Cher Public

The tutti frutti canard

“An opera production should look the way the music sounds.” — Lady Valerie Solti

  • antikitschychick

    and my question to her would be just what does a rest look like? :-P.

  • MontyNostry
  • Arianna a Nasso

    I find the idea that just because she married a famous conductor, she is qualified to make such pronouncements amusing.

  • aronocity

    I actually agree with what she is saying (or at least the spirit of it. No production should be forced to do something by anyone). I find it very disconcerting when a production gives off an atmosphere that conflicts with the music. For example in the great production of Parsifal at the Met earlier this year, While I thought that Acts I and III worked quite well, the second act felt very off because I was hearing this lush and verdant music, but the on stage was this stark wasteland. I found the discrepancy very disturbing, and though I do believe that a production can play with the moods of an opera, going against the music as strongly as that is rarely effective.

    • antikitschychick

      But is saying that “a production should look the way it sounds” the same as saying that ‘no production should be forced to do something by anyone’?

      From my perspective, the above assertive canard is prescriptive whereas your assertion is more suggestive by way of the via negativa. In other words, you are expressing what you think the relationship between the music and the production is by what shouldn’t be done (i.e. negating), rather than what should be done (a self-enclosed/fixed definition).

      I think your approach is different and thus infinitely more useful than that of Ms. Solti’s.

    • Rackon

      But I thought the second act of the Girard Parsifal was thrilling. It worked for me.

      Perhaps it helped that I had no preconceived visual notions of what act 2 should look like since I haven’t seen that many stagings of this opera is (I did NOT care for the Schenk Parsifal at all). To me, the music doesn’t require a garden in Klingsor’s lair any more than the other acts require a castle or a chapel.

      IMO Parsifal is about interior landscapes -- which the MET production captured brilliantly.

  • Will

    From a designer’s point of view (at least THIS designer), aronocity has has a point. To give two examples that are extreme but obvious, Carmon’s Habanera is decidedly sultry and warm in feeling — a set in whites and blues would fight the mood; the chords leading into Carmen’s aria in the card-reading scene is dark and cold — yellows and oranges, again, would not support the mood. I also think of the little gem of a prelude to the fourth act of La Wally — it paints an ice field and frozen pinnacles.

    Now there are a variety of ways to realize these moods and images without necessarily being literally pictorial, but unless there is a valid way to set the action in an incongruous setting (and there very well may be in some concepts) the colors of the music could well used as a guide to the look of the production. In my design classes, I gave my students one opera each term precisely to have them confront the rhythms and colors of the music. They had the greatest time with Bluebeard’s Castle!

  • Camille

    Always a joy—should everyone have such a happy new year!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLsTUN1wVrc&sns=em

  • kennedet

    Great Heading!! This one should get some strong opinions!!

    If the subject in any way speaks to updating of operas, I would like to state very cautiously (before I’m verbally excoriated) that we should respect the composer’s and the librettist’s wishes. It they are masterpieces that have withstood the test of time and deserve to be treated as such. However, this can be done through updating based on the stage director’s creativity. The problem begins when the director’s concept lacks reality. Example: Why would you have men sitting on toilets!!?? I’m sorry to say that the production escapes me but I remember seeing it in a past Opera News feature, years ago. I’m sure someone will remember it.Trust me, I’m not making this up.

    One of the many reasons opera has remained throughout the ages is because we find new ways of inventing it, which I admire. The problem is not having any concrete semblance or connection to what the composer and the librettist have created besides playing the notes and singing the words.

    • kennedet

      Sorry, They are masterpieces. Please delete “IT”.

    • Porgy Amor

      Too easy, kennedet.

      Bieito gained perhaps his greatest notoriety with his production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera for the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in 2001. He set the first scene of the opera on a split-level set; on the top half, the primary action of the scene (involving the king and his loyal subjects) played out. The conspirators were ranged along the bottom half of the stage, sitting on toilets with their pants around their ankles.

      (from Wikipedia entry on the Regie)

      • kennedet

        I knew someone would get it!!! Thanks Porgy Amor. That was fast.

      • Batty Masetto

        Also, note that the central conspirator is using the toilet in classic spy mode; he’s not actually doing his business, he’s taking advantage of the location to conceal the murder weapon for a later pickup. It reappears in the conspiracy scene in Act 3, where Renato has evidently picked it up from the same public toilet.

        So Bieito builds on a familiar stratagem from the world of George Smiley to underscore the sheer sordidness of the conspiracy. It’s not pretty, but it’s not inconsistent with the plot (though anybody who wants is entitled to find it distasteful).

