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The subject was Moses

“Like the Israelites who cross the Red Sea in Moses in Egypt, New York City Opera has a long, hard road ahead of it. But the company’s performance Sunday of this Rossini rarity offered a glimpse of a promising future.” [New York Post]

9 comments

  • scifisci says:

    I thought it was a worthwhile effort by the NYCO, though the orchestra was really almost amateurish at times. What doesn’t really get mentioned in any of the reviews i’ve seen, and understandably so given where reviewers sit, is that the set and all the video effects become rendered pretty useless if not seen head on. So if you are sitting on a side or elevation, the effect is lost. Something to consider especially since the stage is basically empty.

    • Will says:

      Well, I was in the right side of the Balcony and could see and appreciate the imagery perfectly and was very impressed. As to the style of the images, yes they were simple pictorial realism but I found them attractive and the animation of them helped counter the static, oratorio-like nature of the opera’s libretto. More than anything else, I was delighted that NYCO had the courage to put on this obscure opera that turned out to have some truly wonderful things in it.

      And bravo! to JJ for seeing a brighter future for NYCO — after all the abuse that has been thrown at the company as it struggled to rebuild after its collapse, his comment at the head of the review was welcome and very refreshing.

  • bergbag says:

    These shitty screensavers for sets excite me.

    • panache says:

      Love that. Perfectly pithy, which I apparently am not.

      • bergbag says:

        The projections in their Powder Her Face were garbage, too.

        There’s a chance NYCO doesn’t know what good is, which makes putting these things on quite difficult.

  • zinka says:

    RUN!!! RUN!!!!! The Chariots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • panache says:

    Am I the only person who thought this production was god-awful? It almost seemed intent on sapping all life-blood and vitality from the score, like a depraved joke on the director’s part a la “The Producers”. Yet I spoke with an acquaintance at intermission who was sitting in the 4th row orchestra, who found it “gripping”. Which made me wonder precisely what scifisci spoke about in the initial comment here…can one’s placement in the house affect one’s experience of a performance to that great a degree?

    Surely, the video projection must be experienced head-on in relation to the stage action to achieve the intended affect, I guess, based again on the critical accolades. From up high, there was no integration, and it all looked silly, sophomoric. If I saw those characters stepping slowly on that creaky turntable one more time, to achieve the effect of moving closer or farther away from the video backdrop, I was going to scream. But that’s about the only movement we were graced with. The characters were otherwise nailed in place. Without gesture. Not even their upper extremities moved. (How Italian is that?) Sometimes, there was an isolated bit of choreographed movement, but it made no sense, in the context.

    Maybe this was all part of the “concept”. Everyone is stuck in place, the Israelites in Egypt, the Pharaoh in his insistence on keeping them there. How clever, and how excruciatingly ineffective. The takeaway was that this director/designer has zero faith in the power of THEATER. I’m concerned about this encroachment of video in the 3-D world of the stage, concerned that directors are forgetting where they are. I remember feeling this way when I saw Robert Lepage’s highly acclaimed production of Damnation of Faust at the Met, which I detested. I remember a subsequent NYTimes headline, heralding that Lepage was going to bring 3-D video technlogy to the Met! Huh? Isn’t a stage work already in 3-D, by definition? “Hey, what about me” I can hear Lucy Ricardo saying.

    The realistic videos looked like cheap cartoons. The touted in-and-out-of-the-cave bit to me looked like the work of a precocious 7th-grader. Meanwhile, NOTHING was happening with those lovers, on stage. They were just walking, walking, slowly, as that disc went around and around. Why was everyone excited about the Red Sea parting? Cecil B. DeMille did much better back in 1956. The abstract videos were much better, and I can see a case being made for a concept production on a small budget that capitalizes on abstraction, with inspiration behind it. But really, this is a monumental piece and needs monumental resources. I’m grateful that the City Opera gave me a chance to hear this work, but it seemed like a wholly inappropriate work for them to take on. If City Opera is paring down, shouldn’t they be taking on more intimate works, not large-scale epics? Big choruses were needed here, dramatically and musically, pitted against the soloists, to gain a sense of the opera’s epic scope. Bigger resources altogether.

    But worst of all was the feeling that this director has no comprehension of the power of MUSIC. If opera directors don’t use the music as the starting point for their inspiration, or are immune to it, don’t speak its language…their production will be doomed. That , I felt, is what happened tonight. However static the action might be, the music is not. The characters come alive, through the music, and the director needs to relate to that and get on board, highlighting the very specific human emotions that are being expressed. Don’t matter the story or the context…the conventions within which Rossini was writing delineated archetypal human themes and feelings, thrillingly evoked musically. That’s what was missing here…the music’s very core.

    The singers were “skilled” enough, I guess, but leaden, near-dead, sapped of life and blood. I’m reminded of a theme much discussed here on other pages, about “vocal charisma”. When I consider the criticism leveled against Elina Garanca or Angela Meade, in light of this critically acclaimed production, I can only scratch my head. Those singers open their mouths, and I am happy. I hear music, as few can realize.

    Only one singer in this production seemed to transcend the directorial barriers put in place, and that was the Pharaoh’s wife, who exhibited real vocal artistry. By her example, we were reminded of how much was woefully missing.

  • m. p. arazza says:

    I attended last night and agree with much of what’s been said so well by panache, although I wouldn’t want to be harsh on the singers, none of whom were in any way unlistenable (although one tenor may have shouted overmuch). From my partial view location I’ll assume I couldn’t really judge the projections as such, but yes -- “If I saw those characters stepping slowly on that creaky turntable one more time . . . I was going to scream.” Creaky in every sense of the word, I might add. And then (as heard from the extreme side of the “mezzanine”) there was the nonmusical background rumble of, presumably, the high-powered cooling fans required by the brilliant video projectors or other lights. This same noise pollution had already, and much more loudly, pervaded the Parsifal I heard at the Met, invading the once pristine acoustics of a Balcony Box and compromising every pause, silence or passage of soft singing. It could also be heard throughout the HD encore (and at other new productions to some degree), but no one I’ve read even seems to have mentioned it.

    Apart from that, it was interesting to finally get some sense of what the acoustics at City Center might have been like, back when. I’d still like to know where those archival NYCO photos that QPF wrote about last week can be seen…

  • bergbag says:

    Walked out :(