Once in a while an opera video comes my way that’s so bonkers that I hardly know how to describe it. Emma Dante’s production of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel; recorded at Teatro dell’opera di Roma in 2019 would be a candidate for the most bonkers of all!
Following on from Massenet’s dreamlike, ambiguous Cendrillon I took a look at a fairly recent recording of Rossini’s much more straightforward, if somewhat moralising, opera buffa on the same theme La Cenerentola. There’s no magic here. The fairy godmother is replaced by the prince’s tutor Alidoro who engineers Angelina’s trip to the ball. There’s no stepmother either but rather a stepfather and it’s unclear what has happened to either of the mothers one imagines must have been involved.
Richard Strauss operas do tend to have somewhat weird plots but perhaps none more so than his early and seldom performed piece Feuersnot. We are in mediaeval Munich on St. John’s Eve when apparently large bonfires and, one suspects, other things, are traditional. The children are gathering firewood and the magician Kunrad is stalking the mayor’s daughter Diemut. To her, apparent at least, disgust and the scandal of the townspeople, he kisses her. She gets her revenge by pretending she’s going to winch him up to her room but leaves him stranded halfway where he is mocked by the other girls. He calls on the spirit of his mentor, an even greater magician, to help him extinguish all the lights and fires in the town. This bit is very Wagnerian because who was mistreated by the people of Munich? And who is his equally mistreated heir? You’ve got it in one right? Anyway, the townspeople rather whimsically persuade Diemut that it’s her maidenly duty to get the lights turned back on. After all, people have sacrificed a lot more than a quick shag to the needs of the energy industry. All it’s missing is a wordly crustacean really.