Mysteries plus

The Halloween concert by the UoT Contemporary Music Ensemble in Walter Hall was fun.  Unfortunately I was only able to catch the first half which featured Sofia Gubaidulina’s In Erwartung for saxophone quartet and percussion.  This was a cool piece making interesting use of the space.  It was followed by Robert Paterson’s Closet Full of Demons which is scored for small ensemble plus alarm clocks and jack-in-a-box.  Sometimes I feel I should listen to music like this more often (and sometimes I don’t!).  The main reason for being there though was to see Maeve Palmer and the Ensemble do Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Clearly tons of work had gone into this and it was much crisper than when I saw it in Barbara Hannigan’s master class a few weeks ago.  Maeve really got into character as Gepopo.  It was all there.  The notes of course but also the keen sense of timing and the ability to convey the paranoia of the character.  The Ensemble was well into it too.  The bassoon and trombones were ugly.  The shouting was convincing.

I wish I had photographs because everyone was in costume not just Maeve.  The firs conductor (lorenzo Guggenheim) appeared as a back to front neon lit Wolfman and the second; Wallace Halladay, as a reversed skeleton.  The Ensemble included Superwoman among others and Maeve was a sort of leather mini-skirted SS officer.  Much fun!

If anyone does have photos I could use please drop me a line.

Rationing the rapture

Katharina Wagner’s take on Tristan und Isolde recorded at Bayreuth in 2015 is hard to unpack.  There are some hints in a short essay in the booklet accompanying the disk and a few more in the interview with conductor Christian Thielemann included as an extra but it still leaves the viewer with a lot to do.  It’s essentially unromantic and quite abstract.  A lot of stuff that happens in a traditional interpretation just doesn’t happen but there’s not really anything much to replace it.  What’s left is the story of two people who fall in love in a situation where that is bound to end badly and where, despite the best efforts of pretty much everyone else, it does.  It’s actually quite nihilistic.  Tristan, and maybe Isolde, seek a kind of transcendence in love/death but there is none.  At the end Isolde doesn’t die but something in her does.  It had me thinking of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (but then so much in life does).

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Netrebko and Villazon in Manon

Massenet’s Manon is a glitzy 19th century set piece. It’s very French and very much a star vehicle.  In this 2007 production from the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, director Vincent Paterson’s decides to to stage it in the 1950s and make Manon somewhat cinema obsessed, in a narcissistic way, which works rather well.  It’s a self consciously glitzy affair with a bright gold curtain and technicians with Klieg lights following Manon much of the time.  Even the “squalid” bits are treated with glamour.  The only jarring element, deliberately I guess, is the use of giant reproductions of 19th century paintings as backdrops; notably Liberty Leading the People in Act 3.

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They shoot horses don’t they?

Just back from the HD broadcast of the Met’s Götterdãmmerung.

Musically, I was really quite impressed. I thought Luisi’s take on the score was original, valid and enjoyable. His tempi were generally quite quick and there was a taut, sinewy quality to the strings that really brought out the shape of the music. No romantic wallowing here! I really liked the Gibichungs; Wendy Bryn Harmer as Gutrune, Iain Paterson’s Gunther and, especially, Hans-Peter König’s Hagen. All were well sung and characterful. Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried and Deb Voigt as Brünnhilde were really exciting in the Act 1 love duet and Deb nailed the Immolation scene, almost managing to overcome the staging. So much for the music, what about the production?

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