        • I would further suggest that the “skulking” music of the conspirators sounds as much like a toilet looks as it does anything else. How often do we see productions of Ballo when Riccardo’s sworn enemies are lined up in a double row “conspiring” straight out front to the audience?

          In a broader sense, I would guess that this image is part of a broader effort on Bieito’s part to undercut the “glamour” usually associated with this opera: fancy clothes, powdered wigs, saucy page boys and such. What is overlooked beneath these fripperies is that Riccardo is ruling with something like absolute power, or, if you go with the “Swedish” version, not even “something like.” Bieito’s implication here is that this kind of government by its very nature inspires ugly conspiracies, and so the uglier the opening image of the opera the stronger the point is made.

          I realize that this is an unusual take on this story, i.e., making the “hero” less than completely sympathetic and providing the “villains,” however brutal their acts are, with some measure of justification. But I don’t think it’s capricious or deliberately attention-grabbing; rather, it’s a consistent if extreme interpretation of the drama.

          • ianw2

            Verily, the toilet Ballo is the Godwin’s of opera websites talking about productions.

  • Clita del Toro

    I think singers should look the way they sound! What????

    • antikitschychick

      OMG YESSSS I’ve always wanted to know what Joan Otherland really looks like!!!! Surely something must be done about the profligacy of E.T.’s posing as opera singers…it would finally get the conspiracy theorists to STFU…and its so unfair to the rest of the mere mortals anyway.

      Aaaaaand it would certainly give a new twist to terms such as ‘parking and barking’, ‘unidiomatic mooing’, ‘cooing’, ‘buzzing’ and ‘chirping’ :-P.

    • Indeed. That would follow in the line of thinking set forth by that eminent critic Julius Marx, who once said, a propos Azucena, “How would you like to feel the way she looks?”

  • Krunoslav

    Cieca, you always rock the best images!

    I was surprised that you didn’t include “not pictured” in your caption until I recognized that Bugs was channeling not Lady Solti but Babekan, the Margerethe Bence role in DIE VERLOBUNG IN SANTO DOMINGO.

  • Krunoslav

    Yes, OF COURSE it’s Daffy…

    Schlaffen.. ich bin mude…

    • Bugs did drag a lot more often than Daffy did.

      • antikitschychick

        Heh. An honorary Q (as Marshie would say) fo’ sho :-D.

  • Even if one were able to define what imagery accurately reflects what the music sounds like, that approach seems like a picture book one to me. Surely, that is a very limited way of telling a story.

    IMO, what’s important is that the director listens to the words and music carefully and take his dramatic cues from the words and music (the latter especially, since I view the words as a mere vehicle for the story to be told through the music).

    Whether the approach is literal, abstract or conceptual, the drama on stage needs to be closely tied to the drama in the score. All the physical production needs to do is help in the execution of the drama on stage. And if the drama on stage is tied to the score, then the opera is being done justice. Within that logic, what the production looks like is immaterial.

    • antikitschychick

      Agreed, though I would take it a step further (or back I guess) and stipulate that productions don’t really contextualize operas/works, they ‘re-present’ them through an aesthetic medium and serve as a(n) symbolic extension of the music.

    • Rowna

      I will probably be reviled for this, but I love the old fashioned productions where singers with great voices just let it pour out. Not a lot of choreography or movement on any kind. Let’s see how this holds up to tomorrow’s Forza.

      • Feldmarschallin

        I watched that production once and I also watched the Price production once and will never watch either again. I found both more than boring and I find that one cannot see productions like that and enjoy them anymore. They are more than dated and thank God we have come a long way in theatrical thigns with videos and machines etc. Why should opera productions stop being creative and do you wish to throw your cell phone and computer away as well?

    • No Expert

      Maybe the lady has a touch of synaethesia.

    • kennedet

      Thanks for the education, I’ve learned interpretations about that scene in Un Ballo that I’ve never considered before. However, my question to the learned opera devotees of this marvelous art form would be; Is there any responsibility to the novice or first time opera goer who comes to experience these very intellectualized productions? An abstract reading of an opera is far too advanced for someone who read or who is mildly acquainted with the story before attending the event only to experience some very esoteric updated rendering that has nothing to do with what they know.

      As one who is constantly trying to get people to attend operas, I’m afraid these abstract productions can cause problems. Also, please keep in mind that the audience constantly needs replenishing, or else……

      • armerjacquino

        Most productions of operas are ‘non-abstract’ or traditional. It’s up to you which productions you choose to take your friends to, in the last analysis. Some of my non-operagoing friends would find a Bielto production far more interesting than a Zeffirelli one, I’m certain.

        And of course it’s a director’s job to interpret the opera in the way which speaks most to him/her, not to provide a kind of theatrical training wheel.

