A different take on Tosca

For quite some time I have wondered whether it’s possible to reinterpret Puccini’s Tosca or whether the specificity as to time and place in the libretto makes it effectively impossible?  Indeed I had never even seen it tried.  All this despite the many and obvious anachronisms in the libretto.  All the Toscas I had seen were clearly set in Rome in that one week in 1800 (or at least the implausible version of it that’s contained in the libretto)!  Phillip Himmelmann’s production for the 2017 Baden-Baden Easter Festival breaks the mould in giving it a contemporary, or perhaps near future, setting.

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Intense, if a bit weird, Onegin

Mariusz Treliński’s Eugene Onegin originated in Warsaw but was filmed in Valencia.  It’s distinctly on the Regietheater end of the spectrum but it’s intense and oddly compelling.  The sets are spare and almost abstract.  A silent character, O***, is interpolated.  he’s a sort of Commendatore’s ghost who comments on the action and interacts with characters at key moments; with Tatiana during the letter scene and with Lensky before the duel for example.  A lot of action takes place in front of the pit, usually simultaneously with action further back on stage making for quite complex (and hard to film) visuals.

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On to Toronto

tcherniakovThe Tcherniakov Don Giovanni that I just finished watching on Blu-ray is a Canadian Opera Company co-production so, sooner or later, it should end up in Toronto.  That will be interesting.  There’s a very conservative streak in the Toronto audience and, especially, among the critics for the major newspapers.  These are people who are disturbed by Robert Carsen and go apopleptic over Chris Alden.  It will be most interesting to see what the reaction is to something like Tcherniakov’s interpretation, even though it’s not that radical by European standards.

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Happy families

Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni recorded at the 2010 Aix-en-Provence festival is full on Regie.  He takes the characters and story of Mozart/DaPonte and recasts them quite radically.  Zerlina is Donna Anna’s daughter.  Donna Elvira, Donna Anna’s cousin, is married to Don Giovanni.  Leporello is a family member too.  The sense is of one extended, conventional, bourgeois family in which Don Giovanni is a fatally disruptive intrusion.  Tcherniakov changes the time line too.  Instead of taking place over a 24 hour period the story plays out over many weeks.

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Tcherniakov’s Gambler

So I finally found a way of getting the Kultur release of the 2008 Staatsoper unter den Linden production of Prokofiev’s The Gambler to work, with subtitles and all, though I had to go to my back up DVD player.  As you will read below this is a very interesting and worthwhile DVD but whatever you do, don’t buy the Kultur release which is technically wonky and features sub-standard Dolby 2.0 sound.  For heaven’s sake who is doing Dolby 2.0 on an opera DVD in 2008!  The same recording is available on regionless DVD and Blu-ray from C-Major and in that release it features PCM 5.1 and LPCM stereo choices.  There may even be some useful documentation which, as ever with Kultur, is minimal.  There are also more subtitle choices on the C-Major version.

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A grim and gritty Rusalka

Martin Kušej’s 2010 production of Dvořák’s Rusalka at the Bayerisches Staatsoper is exactly the sort of production traditionalists fume about over their port and cigars.  It’s loosely based on the Fritzl and Kampusch imprisonment/child abuse cases.  The Water Goblin, aided by his wife, Ježibaba, have their children; Rusalka and her sisters, imprisoned in a wet cellar under their house.  The Water Gnome is clearly indulging in sexual abuse of the girls to the total indifference of his wife.  Rusalka dreams of a life among humans and of love.  She begs her mother to make her human/set her free.  This happens and Rusalka, mute and tottering on red heels, is free to pursue her romance with the prince.  Is this literal or all in Rusalka’s imagination?  Does it matter?  Continue reading