Peter Eötvös’ 1998 opera Tri sestry is based on the Chekhov play and was recorded live at Oper Frankfurt in 2018. It takes fragments of the original Russian play and recombines them in a non-linear way to create a prologue and three “Sequences” from the points of view of Irina, Andrei and Mascha repectively. The recombination is complex enough for the accompanying booklet to contain a table mapping Chekhov’s scene order to Eötvös’. There’s no libretto in the CD package so even flipping between the (fairly detailed) synopsis and the track listing it’s hard to figure out who is singing or about what. No doubt this was much clearer when watching the stage production.
Matters are not made any easier by giving all the female roles to male singers. The sisters and Natascha are given to counter tenors while the nanny Anfisa is sung by a bass. This is fine except that a non-trivial amount of text is spoken and counter tenors sound just like any other male when speaking which further increases the difficulty of keeping things straight, especially with a cast of thirteen characters! Non-Russian speakers are unlikely to be able to follow much of the text anyway as singers sing over each other for most of the first two Sequences. It does get a bit more open and sparer in the third sequence and someone with a strong knowledge of the language will likely pick up nuances there that I missed.
Carl Nielsen’s operas don’t get performed much outside his native Denmark so it’s no surprise that the only video recording of his 1902 opera Saul og David was recorded in Copenhagen. The libretto is a fairly straightforward telling of the familiar story of Saul, David, Goliath, Samuel and so on. The music is very much of its time. It’s bold and lyrical; perhaps reminiscent of Strauss in a conventional mood or, perhaps, Elgar. There are some really good choruses and David and Michal get a gorgeous duet in Act 3.
Yesterday I went to a Met “live in HD” broadcast for the first time since The Nose two years ago. It was an interesting and ultimately rather depressing experience. This review really falls into two parts; a review of the production and performance, including how it was filmed for broadcast, and a piece on how the Met is “presenting” the work and how that seems to fit in with its overall HD strategy. The latter may turn into a bit of a rant.
Haydn’s Orlando Paladino is a “heroic comedy” based, of course, on Ariosto. In this version Angelica, queen of Cathay, and her lover Medoro have fled to a remote castle to get away from Orlando who is in love, of course, with Angelica. There’s a shepherd and shepherdess, a sorceress, a squire and Rodomonte, the king of Barbary thrown into the mix and various misadventures ensue until the sorceress, Alcina, dips Orlando into the waters of Lethe causing him to forget being in love with Angelica and it all ends happily. There are also a bunch of non-singing characters who, I think represent the “dangerous” people of this remote country. For reasons I haven’t quite fathomed they include a bishop and a bearded air hostess.
So closes Aribert Reimann’s 2010 opera Medea. It’s a two hour piece in four “pictures” that premiered at the Wiener Staatsoper in 2010 and the Blu-ray/DVD recording is taken from that initial run. Actually there’s a good deal more nightmare than dream in this version as, I suppose, there is in just about any version of the Medea story. This one draws on Franz Grillparzer’s version for the libretto and is entirely concerned with events after Jason and Medea reach Corinth. It’s unusually sympathetic to Medea herself with Jason and Kreon very much the villains.