Carlus Padrissa’s (of La fura dels baus) take on Verdi’s La forza del destino for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is nothing if not ambitious. He interprets this rather banal and meandering melodrama as a tale of cosmic inevitability. Leonora and Alvaro are metaphors for two stars, which after an epic journey through time and space, will collide and form a black hole extinguishing each other. FWIW the recording was made in June 2020 under COVID restrictions so the chorus is masked and it sounds as if the theatre is a lot less than full.
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is an opera I really have trouble with. Done “straight” it’s just a horrible mixture of cultural appropriation and just plain ick. It does have some good music though and opera companies insist on doing it roughy every five minutes so it would be really nice to find a production that worked dramatically. The lake stage at Bregenz is just about the last place I’d expect to find that so I was pleasantly surprised that Andreas Homoki’s 2022 production is maybe the most interesting I’ve seen.
Watching the recently released recording of the 2017 production of Giodarno’s Andrea Chénier from La Scala had me wondering why this piece isn’t done more often. If it had been written by Puccini, and it might well have been, it would get done as often as Tosca, with which it has many similarities. In the conscience stricken revolutionary Gérard it has one of the few multi-dimensional characters in verismo opera and the music, for Chénier in particular, has all the qualities that people listen to Puccini for. I guess perhaps one needs at least a rough understanding of the events of the French revolution to really follow the plot as Giodarno, unlike Puccini, roots his work in actual history but still. Opera fashion is very odd.(*)
I keep trying with Bellini’s I Puritani. People I respect admire it a lot but I just cannot find a way to like it despite there being, undoubtedly, some very fine music in Acts 2 and 3. I think there are, essentially, two problems and I could maybe cope with either in isolation but taken together my brain just starts to turn off. The first is plot and there are two huge problems with this piece. It’s complete garbage historically. It makes Donizetti’s Tudor operas look like Geoffrey Elton. But worse, it makes no sense in it’s own terms. It’s just a string of improbable coincidences. The second problem is emotional dissonance. Too often the emotional tenor of the music is just way inappropriate to the stage action. This is common to all bel canto of course and on its own I can deal. I just can’t take the two things together.
Jonas Kaufmann made a double role debut as Turiddu and Canio in the classic verismo double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2015, The productions were directed by Philipp Stölzl and Christian Thielemann conducted with the Staatskapelle Dresden in the pit.