        • grimoaldo

          Hmmm. I am not sure “abstract” is the right word, I am all in favour of “abstract” productions myself, what you mean really is productions that update or re-interpret the story or setting.
          Also I am not sure that such productions are any more off-putting to new-comers than confirmed opera goers. Whenever I attend opera in the US, it almost always happens that, chatting to the people sitting around me, or during the intermissions, etc., they will volunteer, without me raising the subject, that they cannot stand “modern” productions and only like traditional ones. I have had three different ladies tell me, unasked, that their husbands now refuse, under any circumstances, ever to attend another opera with them again, having seen a “modern” production and detested it.
          My personal opinion is that “modern” or “regie” productions, just like “traditional” ones, can be great or they can be dreadful, and more important for a newcomer is not whether the production is “abstract” but whether the performance is a good one, gripping and enjoyable. I have often taken new-comers to productions I have seen before with singers I am familiar with because I know it will be good, sometimes they have been “modern” and sometimes “traditional”.

        • kennedet

          I think the real question here (or bottom line)is whether we can get the non-opera going fans to come and enjoy opera with traditional or updated opera. I’m hearing strong arguments on both sides.

          • kennedet

            Weren’t most of us introduced to opera through the traditional performances? Yes, I know there are exceptions but let’s not forget were we came from.

            • DonCarloFanatic

              Actually, the first opera I attended was Don Giovanni given by puppets. Scarred me for life.

            • kennedet

              You’ll be all right Don Carlo. You haven’t lost your sense of humor and that’s very important in today’s world.

      • Porgy Amor

        Hmm. Well, this is a good question, and good questions get a range of answers.

        I think anyone has to jump in somewhere. Something has to be your first Ballo, Rosenkavalier, or Carmen, and while I used to think it should ideally be a “traditional” production, more and more now I’m challenging that. Now I think it should just be something really good, and clear enough to follow. Sometimes what we think of as not appropriate for a novice is really going to be more bothersome to a particular type of veteran operagoer. The novice will not come in with as many “supposed-to” and “should-be” prejudices.

        I show a lot of productions on video to newbies, and of course my own biases guide my choices. But I find they roll pretty well with period updating, or with a Rusalka where the references to a forest don’t match up with what is going on visually (a bedroom, in that production)…if the direction is good. They’re looking for what they look for in television, movies, plays, and musical theater: for the characters and relationships to be established in a compelling way by the director, for the singers to hold up their end by carrying out histrionic responsibilities creditably (if they cannot all be great actors, at least they should have charisma or flair and not be a plank), and for the designs to be stimulating to the eye. The last can be accomplished in a lot of ways, not just Zeffirellian lavishness. What do you think got more enthusiasm from a group of novices, seen on the small screen, Zeff’s eye-popping Met Turandot or the angled and skewed, black-on-white-splotched Graham Vick/Richard Hudson Queen of Spades for Glyndebourne? In this case, abstraction trumped realism.

        Pressed for time, all I will add at the moment is that I can never read about some “shocking” image or bit of business in a production and judge the whole show, even if I’m reading a report that pushes me to do so. Even still photos won’t tell me everything I need to know, although I might be able to say “That looks interesting” or “That looks strange” or “That looks dull.” You have to see how something works in the whole. Even if something sounds weird or in poor taste, it may be made to work powerfully, or it may be such a small moment that the production can survive it. I’ve disliked the Met’s current Traviata ever since I saw the Salzburg video, and there’s nothing in it I like less than the part in which Alfredo is stuffing the money into Violetta’s mouth, up her skirt and down her dress while the chorus is telling him to get out; it has seemed to me silly, hysterical overkill every time. But one of my favorite Traviata productions ever is also a modern one that takes a lot of liberties, such as Violetta getting an injection from a seedy-looking “doctor” after her spell in Act I, Flora’s party set in a burlesque club, etc. I would have been poorer had I heeded some review that read, “Flora’s party has cowboys gyrating under a silver disco ball. Verdi would be appalled.” I would not hesitate to show this production to someone who had never seen Traviata before. (I will admit, when the opportunity presented itself a couple months ago, I went with someone more traditional, but that was in part a cast-driven decision.)

        • You make some very good points, Porgy. From my experience, opera newbies tend to respond well to updatings and abstract stagings. They don’t necessarily need a conservative, “traditional” staging for their introduction. But I think that some kind of heads-up is probably helpful — like being told that the staging won’t be literal. And some productions are so “out there” (even if they are intellectually vigorous) that they would probably confuse a newcomer.

          I don’t think there’s an easy answer here but I also don’t think that newcomers *have* to see a traditional-looking production to be able to comprehend an opera on a first outing.

