Cher Public

Talking headspace

Our Own JJ (pictured) joins in the debate over the Düsseldorf Tannhäuser with Anne Midgette and John Berry on WQXR’s Conducting Business podcast.

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    I do hope JJ boycotts Bayreuth in protest.

  • CruzSF

    Spirited defense of opera as living art. Again, not enough air time for JJ. I hope JJ and La C find more time, now that summer’s nearly here, to post their writings on the Web.

    • antikitschychick


  • CruzSF

    Both JJ and Anne make me wish I’d seen the Wilson Lohengrin.

  • laddie

    A short but refreshingly intelligent discussion. I especially appreciated JJ’s comments on Bieito’s production of Parsifal and religion. I hope I get to see it some day.

  • LittleMasterMiles

    Very smart conversation—it make me wish the Met would revive the Wilson Lohengrin as well. Actually, I already wished that, but you get the point.

    I also wasn’t aware that this show was available on podcast, so thanks for bringing it to our attention. I hope it stands up to regular listening, preferably with JJ’s trenchant commentary!

  • RnR

    I first found the podcast via The-Wagnerian. Great discussion. I too wish you all’d had more time to chat, especially James (of course!)

    It’s so good to hear some clear-headed discussion (of this situation, or any “controversial” situation, for that matter), without name-calling, vitriol, and questioning of one anothers’ taste, intelligence, and parentage.

    And most impressive, all three of you declined to pass judgement on the production itself, because You Hadn’t Seen It. What a concept!

    Thank you! And thanks for listing RnR in your sidebar. I feel like I’ve finally come of age!

    Rob :)

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    NOT a good photo of JJ !

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Who gives a damn about what Midgette or Barry think about things like this? Io, no.

    • tannengrin

      why not? Just because there’s no youtube video to go with it?

    • La Valkyrietta

      Monsieur Quanto,

      Well, they are speaking about opera, so why not listen? It’s just a few minutes, not a ten hour speech :).

      Yes, the photo of JJ is not Avedon’s, but his speaking voice is nice.

      I’m sure in you mind you have more interesting comments, and wished you were on the radio too to hear what they are.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        I care very much what James has to say and always find it interesting, but the other two people don’t interest me at all. Just for, I will find time in my busy broadcast schedule to listen. I have, in fact no comments about the unfortunate Tannhäuser situation. You want a Youtube?

        • La Valkyrietta

          Thanks for the six minute interview. She is definitely no Ingrid Bergman, but she is not too bad. Anyway, had I been the interviewer I would have asked her, “Aimez-vous Brahms?”

    • ianw2

      Yeah, I can’t imagine what the head of a major opera house known for somewhat risky productions would add to the discussion either.

      Also, I’m a total Midgette fanboy so it’s always nice to hear from her.

      • redbear

        Berry took a chance on a first-time opera director and her Wozzeck just up is perhaps one of the best things since he arrived. The specture of critics squeezing their Rogets to get new superlatives is entertaining.

        • Houndentenor

          Agreed. At the same time, if I need to read a dissertation on the director’s intent to understand what’s happening on stage, then the director hasn’t done a very good job. What is presented should be clear without needing a lot of explanation. The good productions I have seen, both traditional and concept, did that.

  • redbear

    Bravo tutti! A splendid talk that I wish could have gone on all evening.
    About the specifics of this: for the record, the director was head of Dusseldorf’s state theater from 2001-2006 and therefore would “know” his public. Some journalists in Germany are skeptical about those needing medical attention. As they say, films like “Schindler’s List” and “The Pianist” were shown in Germany without a similar effect

  • Houndentenor

    Thank you for this. I’ve been watching too much cable news lately and had forgotten what it was like to listen to people who know what they are talking about have a conversation.

    I don’t mind updating and concepts so long as they tell a story rather than distract from it. If the audience is sitting in the dark befuddled at what is happening on stage. I can think of any number of productions that I thought were illuminating. One of them was a black box production of Cosi directed by JJ himself which solved a good many of the problems with the libretto (or at least presenting things in an interesting way that too often come off as ridiculous). Also, even though it was before my time, I often hear people discuss Nic Muni’s NYCO Traviata from the early 90s in which Violetta had AIDS. People still claim it was the most moving final act of that opera they’ve ever seen.

    I do have to quibble over one point on which the panel seemed to agree. I do think it’s quite obvious that some directors are not at all interested in telling the story and are just putting up images for the purpose of provoking a negative response from the audience. I’ve never seen this in the US but I did see it the year I was in Germany. I can’t think of any other reason. But in this specific case, it’s cowardly for the management to pull a production after one performance when obviously that same management had to have approved sketches, costumes, sets years in advance and must have been at weeks of rehearsals in which it was clear what was going to be presented to the public. If they didn’t believe in the validity of the production, they shouldn’t have allowed it to go forward. If they did think it was valid, they shouldn’t have canceled it. It’s really one or the other.

    One other thing about Europe vs. America. Other than the Met and NYCO, America doesn’t really have the kind of lengthy opera seasons that are standard in Europe. A good portion of the audience will not have seen Aida in the theater before. I think there’s far more point in doing something new and original with Don Giovanni for an audience that could probably sing along with every number in the score vs an audience who, if they have seen the opera before, have not seen it in a decade or more. In the case of most American houses it makes far more sense to just tell the story well. There’s no need for a fresh look at the opera when most of the audience has never had any look at all. Having said all that, I can easily think of many more dreadful “traditonal” productions than “concept” ones. Just presenting the story in a straight-forward way does not guarantee good theater.