Opera 7

Posted by: Barbara

Opera 7 - 08/17/13 01:57 PM

Tickets for the 2013-2014 season of Met simulcasts are on sale now...and DANG! Elena Garanca has withdrawn from all of her Met performances this season because she's pregnant. And here I was all set to endure Werther again just to hear her Charlotte. Now Charlotte will be the Met debut role for French mezzo Sophie Koch. Do you know her, Andrew?
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 08/22/13 07:24 PM

Yes, I've seen her in one or two roles (e.g. the Composer in ''Ariadne auf Naxos''), but not recently.

I'm just back from Bayreuth - Tannhäuser and Dutchman ...
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 08/23/13 07:48 PM

Andrew, has restoration begun on the Festspielhaus? I've read it's in pretty bad shape.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 08/24/13 05:10 AM

There weren't any works going on that I could see, but I didn't walk all the way round the building. The season ends next week so maybe they'll start then?

But on the other hand, Bayreuth's original 1748 opera theatre (The Margravial Opera House) is currently being restored and won't reopen until 2017. It was disappointing not to be able to go on a tour of that the theatre, but apparently a lot of renovation is required. They did at least have a sort of museum upstairs where there was a sort of Ipad which showed the interior of the theatre before the restoration started and we could zoom in and zoom out.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margravial_Opera_House
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 08/25/13 06:57 PM

Huh, I didn't know about that one. The picture shows a building that's a bit, um, weathered. Wiki says the interior was designed by a couple of the Bibienas (big name in 18th-century scene design). I went googling and found lots of pictures like this one:

And that's just an exit. The Bibiena family firmly believed that no inch should go unornamented.

Come to think of it, it's not likely performances would be scheduled in the Festspielhaus during reconstruction. Wolfgang Wagner said the building was going to fall down if something wasn't done soon; maybe they're still trying to raise the money.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 08/25/13 07:27 PM

Whew! How can anyone focus on the stage with all of that to look at?
Posted by: Mike

Re: Opera 7 - 08/26/13 12:56 PM

What's the men's room look like?
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 08/26/13 06:15 PM

Oh, Mike! grin Austin has a point. I'd be so busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the décor that I wouldn't pay enough attention to what's going on on the stage.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 7 - 08/26/13 09:41 PM

I have been in old movie theaters that had statuary around the walls, etc., that distracted from what was happening on the screen...but theatres from the rococo and art deco periods are like that...
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 7 - 08/26/13 09:42 PM

And how do you spell theatre/er anyway?
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 7 - 08/27/13 10:52 AM

If you are British, you spell it theatre. If you are American, you spell it theater. But for the particular place of which we are speaking, is it not "Opernhaus"?
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 08/28/13 11:34 AM

Apparently the word theatre/theater/théâtre/teatro/Theaterbau/you name it/ originated in Greece.

BTW, for those who can read German, the Wikipedia article on the Opernhaus in Bayreuth is a great deal longer than the English language stub that I pointed to:

Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 09/02/13 08:01 AM

I ran into the spelling conundrum when writing my articles for The Penguin Opera Guide. I discovered that most of the American venues in which the works (mostly musicals) I was writing about premiered spelled their names with the "Theatre" spelling. So I duly used the spelling used by the theatres themselves. And my British editor duly corrected them all to "theater," because those venues were, after all, American, and therefore that's how the word must be spelled.

I discovered that there's so consistency on these shores, given the inclination to feel that British spellings are classier and just plain better.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 09/02/13 03:42 PM

Amen to that. I have an American degree in "theatre" history -- that's how it's spelled on the diploma.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 09/02/13 07:44 PM

Interesting to see how many Broadway theatres aren't theaters:

Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 10/03/13 12:44 PM

The first Met simulcast is this Saturday -- Eugene Onegin. Is anyone going?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 7 - 10/03/13 05:40 PM

I am. I missed it last time.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 10/04/13 11:33 PM

My wife is going. She doesn't care much for the opera, but she's a big Netrebko fan.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 10/07/13 12:32 AM

Well, Lorna -- how was it?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 7 - 10/08/13 01:20 PM

