Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma at the COC (co-pro with San Francisco, Chicago and the Liceu) is perhaps best described as serviceable. I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any. That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient. The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus. So, what does it look like? It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest. There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing. Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes. Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end. All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.
Considering we begin with a holiday weekend it’s a busy week. Tuesday sees Dimitry Ivashchenko and Rachel Andrist in recital in the RBA at lunchtime with a program of Russian song that, inevitably, includes Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and works by Rachmaninov, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky. At 7.30pm that evening Christina Haldane is giving a DMA recital in Walter Hall. This isn’t your usual student gig. Christina has covered at Salzburg and the Royal Opera and made main stage appearances in several European countries. Both recitals are free.
On Wednesday Soundstreams have a concert called Magic Flutes with a series of contemporary pieces featuring five flute virtuosi, harp, viola, a bunch of percussion and Carla Huhtanen. It’s at 8pm at Koerner Hall. Further details.
It’s hard to fault any aspect of the new recording of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte recorded earlier this year at the Baden-Baden festival. The soloists are consistently good, and in some cases very good indeed, Simon Rattle is in the pit with the Berlin Philharmonic and Robert Carsen’s production is beautiful to look at and thought provoking without being pointlessly provocative. Add to that first rate video direction and superb Blu-ray sound and picture quality and one has a disk that looks competitive even in the very crowded market for Zauberflöte recordings.