The ur Nixon

1.maoI found it a bit shocking that John Adam’s Nixon in China wasn’t released on DVD until after the MetHD broadcast in 2011.  I was even more shocked when I found out that the original 1987 Houston production had been recorded and broadcast on PBS.  Just recently, thanks to a kind reader of this blog, I’ve been able to watch that original broadcast.  It’s TV from 1988 recorded on VHS and then digitized so the picture quality isn’t state of the art but the sound is surprisingly good. Continue reading

Lauren Pelly’s weird, dour Tales of Hoffmann

Laurent Pelly’s 2013 production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Liceu is one of those productions that’s a bit hard to take in at first go.  Part of it is the performing edition used (Michael Kay and Jean-Christophe Keck) which seems to have added a lot of dialogue compared to any version I’ve seen before and includes Hoffmann killing Giulietta in Act 3.  This produces a constant sense of “where they heck are we in the piece”.  It doesn’t help that the DVD package contains no explanatory material at all.  There are no interviews on the disks and the documentation is sub-basic.

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Ravel double bill

In 2012 Glyndebourne staged an interesting and contrasting double bill of Ravel one-acters in productions by Laurent Pelly.  The first was L’heure espagnole.  It’s a sort of Feydeau farce set to music.  The plot is classic bedroom farce with the twist that most of the doors the lovers come in or out of belong to clocks.  Concepción is the bored wife of a nerdy clockmaker.  She’s not overly impressed by her two lovers; a prolix poet and a smug banker, who show up while hubby is out doing the municipal clocks.  She’s much more taken by the slightly simple but very muscular muleteer who spends most of his time lugging lover infested clocks up and down stairs for her.  Pelly wisely takes the piece at face value and brings off a mad cap forty five minutes timed to the split second.

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Una opera in maschera

I despair.  I really do.  Yesterday’s MetHD broadcast of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera had so much going for it.  The singing was brilliant and David Alden’s production seemed to have plenty of interesting ideas.  I say “seemed” because we only got the briefest of brief glimpses of it in between the succession of close ups served up by video director Matthew Diamond.  On the odd occasions we got to see more than a head or a body it was usually from a weird angle.  It’s particularly irritating because the two elements of the production that seemed to be most important were the ones most ruthlessly undermined.  Alden’s movement of chorus, supers and dancers and the contrast between what they do and what the principals do seems to be important but who knows?  Similarly his use of contrasting spaces, especially in Act 3, is obviously important but when the viewer gets only a couple of seconds to establish the context before the camera moves in and loses it the effect is fatally weakened.

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Nixons in China

What looked like a bit of a nuisance turned out instead to be an interesting opportunity. By chance, the Friday evening performance of the COC’s Nixon in China (our season tickets are for Friday nights) fell the evening before the Met’s HD broadcast of its production of the same piece affording me the opportunity to see two contrasting productions in less than 24 hours.

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