Disappointing, I'm sorry to say. Netrebko sounded great, as she always does. Lenski's aria was the highpoint of the show, as I guess it frequently is. But the performance was so draggy that I started wishing it would just be over. I don't know enough about this opera to know whether it was the production or the opera itself, but the whole thing just seemed flat to me.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 10/10/13 12:01 PM

Wow, I'm glad I passed. Austin, what did your wife think?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 10/10/13 06:22 PM

About the same as Lorna, except that she came home raving about Netrebko. But she always does that.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 10/27/13 02:41 PM

Well, yesterday I did something I've never done before in my life. I walked out on an opera halfway through. I'd read all the rave reviews of The Nose, but to my wife and me, it was unbearably tedious. I'll admit it...I don't get modern opera. And after yesterday, I'm going to stop trying. If that makes me a Philistine, so be it. I'm done.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 7 - 10/27/13 11:30 PM

Oh, Chris, I'm so glad you said that! I was feeling embarrassed because I couldn't make it all the way through The Nose. All that crashing dissonance...I guess I don't get modern opera either.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 11:44 AM

I was ready to leave after 10 minutes, but my wife stubbornly insisted on staying. The designer/director was obviously having a ball, but even all those clever projections grew tiresome after a while. Do people really like listening to that kind of music? If they're not just pretending to like it to prove how cool they are, then I am really, really missing something. Barbara, did you go? You asked Andrew about it, I remember.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 01:12 PM

I went. I loved it. And Austin, I promise I'm not just pretending in order to show how cool I am.

This isn't particularly typical Shostakovich, not sustained on this scale. He's responding to the surrealist cartoonish nature of the story -- exaggerated reality, everyone always taking things to extremes. I wouldn't want all opera to be like this, but in fact I know of no other opera quite like this. It creates its own world, and it's not especially dissonant: other composers are far more so. But it's certainly colorful and energetic, and the Kentridge production is brilliant.

I can think of opera composers whose work I would flee at intermission (or just not show up for), but I'm very glad I saw The Nose.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 05:11 PM

Jon, could you be persuaded to name those composers who would send you fleeing at intermission?

Austin, yes, I did go, and I stuck it out to the end. But I'm pretty much in agreement with the first three posts. I know I too am missing something, and I'm sorry about that. But I don't know what to do about it.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 08:23 PM

I've seen (not very recently) two performances of The Nose, once at English National Opera (ENO), and the other from an enterprising Welsh troupe at the Buxton Festival. Very jolly, both times round.

For those who don't like Shostakovich very much, try his entertaining comedy Paradise Moscow. There's a wonderful scene (a sort of polka) when all the neighbours arrive to admire the young people's new flat. The opera tails off somewhat at the end but has lots of good tunes. And then there's his Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, not unrelated to Shakespeare's play.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 08:56 PM

I don't dislike Shotakovich, and like some of his work quite a lot...but circumstances did not allow me to catch The Nose-cast...
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 09:14 PM

Sure, Barbara, but I know it'll only get me into trouble here. Please believe that I'm aware these are my loss -- clearly they mean something to others, so I'm somehow not just tuned into what they have to offer.

Bellini and Donizetti. I can accept that the occasional aria is pretty or exciting, but it still feels like a long time to wait for them. And a lot to give up, compared to more eventful music. I miss non-stereotypical accompaniment patterns. And counterpoint. And harmonic motion. And inventive textures and orchestration. I don't understand why Mozart can have all these qualities before them, and Verdi and Wagner etc. after them. Why am I supposed to be content with so much less in their operas? I know... "pure melody." I guess that's not enough for me.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 10/28/13 09:58 PM

So, that makes one vote for and four against. But we haven't heard from Andrew.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 7 - 10/29/13 07:45 AM

Yes you have, up above - I've seen it twice. Now I'm off to Wexford to see four more obscure operas:

Massenet double-bill of Thérèse and La Navarraise
Nino Rota's Il capello di paglia di Firenze
and Jacopo Foroni's Cristina, regina di Svezia.

Back next Sunday.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 10/29/13 12:56 PM

Have fun at Wexford! They do put on interesting repertory.

