In 1985 the Royal Opera House staged film director john Schlesinger’s production of Der Rosenkavalier to mark the 25th anniversary of Sir Georg Solti’s house debut. It’s an essentially traditional production. We are in 1740s Vienna and both costumes and set are highly elaborate. The opening scene stars one of the largest beds ever seen on an opera stage. That said, it’s well put together. The chemistry between the principals is good and the nonsense at the beginning of Act 3 is deftly handled. There are a number of small touches that help set the tone too. For example, at the beginning of Act 2 fake books are being installed in the Faninal “library”.
Today’s Ponelle production is the 1976 Le Nozze di Figaro. It has the starriest cast of any of the Ponelle films I’ve seen to date; Herrman Prey in the title role, Mirella Freni as Susanna, Kiri Te Kanawa as the countess and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the count. It even, rather bizarrely, has Maria Ewing as Cherubino. To round things out Karl Böhm conducts with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Staatsopernchor. As we shall see, musically it lives up to the casting. Continue reading
The 1993 San Francisco Opera production of Strauss’ Capriccio is about as literal a take on the work as one could imagine. Stephen Lawless’ production sticks to the stage directions as laid down with an almost fetishistic fidelity. This is backed up by highly decorated costumes and sets firmly placed in a slightly over elaborated 1775. The traditionalists dream? I suppose so if one thinks that Strauss and Krauss meant the work to be taken literally. I don’t. This is an opera about an opera about opera. It begs to be deconstructed and the time and circumstances of its composition tend to reinforce the idea that all is not as it seems. To take it at face value is actually a bit absurd but that’s what happens here and the result is rather dull and unsatisfying. Continue reading
The 1983 Royal Opera house production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is probably a pretty good representation of what that annoying person at your local opera company’s season launch means when they ask why they can’t have productions the way they used to be. Except it’s a rather exceptionally good example of what s/he means. Continue reading