In many ways Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots is a typical mid 19th century French grand opéra. It takes a sweeping, epic story; in this case the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and grafts onto it the elements the paying public demanded; spectacle, ballet, showpiece arias etc. The result is unwieldy and, when applied to such grim subject matter, almost grotesque. The 1991 Deutsche Oper production by John Dew (performed in German as Die Hugenotten) takes these disparate elements and works with them; mixing laugh out loud and extremely grim to create a piece of music theatre that is truly disturbing.
Rossini’s La Cenerentola takes almost three hours to tell a very straightforward version of the Cinderella story. Generally directors, despairing of the this, either camp it up (for example the Els Comediants production seen, inter alia, in Houston and Toronto in recent years) or they try to find a few more layers of meaning as in Ponnelle’s film version. Michael Hampe does neither in his 1988 Salzburg production, preferring to tell the story as a straightforward morality tale. I guess if one really loves the music and it’s really well sung this could work but, ultimately, I found it rather dull. Continue reading