Spuren der Verirrten (The Lost) is described on the box as an opera by Philip Glass. That’s pretty misleading. It’s more a theatre piece/ballet by David Pountney and Amin Hosseinpour with a soundtrack by Philip Glass. It was created for the opening of the new Landestheater Linz at the instigation of Artistic Director Rainer Mennicken (carefully trimmed beard, wire rimmed glasses) who wanted a piece that would encapsulate all the various theatrical forms the new building would stage, as well as show off its technical capabilities. Mennicken also wrote the “libretto” based on a highly abstract play by Peter Handke which seems to deal with the hopelessness of the human condition in some sort of post apocalyptic world. There’s no plot as such and the work unfolds in a series of scenes. For example there’s a ballerina point shoeing across the stage followed by a “spectator” in the auditorium commenting on the action followed by dancers with roadsigns followed by a Gumby like couple sitting under a table followed by more narration. Then come more dancers in Hosseinpour’s signature “jerky” style followed by a woman with an anti-nuclear sign having a row with her boyfriend in front of a giant green brain. And that’s just the first ten minutes of a piece that goes on for nearly two hours. Along the way we get a reality TV show in which the characters discuss whether a serial killer is worse than a goalkeeper who lets in a soft goal, a confrontation between the patriarch Abraham and a giant rabbit and a scene where a naked woman cuddles a human head while two dancers do the fish slapping dance around her. The piece concludes with the orchestra on stage and the chorus in the pit miming playing instruments and singing “blah, blah, blah” which actually fits the music pretty well.
Haydn’s Orlando Paladino is a “heroic comedy” based, of course, on Ariosto. In this version Angelica, queen of Cathay, and her lover Medoro have fled to a remote castle to get away from Orlando who is in love, of course, with Angelica. There’s a shepherd and shepherdess, a sorceress, a squire and Rodomonte, the king of Barbary thrown into the mix and various misadventures ensue until the sorceress, Alcina, dips Orlando into the waters of Lethe causing him to forget being in love with Angelica and it all ends happily. There are also a bunch of non-singing characters who, I think represent the “dangerous” people of this remote country. For reasons I haven’t quite fathomed they include a bishop and a bearded air hostess.
Rameau’s Castor et Pollux is a tragédie lyrique in five acts. It’s a mythology based libretto which, ultimately, celebrates the fraternal love of the twins who rise to immortality while rather callously discarding the female human love interest. Pierre Audi’s 2008 production for De Nederlandse Opera nods both to the baroque and to the mythological by staging the work in a rather abstract Sci-Fi sort of way but with moving sets and Fx that suggest, rather than reproduce, the stagecraft of the baroque.
Rameau’s Zoroastre is a tragédie lyrique in five acts. It’s basically a story of love, power and revenge coupled with a metaphysical struggle between Good and Evil. It has a seriously convoluted plot involving demons, incantations, good and evil spirits, a magical talisman book and human sacrifice. Watching the illustrated synopsis on the disk is strongly recommended! Being the baroque French beast that it is this work also has lots of ballets. Pierre Audi’s production was staged and filmed at the court theatre at Drottningholm and is a sort of almost, but not quite, HIP concept, somewhat akin to Robert Carsen’s production of Les Boréades.
Back in July I reviewed John Eliot Gardiner’s Paris recording of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice which I found musically fine, in good taste (too much so) and ultimately unengaging. Lydia pointed me to a Bayerischen Staatsoper version with Vesselina Kasarova in the title role. It’s the 1859 Berlioz version with a ballet tacked on at the end, more of which below. Musically it’s very good. Chorus and Orchestra under Ivor Bolton are excellent, Kasarova sings and acts very competently and manages an amazing cadenza in her big first act aria. Rosemary Joshua as Eurydice is perfectly adequate if a bit anonymous and Deborah York is an androgynous looking and sounding Amour which works fine for this production.