especially where life and death are concerned.

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There’s the Moral to Draw

Robert Lepage’s 2007 Brussels production of The Rake’s Progress is fascinating on many levels.  I think all good opera productions start with the music and this is no exception.  Lepage sees a crucial relationship between Stravinsky at the time the work was written (1948) and film and television.  It was an era when insubstantial visual imagery was being supported emotionally by pretty impressive music.  Lepage works with that idea; setting the work in the 40s and incorporating film and film making imagery extensively.  I think this decision also frees up the music.  By taking the piece out of the 18th century it becomes possible to take the 18th century out of the piece.  For instance, there are elements in the libretto that mimic 18th century street ballads but Stravinsky absolutely avoids writing the kind of phrasing one might expect and quite deliberately breaks up the line.  That phrasing is respected here whereas I have often heard a false legato imposed on some of those phrases. In a way, the production is helping the viewer to hear the music differently which is perhaps the highest compliment one can pay an opera production.  There are other intriguing relationships between Lepage’s vision and Stravinsky’s.  Lepage sees Stravinsky as playing with time in a cinematic way i.e. rendering it non-linear.  Lepage seeks to mirror this in the spatial dimension by using some odd perspectives and some cinema devices; notably Anne driving her car in front of a moving backdrop just like a studio movie of the period.  There’s a lot going on and it would be tedious to describe it in detail.

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