The 2019 production from the Opernstudio der Bayerischen Staatsoper (basically their young artists programme) was a bit unusual. Director Axel Ranisch created a kind of mash up of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Stravinsky’s very short opera Mavra. Iolanta is about a blind princess who doesn’t realise she is blind. It’s only when she meets her future husband, a French count Vaudémont, that she realises this. Her father the king employs a Moorish doctor to try and cure her, which fails, but believing that if she doesn’t pretend to be sighted her suitor will be executed she fakes it and is given to him in marriage. He alone realises she is still blind and puts out his own eyes in sympathy (this is pretty hard to watch!). In the process they both realise that God’s creation is much greater than human eyes can perceive.
Tag Archives: leconte
Traviata – Vous méritez un avenir meilleur
Traviata – Vous méritez un avenir meilleur is a theatre piece that combines elements of Verdi’s La Traviata with elements of the source material for it; Dumas fils’ La Dame aux camélias (both the novel and the play). There is also some newly written and composed material. The creators; Benjamin Lazar (director), Florent Hubert (arrangements and musical direction) and Judith Chemla (who sings Violetta) aimed to create a work that goes further than the source material in exploring the inner psychology of the main character.
Handel’s Arminio was written for Covent Garden and while admired by the cognoscenti at the time it wasn’t a commercial success. It’s a well worked three act opera seria with nothing much to distinguish it from others of its ilk. For what it’s worth it’s set during Augustus’ attempt to conquer the land between the Rhine and the Elbe but its themes of death or glory and love versus duty, all with an impausible reconciliation ending, could easily be set anywhere. Actually it almost wilfully ignores history as the libretto claims it happened in 9AD when the real Arminius (Hermann the Cherusker) decisively defeated Varo (also in the opera) in the Teutoburger Wald ending Roman hopes of extending the Empire beyond the Rhine.(*)
Forest of the imagination
Malmö might not seem the most obvious place to record Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande but in 2016 the opera there assembled a mostly French cast and two young French rising stars; Maxime Pascal as conductor and Benjamin Lazar as director. The result is interesting, rather good and very French.
Alcina in Aix
Katie Mitchell’s production of Handel ‘s Alcina recorded at Aix-en-Provence in 2015 is extremely interesting. It’s almost complete with maybe twenty minutes of the ballet music cut. None of the ballet is actually staged as such. It’s also a Mitchell special multi-space set (like Written on Skin) with the lower level having Alcina/Morgana’s boudoir, drawing room or whatever at any given moment flanked by two smaller spaces which are the “personal” spaces of the two sisters. When the ladies withdraw from the public/enchanted space they are replaced by actresses who look decades older. Only late in the piece as Alcina’s magic fades do the two worlds get confused. The upper level of the set is taken up with the giant machine that turns Alcina’s victims into taxidermied animals. The overall aesthetic is upscale modern with lots of actors as very competent servants.