Yesterday, Easter Saturday, I got to see the Royal Opera House production of Wagner’s Parsifal. It was broadcast live to many locations of December 18th last year but hasn’t been seen in Toronto until now. It was very much a three act experience. At the end of the first and longest act I thought we were perhaps seeing greatness in the making. Stephen Langridge’s production concept supported by Alison Chitty’s fairly abstract modern designs were making all kinds of sense to me. At centre stage is a white, semi transparent cube serving as both grail shrine and Amfortas’ hospital room. Within it, various aspects of the back story are shown to us and it comes off as a place of knowledge; perhaps of a much deeper kind than has yet been revealed. This impression is reinforced with the unveiling of the Grail late in the act. It is a young, Christ like boy. The grail ceremony involves Amfortas cutting him to release the blood for the ceremony. There’s a lot of blood letting but it makes sense. We are seeing a very wounded and dysfunctional polity.
It’s perhaps odd that somebody like me, who got into Janáček’s music as a teenager, should have taken so long to discover his operas but I’m so glad I did. The latest discovery is Věk Makropulos in a 2011 recording from the Groβes Festspielhaus in Salzburg with Angela Denoke as the 337 year old diva Emilia Marty. It’s a strange work dramatically; a sort of fantastic detective story. Apparently it’s based on a comedy (by Karel Čapek, the guy who coined the modern meaning of “robot”) though how it got from a comedy to the opera is a bit of a mystery. It’s weird, compelling and creepy but not at all funny. It also has a terrific score. Continue reading
After what seems like an interminable series of reviews of DVDs that don’t do full justice to the product on stage I finally got to look at one that presented the production almost as if one had been in the theatre. It’s an Opus Arte disc of Calixto Bieito’s production of Berg’s Wozzeck staged in Barcelona in 2007. Bieito is seen by many as the epitome of Regietheater directors and many people will write off any of his productions without further ado. Not me. I found this Wozzeck by turns powerful, compelling, revolting and sometimes puzzling but never dull or disrespectful.