        • Hanna

          Thank you for your description which fairly equals my own experiences with opera newbies. I’d like to add that they seem to prefer a more or less coherent narrative. No matter how Regie a production, they ‘ ll love it as long as they can follow it. After various recent desasters however I am getting increasingly fed up with having to come up with answers for every producer’s whim. E. g. the ROH Parsifal: “Why don’t they give Amfortas some strong painkillers?” -- “Err…. because the production is highlighting the failures of the NHS?”… ” What was that boy for?” -- “oh just close your eyes and listen”;-) I shall have to buy them the Met DVD when it finally comes out!!!

          • kennedet

            Hanna, you’re hilarious!! Have you considered “Stand-up”??!!

        • skoc211

          The last opera newbie I introduced to the art form was in tears by the end of the Decker “Traviata” this past January at the Met. The simplicity of the set and production really forced her to pay attention to what was going on. Of course it helped that Damrau and Domingo gave brilliant and moving performances both vocally and emotionally (our Alfredo was a stand-by who was barely adequate) and that Traviata is one of the more accessible operas there is, but the production really sealed the deal for my friend.

          • kennedet

            I wonder if knowing the story line of these operas and their setting is presented to these newbies before they attend the performances or do they come totally unaware of the presentation? Do you suppose a confusing reaction, even if it was in an updated form? Yes, I know it depends on the individual and the production but some education before attending can be benefical. There are too many variables.

            • kennedet

              Good luck on understanding my drivel because I can’t. It made sense in my head but not when I wrote it.

      • alejandro

        I’m a newbie when it comes to opera and I have zero problems with having my first exposure to an opera be an “intellectualized” production. My first exposure to La Sonnambula was a video of Mary Zimmerman’s much despised production and I loved it.

        There are many “traditional” productions that have directorial issues that can be just as difficult for a newbie to get around.

        • kennedet

          Fine!! Welcome aboard.

  • armerjacquino

    I look forward to a Valerie Solti production of ROSENKAVALIER in which the first act set is made entirely from semen.

    • tornado12

      Well… I would like to know what the Vorspiel would look like in her imagination… Or just some scenes from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

    • operaassport

      Have you seen Valerie’s teeth up close? I’d be frightened of any production that was fashioned by someone with chompers like that.

  • La Valkyrietta

    In the typewriter symphony there is a typewriter and the sounds from it make sense for its presence. In the Barcelona Ballo there are toilets, but their flushing is not part of the music. Maybe they are silent toilets, but the type of elevated cistern toilets with chain they use are actually very noisy. Further, it seems they are never flushed. Why? To make the scene smellier and dirtier in harmony with the planned deed? I hate in that production that all these considerations are not in the music or libretto, but artificially superimposed, even if thought out. Perhaps someone who has seen the opera dozens of times and is looking for novelty might welcome those toilets if according to some considerations they make dramatic sense. Some opera fans might still not be ready to sanction non-Verdian non-Somman toilets.

    • armerjacquino

      What a totally bizarre argument. There’s no sound of horses and carriages leaving during ‘Ah fors’e lui’ either- should we just leave all the guests on stage?

      Sometimes set and furniture effects are reflected in the score, but the vast, vast majority of times they’re not.

      • La Valkyrietta

        I don’t think I presented an argument, just a comment. In any case I don’t think Verdi or PIave called for horses or carriages in the first act of Traviata, ot that Violetta goes out into the street to say farewell to the guests. The effort on the audience at the end of act I of Traviata is minimal in order to avoid your puzzlement, should the audience share it, they can just assume the room Violetta is at is not within reach of street noises. The audience can even be little reggie devils and assume the room Violetta is at is a cork lined room, just like the one Proust had :), but that would be stretching the point a bit for no purpose intended in the drama (runs away giggling).

        • armerjacquino

          It works better in asterisks, dear. But well done for illustrating in further detail the daftness of your original comment.

    • Batty Masetto

      The toilets don’t flush because they’re not being used as toilets. They’re being used as camouflage for something completely different – plenty of spy novels will fill you in on how it works.

      If Avantialouie is bothered by several notions among so-called “fans” of “regie” opera (which I think are straw men; I’ve certainly never used them), I’m bothered like mad by the pedestrian literalism of some “traditionalist” audience members who often seem to turn their brains off completely when they go into the opera house and get bent out of shape by narrative and visual devices that wouldn’t faze them for an instant in a movie or a production of a straight play.

      • armerjacquino

        Bravo.

      • La Valkyrietta

        It would seem that people that go to a Verdi opera are not intending to read a spy novel or see a movie or attend a modern play. Attending a Verdi opera is more like the experience of going to a museum. I know Duchamp placed a urinal in a museum exhibit, not in the rest room, but that was in place at that particular exhibit. An art lover going to see the work of, for example, Canova, does not expect a toilet instead of, say, the Three Graces. Of course, a modern artist might have at his exhibit an art piece of Canova inside a urinal, based on some modern art theory he has worked out, but that objet d’art would not be an art piece of Canova. C’est tout.

