Brisk and attractive Figaro

This recording of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro was made in 2004 and released on DVD, which won a Grammy.  It’s now been remastered and released on Blu-ray.  It was recorded at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris and directed by Jean-Louis Martinoty.  The production is visually attractive and well thought out but not concept driven in any way.  The sets are largely made up of 16th century paintings while the costumes are the operatic version of the 17th or maybe 18th century; low necklines, full skirts, breeches etc.  There are a few interesting touches.  Act 3 is set in the count’s curio room with dead reptiles, skulls and so on and it seems somehow to provoke extreme nostalgia in the countess during Dove sono.  For the most part it’s a highly competent, well paced effort though with nothing new or different to say.

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Quirky Idomeneo

Dieter Dorn’s production of Idomeneo, filmed at the Bayerisches Staatsoper in 2008 has some interesting ideas and some arresting images but ultimately it’s hard to figure out where he is trying to go.  There’s a lot to like.  He clearly places Elettra as a member of the House of Atreus which makes her more believable.  He also creates credible personalities for Ilea, Idamante, idomeneo and Arbace.  No mean feat.  Some of the images are quite arresting too.  There is lots of blood and plenty of stage action.  The sets are chaotic piles of stuff.  Idamante gets a killer sea monster hunting rig.  Then there is the ending.  Instead of finishing on the “final chorus” the chorus drape the set with white sheets and for ten minutes the orchestra play what is listed in the booklet as a ballet but there is noone on stage and nothing is happening.  Going out on ten minutes of the most boring music in the opera is just bizarre.

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On to Toronto

tcherniakovThe Tcherniakov Don Giovanni that I just finished watching on Blu-ray is a Canadian Opera Company co-production so, sooner or later, it should end up in Toronto.  That will be interesting.  There’s a very conservative streak in the Toronto audience and, especially, among the critics for the major newspapers.  These are people who are disturbed by Robert Carsen and go apopleptic over Chris Alden.  It will be most interesting to see what the reaction is to something like Tcherniakov’s interpretation, even though it’s not that radical by European standards.

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Into the woods

Claus Guth’s 2008 Salzburg production of Don Giovanni divided the critics along entirely predictable lines.  It’s a very unusual treatment of Don Giovanni but the concept is stuck to with real consistency and it works to create a compelling piece of music theatre.  The treatment on video too is not straightforward and, in a sense, the DVD/Blu-ray version is as much the work of Brian Large as it is of Claus Guth.

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There were rats

I guess Lohengrin is one of those operas that’s so loaded up with symbols it just begs directors to deconstruct it.  Well that’s what Hans Neuenfels’ Bayreuth production, recorded in 2011, does and then some.  There is so much going on in this production that I think it would take many viewings to really get inside it.  The bit most critics have fastened on is the costuming of the chorus as rats or, on occasion, half rat, half human.  It’s visually interesting and since there are also ‘handlers’ in Hazmat suits it’s clear that some sort of experiment is being alluded to.  Add in bonus rat videos at key points and there’s a lot to think about.  One thing this does do is solve the Teutonic war song problem.  A chorus of rather timid looking rats singing with martial ardour is a good deal less Nurembergesque than a similar chorus in armour or military uniforms.  Rats aside the story is really told in a quite straightforward and linear way while providing all sorts of moments that one might want to interrogate further,

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