Not all smiles

I’m never quite sure what I really think about an operetta like Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns.  I quite like the music, even if it can be a bit cheesey but I’m put off by the casual cultural appropriation (though it’s not nearly as bad as Puccini!).  I’m not sure what the best directorial approach is either.  Does one play it for froth?  Does one try and mine some deeper meaning?  Interestingly Andreas Homoki’s approach for his Zürich production filmed in 2017 is to play it straight and let whatever is there appear or not.  It works rather well.  It;s a typically lavish Zürich production with lots of colour and movement and he creates some spectacular visual effects.  But he also allows for a sinister element to appear in the Chinese scenes.  It may be over-interpreting but I think one can see shades of proto-Fascism here.  It’s reinforced by the score that really has some rather sinister elements that I hadn’t noticed before.  I think there’s even a nod to Siegfried’s Funeral March.  All in all, quite interesting without being wildly unconventional.

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Moors and Christians

Schubert could write great melodies and he had a real affinity for the voice so one might expect him to have been successful when he turned his hand to opera.  He wasn’t with Fierrabras which wasn’t performed until decades after his death and has been revived seldom since, most recently at Salzburg in 2014 where it was recorded. It’s easy to see why.  The libretto is awful and even if the music were really amazing, which it isn’t but more of that later, I doubt it would have made much impact.

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