Harnoncourt 2 – Don Giovanni

Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s 2014 cycle of the Da Ponte operas continues with Don Giovanni.  The recording has much in common with his Le nozze di Figaro, even down to the same essay in the booklet, and I’m not going to repeat what I wrote in that review.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend a look before reading the rest of this.

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Harnoncourt’s Mozart cycle

Back in 2014 Nikolaus Harnoncourt launched a project to present all three Mozart/da Ponte operas, concert style, on the stage of the Theater an der Wien in a single month.  They are now being released on DVD/Blu-ray.  The first is Le nozze di Figaro and it comes with a 52 minute documentary by Felix Breisach; Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Between Obsession and Perfection – part 1.

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Covid fan tutte

Covid fan tutte is the best opera thing I’ve seen come out of the pandemic yet.  It’s from Finnish National Opera and it uses the music of Così fan tutte (mostly) and a new libretto (in Finnish natch) to poke fun at every aspect of the current situation.  To quote the blurb:

On stage, singers are rehearsing Die Walküre, when they are suddenly interrupted. As management has been laid off and the news of a global virus spreads rapidly, the Wagnerians are suddenly instructed to perform a modern satire on the situation.

It’s fully staged with a socially distanced orchestra and a virtual chorus.  There appears to have been some sort of live audience in the house.  They weren’t mucking about here.  Both Karita Mattila and Esa-Pekka Salonen are involved.  Bottom line; it’s very well done and genuinely funny with a few really sad bits like where a man sings an aria to his mother to the closed window of the old people’s home.  There are subtitles for those whose Finnish isn’t up to it.

You can find it on Youtube on the Operavision channel.  Brexit supporters should stay away as Operavision is funded by those nasty cultured foreigners, the EU.

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Der Messias

Der Messias is the German version of Handel’s Messiah as arranged by Mozart.  The translation dates from 1775 and is by Klopstock and Ebeling drawing heavily on the Lutheran Bible.  My German isn’t good enough to say how “archaic” it sounds to a modern German speaker but it certainly seems to be quite singable.  In any event it was presented in Salzburg during this year’s Mozartwoche in a staged version by Robert Wilson.  The arrangement adds a substantial wind section and changes the voice parts in places.  For example Doch wer mag entraten (But who may abide) is given to the bass rather than one of the high voices.

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War and Peace

No, not the opera by Prokofiev but Robert Carsen’s rather brilliant take on Mozart’s Idomeneo recorded last year at the Teatro Real in Madrid*.  It’s a contemporary Mediterranean setting.  Crete is a completely militarised society.  Everyone is uniformed and carries weapons.  The Trojans are refugees living in a camp with all the pathetic accoutrements of refugee camp life.  Idomeneo and Elettra stand for the traditional “Make Crete Great Again” kind of nationalism while Idamante and Ilia look forward to a world where “Us” and “Them” dissolve in our common humanity.  Carsen, Neptune, this writer and, I think, listening closely to the music, Mozart side with the young lovers.

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Opera Atelier 2020/21

‘Tis the season for season announcements.  First out of the blocks is Opera Atelier.  They have two Toronto shows.  The fall show is a tweaked revival of the venerable 1991 production of Mozart’s Magic Flute.  It gets new costumes and a new “flying machine” for the Queen of the Night. Colin Ainsworth sings Tamino with Mireille Asselin as Pamina, Douglas Williams as Papageno, Gustav Andreassen as Sarastro, and Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night.  That runs October 22nd to November 1st 2020.

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Equilibrium Requiem

Last night’s TSO concert was a collaboration with Barbara Hannigan’s Equilibrium Young Artists project with EQ providing the quartet of soloists for Mozart’s Requiem.  But before we got to the Requiem there was a performance of Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 in E-flat Major.  It was enjoyable.  A somewhat reduced scale TSO played as well as they usually do when Sir Andrew Davis is on the podium and he took us through an irreproachable reading of the works essential tuneful and easy to listen to four movements.  It made a pleasant “overture”.

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Mozart’s Messiah

This year the TSO used the Mozart arrangement for Handel’s Messiah (though, naturally enough, with the original English text).  I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s not hugely different in sound to whichever of Handel’s versions one is used to and it’s definitely not one of those 20th century versions for 100 piece orchestra and massed choirs but I’m hard pressed to see what the point is other than it’s Mozart.

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Figaro’s Wedding at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

Last night saw the first performance of a run of eleven in Against the Grain Theatre’s revival of their 2013 hit Figaro’s Wedding.  It’s essentially the same show.  Director/librettist Joel Ivany has made a number of tweaks and updates but the main differences lie in what the singers bring to their characters.

1_L-R_Alexandra Smither and Bruno Roy, Photo by Taylor Long

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Getting intimate with Figaro and Susanna

rachaelkerrI chatted this morning with Rachael Kerr; music director of Against the Grain’s upcoming Figaro’s Wedding.  I saw the original version back in 2013 and was wondering what might be different this time.  I also wondered whether there might be some insights to be gained by approaching it from the perspective of the music rather than the libretto.  Hence my decision to talk to Rachael rather than other members of the team.

I think I lucked in.  It proved to be a most interesting conversation which ultimately turned on why this would be an engaging show and how that turned on “intimacy”.  So first let’s review the elements of the show: Continue reading