I'm quite fond of La Navarraise, an atypically loud and veristic hour of Massenet. Thérèse, quite different in character but equally short, will make an interesting pairing with it. (Does nobody do his Griséldis? That was in all the opera-story books when I was little.)

I remember Rota's "Italian Straw Hat" (as it gets titled in English) was produced in London in the 1950s -- I recall the review in Opera magazine, Harold Rostenthal at his sniffiest and loftiest about what a waste of everyone's time this trifle was.

I've never heard of Foroni or Cristina. Enjoy!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 10/29/13 04:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Jon
Bellini and Donizetti. I can accept that the occasional aria is pretty or exciting, but it still feels like a long time to wait for them. And a lot to give up, compared to more eventful music. I miss non-stereotypical accompaniment patterns. And counterpoint. And harmonic motion. And inventive textures and orchestration.

With the exception of the "Casta diva", I frequently marvel at singers who are able to remember Bellini's music long enough to sing it. Jon, it sounds as if what you don't like is bel canto opera in general, with its diminishing of the orchestration -- well, of everything, actually, that might distract from the singing. You must love Gluck. grin

Didn't Foroni's Cristina pop up in a Musical Jeopardy question once? Sounds familiar.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 10/29/13 07:48 PM

No, actually I don't love Gluck. smile I sort of admire him, but it's a cold kind of admiration.

Yes, I don't love the bel canto era in general, I guess. I can enjoy a Rossini comic opera if done superlatively well (e.g. with Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez on hand), though even there as we near the finale I feel, like Mr Bennet, that "I have been delighted long enough." And it disconcerts me to hear the same vivacious, hilarious style applied to grand noble dramas like Semiramide. On the other hand, he was beginning to transcend that in his last operas, like Count Ory and William Tell. He was really going interesting places then, and I thoroughly enjoy those. (And then he stopped, of course.)

That style is where Verdi began, of course, but he too was pushing at the boundaries, almost immediately, and moved into his own thing. Or so I feel, anyway.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 11/02/13 02:03 PM

One word in defense of Donizetti. Just think what those early, clunky, black and white animated cartoons would be like without the Lucia sextet accompanying the action. Unimaginable!
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 11/02/13 03:27 PM

Ha! What better validation could you ask? grin
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 11/09/13 07:53 PM

WOW WOW WOW! Today's Tosca was the most dynamic I've ever seen! Well, all right, I've only seen three, but...WOW!
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 7 - 11/10/13 03:37 PM

Oh, yes, it was very WOW! I still don't like those sets, but the singing and the directing were great. Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna sounded terrific, both separately and together. George Gagnidze, whom I'd never heard before, was a wonderfully sleazy Scarpia. I am soooooo glad I went to this performance.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 11/11/13 02:57 PM

I'll add my WOW to the others. I almost didn't go, because I disliked that production so much, especially that bland, boring set. But some improvements were made. The Act I walls were given some texture (bricks) with more angles and set decoration. The biggest change was the placement of the portrait Cavaradossi was painting. In the original production, it was far upstage, stage right, in shadow. So the painter walked from the light into the shadow to work on his painting? Dumb. This time it was downstage left, fully visible. Some improvements were made to Scarpia's headquarters as well, but it still looked like a bus station.

There was a lot more vigor in the action this time, including the most realistic operatic murder I've ever seen. This was no ladylike mini-thrust which just happens to prove lethal. Racette stabbed Gagzidne twice, enough to make him fall to the ground, but he was still alive. So she straddled him, held the knife above her head with both hands, and plunged it down as hard as she could. Muori, Muori! Then she got up and wiped the blood off her hands on a sofa cushion. Very verismo for an opera that's supposed to be not-quite verismo. But all three acts had scenes of great intensity like that. The first act, it was Scarpia's singing of his own lust against a background of church music -- sex and religion and death all mixed up together. It was chilling. The last act, the mock execution, of course.

It seemed to me Alagna was singing more loudly than everyone else on the stage -- not to the point of drowning anyone out, but with a lot more volume. He sounds good loud. smile All the singers sounded good, and there was none of that "Oh, I've done this so often I don't even have to think about it" that sometimes creeps into a performance. And no draggy parts; it all moved along lickety-split.

