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#1637 - 07/09/10 10:04 AM Re: Opera 2
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Oh, I agree on the dances -- I was talking about the better or worse ways they can be staged. I saw one production (a university one, for shame) in which they all ended Oklahoma!-style, with upflung arms and big smiles to the audience. And that spelled death in terms of taking the opera seriously.

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#1638 - 07/09/10 03:16 PM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Well, the dances got no big production in the simulcast version. In fact, nothing did. The sets were bare walls; different-colored spotlights indicated changes of scene. The effect of those tall, imposing, unadorned walls was to dwarf all the people onstage, a far cry from intimate chamber drama. The only near-intimacy came with the camera's close-ups, but of course the New York audiences didn't get any of that.

At the opening, the stage floor was covered with leaf litter to tell us the action was outdoors. Then Tatyana's bed and writing desk were placed in the middle of that leafy floor for her letter scene. Renée Fleming spent as much time writing as she could, but at one point she danced around scooping up leaves and tossing them over her head in girlish glee. Leaf litter from her bedroom floor. Right. That's an example of one thing that bothered me about the opera: so many orchestral passages go on so long that the singers have nothing to do except stand there like statues or indulge in nonsensical stage business.

The three dances were color-coded. The peasants were brown and beige; the country dancers were bright pastels; and for the St. Petersburg ball, everyone wore black. For St. Petersburg, chairs were placed on the stage in an exact rectangle, and the dancers all stayed inside that rectangle. (Did Czarist Russia really have Hepplewhite chairs in its homes?) Two of the dancers were real dancers, and they did their thing for about a minute. That was the only enhancement added.

As to the two faces of Tatyana -- Fleming played the romantic young girl by hunching down a little and wearing pink ruffles; for the mature Princess, she stood up straight and wore black mesh. She sang real purty, though.

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#1639 - 07/10/10 11:44 AM Re: Opera 2
Lorna Offline
Member

Registered: 04/22/05
Posts: 2676
Loc: Dayton, Ohio
I know there's a legitimate place for minimalist/symbolist staging in all forms of theater, but sometimes it's hard not to suspect that it's either a failure of imagination or a small budget that's behind it. Didn't all that melody compensate at all?

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#1640 - 07/10/10 02:11 PM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Not for me, it didn't. The only time I felt any opera-excitement came when Ramon Vargas sang Lenski's big aria. That piece is a show-stopper anyway, and Vargas gave it his all -- he was wonderful. But that's the only time the opera came alive. It's been many years since I saw that one Met tour production, and I just didn't remember the opera as being as static as it was Wednesday night.

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#1641 - 07/11/10 04:32 PM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Belatedly, it occurs to me I should have said "Sorry" to Andrew and Jon. I know you both like the opera. But I'm wondering if you would have liked the production I saw Wednesday.

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#1642 - 07/11/10 06:53 PM Re: Opera 2
Anonymous
Unregistered


No need to apologise, Barbara.

I think that this was the first of the Met's simulcasts that I saw (at the York City Screen, 10 minutes walk from here, a couple of years ago). I felt that Fleming, much more in close-up than one would have registered in the opera-house, was better in the carpet-chewing at the end than the letter scene.

I had no problems with the not-all-that-but-somewhat-minimalist production. And I do agree that Vargas's aria was pretty much the highlight.

This week, I'm off to Buxton in the Peak District to see Verdi's Luisa Miller, a great favourite of mine, plus Cornelius's The Barber of Baghdad, of which I know nothing, Handel's Alcina (know some of the music, never seen it on stage), plus a double-bill of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and Arias and Barcarolles. Oh, and an illustrated talk about Pauline Viardot (composer, sister of Malibran, Berlioz's Orphée, Meyerbeer's Fidès, first singer of Schumann's Liederkreis and Brahms's Alto Rhapsody.....), who died in 1910.

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#1643 - 07/14/10 08:09 AM Re: Opera 2
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Ack! I would adore all of that. I too am very fond of Luisa Miller; I think The Barber of Baghdad is an undeservedly forgotten comic masterpiece (well, I suppose it's not a masterpiece, but the words and music are so witty and sparkling, I always have a good time hearing it... never had a chance to see it); as Handel operas go, Alcina seems to have a lot going for it; and I think Trouble in Tahiti is delightful as long as the production doesn't go overboard with "biting social commentary" (I haven't much use for Arias and Barcarolles, and doubt that it can gain anything by being staged).

AND I'm fascinated by Pauline Viardot. Clearly I need to zip back over there for this.

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#1644 - 07/14/10 09:30 AM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
I first heard of The Barber of Baghdad in a Jeopardy game here, and I still haven't heard a note of it. Andrew, a full report, please?

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#1645 - 07/17/10 04:33 PM Re: Opera 2
Anonymous
Unregistered


I'm afraid that the Barber of Baghdad left me pretty cold. It's not particularly long, but the first act seemed to go on for hours. Most of the singing was done by the tenor (Nureddin) who, alas, seemed to have a load of plums in his mouth. The arrival of Bostana to tell him that his girlfriend will see him didn't do much for me, and the arrival of the comic and very garrulous barber did even less. In the second half, bizarrely, Nureddin hardly had anything to sing and was hidden in a trunk for much of the time, but the music was a bit better, the girlfriend (Margiana) was good and some of the comic business was mildly amusing. Grove Opera claims that this work influenced Meistersinger, but I found that very difficult to believe. German romantic opera? Give me Weber, Marschner, Lortzing or early Wagner over Cornelius every time.

Everything else (except the weather) was very enjoyable. Luisa Miller was very well done and Alcina, though long, held the attention, even in a rather-too-minimalist staging. Trouble in Tahiti was very enjoyable, and the serious bits were quite moving. The Sam and Dinah were also the singers in Arias and Barcarolles. The band (string quintet with double-bass, plus two percussionists) were on stage, and the singers moved around a bit, but it wasn't really staged. I liked most of the music, and it ended with a sort of nocturne.

The Viardot show, about 90 minutes, consisted largely of songs composed by her, often with words by Russian writers (she lived in a sort of ménage à trois with Turgenev and her husband). The exceptions were composed by her father (Manuel Garcia I), Gounod (she premièred the role of Sappho in his opera of that name) and Meyerbeer (she was the first Fidès in Le Prophète). The singer was a Bulgarian mezzo who had sung the role of the duchess in Luisa Miller - she was good, as was her accompanist, the songs were mostly enjoyable, and there was a judicious narration about Viardot's life and times by a scholarly conductor (Julian Smith).

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#1646 - 07/18/10 09:40 AM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
Administrator

Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
Oh, too bad about Barber; it doesn't sound like something you'd want to see more than once. Were any of the Viardot songs memorable -- any melodies that are still in your head?

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