David Hockney and John Cox’s production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress first saw the light of day at Glyndebourne in 1975 and there’s a video of it from back then. It’s been revived umpteen times since, all with Cox directing rather than an overawed revival director. It was done again in 2010, with Vladimir Jurowski conducting, recorded and issued on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s fascinating.
The Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera is based on an intriguing concept that adds insight in many places but comes a bit unstuck in others. Coupled to some superb performances, it makes for an enjoyable and intriguing night at the theatre that will have the more adventurous busily and happily dissecting the piece for hours and the die hards reaching for their Zeffirelli pills.
Verdi’s Il Trovatore notoriously has an episodic and highly improbable plot. It’s also famously difficult to cast. Creating a compelling production and staffing it with capable singers therefore presents a formidable double challenge. The current Canadian Opera Company production gets it half right. The problem is Charles Roubaud’s much travelled production. There’s not an idea in it. It’s not surprising that the director’s programme notes run to three short paragraphs. Roubaud sets each scene in a sort of grey box of towering walls. Unfortunately each grey box is just different enough that that the curtain comes down at the end of each scene and the stage crew spend what seems like an interminable amount of time setting up the next grey box. We just aren’t used anymore to sitting quietly through interminable scene changes. We expect slicker stagecraft and in a modern opera house there’s really no excuse for this 19th century approach. Within in each grey box the grey clad cast come and go and in between mostly stand around. Blocking is perfunctory, acting superfluous and old fashioned “park and bark” the order of the day. It’s the sort of production that might have passed muster thirty years ago but really doesn’t cut it in 2012. Continue reading →