Incidentally, Gagnidze bears some physical resemblance to Edward Arnold -- does anyone remember Edward Arnold?
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 11/11/13 06:09 PM

Well, damn. When's the Encore showing?
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 11/11/13 08:21 PM

Day after tomorrow, Wednesday the 13th. I'm going then; can't miss out on a WOW opera.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 11/14/13 12:31 PM

You're right...that is one WOW production. Second-act set is still ugly, but that's less important than in the original production. This is the first time I've ever seen Patricia Racette, but I'm certainly going to see her again. I've never seen a Tosca before with that much energy. LOVED it.

Yes, Gagnidze does look a little like Edward Arnold.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 11/14/13 07:40 PM

I'll add my WOW to the others. I wish they'd gotten rid of the hookers in Act II, but that's my only complaint. I tend to snooze during that interminable love duet in the first act, but last night I stayed awake and was surprised how quickly it ended. I was surprised at how fast the whole opera went. I would never have thought of a high-energy performance of the melodrama of Tosca, but it worked! It worked beautifully. Thanks for the heads-up. I would hate to have missed this one.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 12/12/13 05:06 PM

Falstaff this Saturday. Anybody going?
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 12/12/13 08:02 PM

Oh yes.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 7 - 12/12/13 10:47 PM

I hope to make it, weather permitting....
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 12/13/13 11:03 AM

I'm going. I've never even heard this opera, much less seen it. But if Falstaff really is Verdi's masterwork, I don't want to miss it.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 12/14/13 05:12 PM

I hated it.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 12/14/13 07:20 PM

Oh, come on, Chris..."hated"? I didn't care for the 50s setting (such an unattractive period), but the opera was fun and the singers were obviously having a good time. I enjoyed it.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 7 - 12/14/13 11:10 PM

I didn't hate it...but I saw Terfel do it live in London a few years ago and so I was making unfavorable comparisons... and I agree that the "updating" was not an improvement (as, alas, it seldom is IMHO...I didn't like the Vegas Rigoletto either). The Quickly, Meg and Alice were good, I thought, but Nannetta and Fenton a bit disappointing. Ford has a thankless role and didn't really do much to improve it.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 7 - 12/15/13 12:52 PM

There certainly were a lot of wide people in this production. Another thumbs down on the 50s setting, and it seemed to me the singers had to work too hard for their laughs. The singing was great, but I'm not sure that I heard great music. I'd need to hear it again, and probably again after that. I'm sitting on the fence on this one.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 7 - 12/15/13 02:16 PM

I thought Maestri was a wonderful Falstaff -- great voice, beautiful singer. The sets...bleaghh. The singers were indeed having fun; it's a feel-good opera, culminating in the reconciliation ensemble that can be the only proper ending. I just wish there was one tune in that opera that I could remember.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 7 - 12/16/13 05:58 PM

That was my main problem. I read somewhere once that while Verdi was working on Il Trovatore, he said (or wrote) that he wanted every organ grinder in Italy to be playing a tune from Trovatore. His pop opera, I guess. But obviously that was not what he had in mind for Falstaff...I can't remember a single melody. Why people consider this opera superior to Rigoletto or Traviata or even Aida beats me.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 7 - 12/16/13 11:24 PM

I guess I understand the "can't remember a tune" complaint about Falstaff -- it's not that there aren't any, but rather that there are dozens, hundreds... but each lasts only a few measures, to be succeeded by another. Even the arias have a succession of melodic ideas. So nothing gets "plugged" in a way that assures we'll remember it. Repeated experience of the work helps with memorability, but not everyone will care to give it that.

I don't call it superior to those earlier masterpieces, but for me it's their equal; perfection, of a kind. It took me a much longer time to get the hang of Aida.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 7 - 12/17/13 12:12 PM

I thought that the idea of an aria was for the orchestra to play it through once, then for the soloist to sing it twice?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 7 - 12/17/13 05:23 PM

I don't know whether to be sorry I missed it or not.