        • Batty Masetto

          “Audiences know what to expect, and that is all that they are prepared to believe in.”

        • armerjacquino

          Wow, someone actually said it.

          Someone actually said that going to the opera ought to be like going to a museum.

          I give up.

          • La Valkyrietta

            Exploring old operas does not “ought to be like going to a museum”, it is unavoidably like going to a museum. An old opera can be just as valuable as an old painting or sculpture or whatever it is that museums do exhibit.

            An old opera is certainly not an MTV clip -old operas were composed before TV was invented- though I grant you that in fact modern shows in opera houses more and more take their look from all sorts of modern extravagant activities. Verdi is Verdi, and Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga.

            • oedipe

              There is of course the alternative of staging traditional productions, but modernizing the music and the text. And why not? Who says the music cannot be updated?

              Here is Rosenkavalier in a traditional production, but with new music and a text in the singers’ language, so they don’t risk botching the pronunciation (as is usually the case):

              Or is it Nozze?

            • The question, though, is “in what way is producing an opera similar to curating a museum exhibit,” and there, I think, is quite a problem. A performance is not the same thing as an object by most standards and so both the presentation and the apprehension of an opera are very different experiences from what goes on in a museum. I think it is more or less valid for a curator to say “I want to get out of the way of the work,” but there really is no such “getting out of the way” when performing a work: musically and dramatically there are decisions to be made every instant along the way, and any one decision precludes many others.

              It is possible, I think, to claim to present the entirety of a work of visual art in the context of a single curated show; that claim cannot be made about a production of a performative work. And because what can be shown of a performative work is necessarily only a fraction of the virtually infinite potential content of a performative work, I think it is valuable for interpreters always to be trying to find new and different meanings, aspects of the work that might be unfamiliar to the spectator.

              Otherwise there really is no artistic experience in an opera production, not real sense of discovery: it’s rather a reinforcement of comforting familiarity, and that, it seems to me, is a very trivial sort of experience.

            • La Valkyrietta

              Thanks for your always very interesting and pertinent comments, La Cieca. Yes, a performance is something live and thus can’t and should not be exactly like a painting in a museum. That is, the original opera as performed in its day is gone forever; whereas an original painting survives much as painted, one hopes. The discussion, though, reminds me of Wittgenstein’s duck rabbit image,

              http://dip9.aaschool.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/duck4.jpeg

              in the sense of when a performance of an opera tampers so much with the original work that it changes it from a bird to a rabbit, or vice-versa. It is a problem that every director faces, if he cares.

            • oedipe

              Except that the definition of art implied in this discussion is a “canard”. Visual art is not limited to paintings hanging in a museum. As a matter of fact, visual art is not limited, period.

              There is such a thing as performance art. Anyone who has seen the Marina Abramovic retrospective at the MoMA knows what I am referring to. The difference between performance art and performing arts is minimal. There is also conceptual art which consists of a definition, a sentence; this form of visual art is realized anew -and in a somewhat different way- depending on the environment in which it is exhibited (in general, it is the gallery or the museum staff that is charged with the in loco realization). There are other “performing” forms of contemporary art.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor



    Bobby got a haircut!




    • pobrediablo

      Horrible haircut! What did they do to him!!

    • oedipe

      Nope, it’s a silly pony tail, not a hair cut.

      Here is his actual hair cut and the latest pop recording (quite remarkable actually):

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Last month in Istanbul
        httv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz6Yh3HK6wA

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          What’s he doin with this chickie?

          • pobrediablo

            He’s having his Romanian fix with this Draculetta substitute :D

      • pobrediablo

        This is for dear oedipe (French opera lover) and zinka (Beczala’s lover)

        • oedipe

          Roméo is Beczala’s weakest French role. He is a much better Faust. But Juliette is a perfect fit for Sonya.

          (But you shouldn’t be spreading rumors about Zinka and Beczala. Piotr’s wife might not appreciate it.)

  • Avantialouie

    Fans of “regie” productions consistently uses three phrases that bother me. 1) “Re-inventing the opera is a good thing.” Well, what about the music and the libretto NEEDED re-inventing? What was wrong with it in the first place? 2) “We must make this opera relevent for today.” Well, what about the music and the libretto WASN’T relevent? 3) “A stage director’s responsibility is to re-interpret the opera.” Well, what about the music and the libretto REQUIRED re-interpretation? I’m not saying that you can’t have a “regie” production; I’m just saying that a “clever concept” alone is not sufficient justification around which to construct one, however interesting, “theatrical,” and original that concept may be. EVERY production must begin with a thorough understanding not just of what you are doing, but WHY YOU ARE DOING IT THE WAY YOU’RE DOING IT, and HOW YOU INTEND TO MAKE THAT “WHY” CLEAR TO THE AUDIENCE. About 90% of the “regie” productions I have ever seen fail that test, some dismally.

    • armerjacquino

      re: point number 3

      Not sure I understand what you’re saying here. Every new production of anything, no matter how traditional, is a re-interpretation.

      • alejandro

        THIS.

        Even “traditional” productions are “interpretations” and utilize abstraction and theatrical devices to tell the story. (i.e., Tosca’s leap at the end of her opera must be abstracted in some way because the singer isn’t literally leaping to her death . . . you immediately have to start having directorial imposition to make some of these narrative elements work in the opera).

    • You’re familiar with the idea of the straw man, I trust. The arguments you’re attributing to people who don’t exclusively like literal, traditional productions are not things we actually think or say. Rather than responding in kind and pretending traditionalists go around saying “every production of Traviata should look like it was cobbled together in 1853” or something, I’ll rephrase what you’ve said a little to bring it more in line with what someone like me might actually say.

      1) New takes on operas that have been done a lot can be just as compelling as traditional takes and sometimes are moreso, and there is enough going on in most repertory operas that they merit a range of interpretations.

      2) This one is harder because it’s just not something I think any fan of innovative stagings thinks. If we didn’t think Ballo was relevant, we wouldn’t go see it, and if the directors didn’t think it was relevant, they wouldn’t put it on. The closest I come to what you’ve said is I think sometimes modern dress removes a degree of distance between a work and its interpreters and audience. Sometimes it’s interesting for me to see Figaro and, though it will always be about people relating to each other in another age you and I can’t know, to see what it would be like if the characters were a little more in our world, and I think singers sometimes respond well to it, too.

      3) A stage director’s responsibility is to INTERPRET the opera. Music and libretto never tell you everything. Never. Every production you have ever seen is an act of interpretation, and a collaborative one, at that. Clever concept is, you are quite correct, not enough to sustain a production that really changes what we’re used to seeing. Nor is tradition enough to sustain a production that doesn’t. A production that preserved only the directions in the libretto would be as minimalist as Robert Wilson’s Lohengrin in most cases, or perhaps would look like a concert production on a set.

      • quoth the maven

        But you could argue that in the Forza clip above, the stage director hasn’t done any “interpreting” at all--just simply moved the performers on and off and tried to keep them from bumping into the sets. I would argue, though, that the performance is a valid, if not essential, “interpretation” of the piece: Tebaldi, Corelli et. al. make it so. It tells us a lot about Forza, even if the director isn’t the one doing the telling.

        I am not trying to argue against regie productions. All I’m saying is that the hand of the director isn’t in all cases a necessary component in helping us shape our understanding of a particular opera.

        • Yes, but what the singers achieve through the greatness of their singing could just easily be achieved in a concert performance, no? The director is unimportant to a concert performance but not to a fully realised staged production.

          A concert performance can be worthwhile because the performers can put the drama across through purely musical means. But that is still a partially realised presentation of the work. The only fully realised presentation is one where the staging is as lovingly executed as the musical performance and where the two come together in harmony.

          • quoth the maven

            Kaahania--I think you’re making the same mistake here as the anti-regie crowd: assuming there’s an ideal embodiment of the opera: in this case, “a fully realized presentation.” I would posit that different facets of a piece can be gleaned from all sorts of presentations.

            Since I missed yesterday’s Kušej-directed Forza, I’m not writing from a position of strength here. Certainly the trailer looked fantastic. But is it possible that the schleppy 1957 Naples performance “realized” aspects of the piece that yesterday’s did not?

            • armerjacquino

              But the idea of a ‘fully realised’ production most certainly doesn’t mean ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘definitive’ -- it means a production which totally succeeds in what it sets out to do. That can apply just as much to either ‘type’ of production.

            • Quoth: I think AJ said it well. I know my post made it seem like I was talking about the ideal production of an opera (which rarely happens). My point is that the only way for an opera to be fully realised is if the production attempts to present it to its fullest in every way, not just musically.

    • operaassport

      Consider me a fan of good theater who is open to regie productions. I’ve never used any of those 3 arguments. So, so much for that canard.

  • fidelio101

    Why do you think that Gelb chose to do the new Fledermaus in ENGLISH. A friend of mine went to the dress today and said it sounded like Gilbert and Sullivan. Why dumb it down to English when there are translations on the seats?

    • marshiemarkII

      NOTHING like G&S whatsoever!. It was not a “translation” whatsoever either, but rather a rewrite similar in a way to the English version of the Rat Pack Rigoletto. The rewrite was funny, very campy, very faithful when it needed, and even injected in a couple of places some very serious aspects, see my review in another thread. But it was most definitely not a simple translation. It is a majorly winning production, and should do well by the Met for a long time I hope. I will certainly see it again as many times as I can, I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!

      • fidelio101

        Were you part of the production team?
        Does Aida get a “re-write” Is the Ring going to be “revised” next?

    • When one has a comedy with lots of spoken dialogue, I think a good case can be made for doing it in the vernacular (it doesn’t hurt that German generally translates well into English).

      When one has a joke being delivered in spoken dialogue, it is great to be able to communicate that joke immediately to the audience, rather than having them read the translation and get a delayed response.

      I’m not saying that it has to be done in English to be effective but I can definitely see the benefit of it. I’ve even seen a production (not Fledermaus but Seraglio) where the dialogue was in English and the music sung in German. While that it may seem a bit weird at first, it works quite well, allowing the audience to hear the music set to the original language and still getting the benefit of experiencing teh comedy first-hand as it were.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        “it doesn’t hurt that German generally translates well into English.” Especially since the German is already an adaptation of the French original: http://books.google.com/books?id=MiA-AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=meilhac+le+réveillon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VDS-Uqy4DKes2QWW_oCgAg&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=meilhac%20le%20réveillon&f=false

        • grimoaldo

          Yes indeed, Fledermaus is based on a “straight” play,Le Réveillon, by the great Meilhac and Halévy, librettists of Offenbach’s greatest opera-bouffes as well as “Carmen”. W S Gilbert produced an English version of Le Réveillon for the London stage, “Committed for Trial”.

      • oedipe

        it is great to be able to communicate that joke immediately to the audience

        And it seems there are some brilliant ethnic jokes in there that will be very popular with the American audience, I am sure.

        • Batty Masetto

          Yes, we all get our jollies by throwing the n-word around, you know.

          Oedipe, what is happening to you????

          • oedipe

            But Batty, my dear, it’s uncouth in America to throw the n-word around, you know that!
            On the other hand, I am sure the Met audience will laugh their heads off at all the brilliant jokes in Die Fledermaus (in the vernacular, it’s more effective) about the French who never wash and are always very rude.
            Hey, come to think of it, maybe that’s why there are so few Frenchie singers at the Met: too uncivilized.

            • armerjacquino

              ‘and are always very rude…’

              Writes itself.

            • Batty Masetto
            • marshiemarkII

              Caro oedipe, I don’t know why you choose to pick on something harmless, even if a bit hammish and crudish Sucksee humor, on a non-consequential operetta at the Metropolitan Opera. To get the real thing you need to look no further than the hapless FRRRRRRRREEDOM FRIES [R gargled with great pomp and solemnity of course] of Barbaric Iraq War fame, the spoiled-brat child-with-guns throwing a tantrum because the crime about to be committed was not condoned and sanctified to boot…….

            • oedipe

              I know Marshie, and the most shocking and sad aspect of the situation was to see people in this country rally not so much around anger against Al-Qaïda, which was an entity that seemed too nebulous and hard to fathom, but around anger against France, for daring to oppose the will of the American government. When push comes to shove, France can be a very convenient scapegoat and exhaust pipe for inchoate American rage.

    • kennedet

      Fidelio101,this is the kind of stance that keeps non-opera goers away. This elitist attitude divides us into a “we” vs. “they” scenario.It smacks of Levine’s quote that “we’ll have sur-titles over my dead body”. The Met can continue to attain high professional artistic standards and have the production sung in English. Let’s get more people to come, support and enjoy opera without expecting them to be of a certain caliber.

    • Batty Masetto

      1. Gilbert and Sullivan are anything but dumb; if this version even comes close to Gilbert’s wit, people are in for a treat. (Assuming it’s well played and not heavy-handed operatic “comedy,” which is dull in any language.)

      2. It’s an operetta, an intentionally light entertainment. Anything that keeps the bubbles in the champagne is OK by me. Better a workably fluffy English trifle than an unidiomatic Kartoffelknödel laboring to be Schlag.

    • marshiemarkII

      fidelio that is such a tired argument about “being in the production team”, you don’t have better rejoinders?
      yawn yawn.

      More to the point, linear thinking leads people to apply a one size fits all argument, because it is comfortable and doesn’t require much thinking. Look the Ring is one of the world’s civilizational treasures, a patrimony of humanity, an untouchable masterpiece, how does that compare with a delectable confection with lots of gorgeous music, but a plot that is very specific to a time, a place and a city in particular, and with lots of “inside” jokes that are specific to that place and culture and customs?
      OK you can be a purist and try to laugh at jokes in which you may not even understand the language, local slang, and ultimately a sense of humor that is dated and ethnocentric to that culture. Why can you not keep the spirit of the piece, but reinterpret the main theme, and transport it to the local slang, lingo and inside jokes? it has been done before, even at the Met, and long before Gelb brought these “disgraceful practices” you know? :P

      Now this production does a couple of things beyond all of the above. There are moments where the humor turns acerbic, and almost sinister in the foreboding, the ridiculous elite/upper class/ whatever you want to call it, frivolous and completely CLUELESS to the cataclysm that was starting to gather wind already…. Then the relationship between the two unfaithful partners was developed to a degree that is not present at all in the original, taking to Act IV of Nozze di Figaro level (Contessa perdono), and all done with theatrical dialogue, so not violating any of the sanctity of the composer “intentions”. I loved it, both for the NYC related humor, the obvious parallel with the American Empire elite cluelessness, a stark warning, and the beautiful resolution between the unfaithful spouses. Gorgeous. And I still had to read the subtitles because the diction was not the greatest for most, excepting Maltman and Szot (great actor, not so hot singer!)

    • Silver

      Johann Strauss! That’s the “control”. Orchestra sounds wonderful. Chorus sounds wonderful. The rest is as delicate, tasteful, effervescent as a block of cement. There’s nothing witty about insulting other nationalities or poking at people of other sexual persuasions. There is nothing clever about walking to the right, the left, then back to right then hit a tableau in the middle. Repeat same a dozen times. This is insulting to both audience and Strauss. A good part of the English is unintelligible, almost barking. It’s show time, forget integrity.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    “don’t press so hard!” What a wuss.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      and now they have to close the theater.

      “El secretario general del PSPV-PSOE, Ximo Puig ha asegurado hoy que el desprendimiento de parte de la cubierta del Palau de Les Arts “representa el hundimiento del gobierno de Fabra y de todo lo que han sido los grandes emblemas del PP”. En estos términos se ha referido el líder de los socialistas valencianos después de que parte de la fachada de la ópera valenciana se desprendieran ayer “tras un año de problemas y desperfectos que el PP ha sido incapaz de gestionar, resolver o prevenir”. De hecho, Ximo Puig ha lamentado la incapacidad del presidente de la Generalitat y de su equipo “para mantener en unas condiciones mínimamente adecuadas uno de los edificios más costosos de la ciudad”.

  • Krunoslav

    FLEDERMAUS ads are all over at least *my* internet.

    *Really*: doesn’t Mr. Sams-- he of the finicky insistence on ‘FIGARO’S WEDDING”--nor anyone else in authority at the Met realize that the last night of the 19th century was NOT December 31, 1899 but December 31, 1900?

    • pobrediablo

      You should use adblock.

  • redbear

    I go to the opera in Paris where the audience is relatively conservative -- compared with Germany -- and I do not recall seeing a production in the last few decades that could be compared with those “traditional” productions I used to see in America. I get often to Belgium which has joined the radical camp and achieved notable respect around Europe. Risk-taking ENO has seen audience increases. ROH and La Scala have “moved on.” In Paris, Robert Wilson is “traditional” and the last “Chauve-Souris” I saw had the turning chorus morph into a swastika during “Bruderlein und Schwesterlein.” I see no “traditional” opera productions in my travels. It would be like someone driving around a 56 Ford.

    • grimoaldo

      Well, if your travels include London and you visit the ROH when they are putting on La Boheme you will see a very “traditional” production by John Copley they have been doing since 1974 or a very “traditional” Traviata by Richard Eyre, performed since 1994 (for instance).

      • MontyNostry

        I saw that Bohème (for the third time in 30 years) earlier this year and actually got a shock when the curtains opened. It was always dowdy, but really does look like a museum piece now. And that Traviata was never interesting, though most of it is quite pretty to look at.

        • MontyNostry

          And, of course, we have a Tosca that is about six years old, but looks at least 26 years old.

    • redbear

      I saw the Schenk production of Rosenkavalier in Munich a while ago. It was handsome and comfortable, like that 56 Ford.
      One of the important technical problems of “beloved” productions is that, at a time when opera is moving to other media, all older productions are preserved on low definition recordings.
      Since HD is the rule for TV now, any old production just stays on the shelf, if not tossed, and only new productions are streamed. Literally everything in the last decade or so is non-traditional, Think stereo, monaural, 33, 78.

    • manou

      Au contraire, redbear -- ENO is in dire straits (you can read all about it on Intermezzo). The “audience increase” came about as a creative massaging of figures.