Cher Public

Mourning in America

“Taken by itself, the St. Matthew Passion felt a little mundane. But compared to Zauberflöte, it could have been the Second Coming.” Our Own JJ was in no mood last week, it seems. [New York Observer]

  • Krunoslav

    “For the Armory presentation, a virtual duplicate of the tiered interior of the Philharmonie was constructed, and conductor Simon Rattle, orchestra, soloists, and a 66-member chorus whisked into New York—all for just two performances. These sold out immediately at a $250 top, and soon started turning up on StubHub.com for more than 10 times their face value. The week before the concert, presenters took the “democratic” step of opening a dress rehearsal of the show to the general public—or at least as general a public as could afford $125 a head.

    As such, the presentation’s “sense of community”—as touted in the show’s program notes—involved a demographic indigenous to the Silk Stocking District. Among so homogenously white and well-heeled an audience, Mr. Sellars’ concept of “inclusiveness” felt ironic at best.”

    Thank you, Cieca!

    • Liz.S

      “Mr. Sellars’ particular gift is to free up singers emotionally and physically”
      “Without attempting an actual depiction of the events of the Passion, the director devised constant but subtle movement that focused attention on musical highlights.”

      This is the most concise and right-on summary I’ve read about what Sellar’s Passion is about. I love JJ!!! :-)

      • Liz.S

        Opps, that was not a response to Kruno’s comment -- sorry!

    • rofrano

      James Jorden wrote those lines, I’m afraid.

      • Liz.S

        Wait -- Mr. James Jorden is not JJ?
        I’m confused now…

        • James Jorden is JJ and La Cieca.

          • Liz.S

            Right?
            He may not have been in the mood but I teel you, he looked super fab that night! ;-)

  • peter

    What a beautifully written review!

  • eric

    I agree with you that it was something of a letdown. So much hype and so much expectation, that I was disappointed by the performance. Individual elements were wonderful, but the whole disappointed.

    Music was for the most part exquisite. But in my view, the dramatization distracted from the music, and was a net minus rather than a net plus.

    Agree about Eric Owens -- his voice was big, but rough. We were there on Wednesday.

    A minor correction: Top price was $375, not $250. Big sections of the house were at the $375 price. But those seats were mostly gone within the first few days of pre-sale to members. And virtually all tickets were gone before public sale.

    • Barely on topic, but I was just looking at the Istanbul Opera and Ballet’s website. Top price for Cenerentola in November is the equivalent of 10 euros.

  • almavivante

    Doyenne: Please tell JJ that Plexiglas is a TM, capped and only one “s” at the end (not to be confused with fiberglass, which is generic).

    • Is there no end to the variety of information one learns on this site? LOL

  • eric

    “Mr. Padmore’s Evangelist, whose role as defined by Bach is simply to narrate, here so empathized with Christ’s suffering that he seemed to relive every moment of agony.”

    Good point. I didn’t quite understand what was going on onstage. Who’s playing what role? We have a Jesus already, so why is the Evangelist acting like Jesus? It just seemed confusing and odd.

    But with JJ’s explanation it makes sense.

    • rofrano

      The idea to have Jesus sung from offstage (like he would have been in the Thomaskirche, from the organ loft or wherever) and “mimed” by the evangelist narrator, is one of the more brilliant ideas Sellars has ever had. Or the only brilliant one.

  • MontyNostry

    For a moment, I thought JJ’s mention of a “blonde wood box” was referring to the performance’s mezzo soprano.

  • bassoprofundo

    bit odd to go on and on about the prices of tickets when the reviewer presumably got his own ticket for free.

    • laddie

      I know I shouldn’t take this bait, but your comment speaks volumes about your own egotistical limitations.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    The venue sounds like a perfect place for a full reconstruction of Kurt Weill’s ETERNAL ROAD (not the new concoction due to be performed soon).

    The following (a cross-posting of an interesting message from an internet group) concerns Blitzstein’s Sacco and Vanzetti vis-à-viz Klinghoffer:

    “TO: Mr. Peter Gelb
    The Metropolitan Opera
    Dear Mr. Gelb:
    John Adams claims, in an interview, that the reason some people think his Klinghoffer opera should not be produced is that it’s “too sensitive.”
    The problem, though, is that the work’s libretto is in fact INsensitive, and disrespectful, to the expressed wishes of Klinghoffer’s family, and most of the Jewish community.

    I sympathize with them.

    But I also find it interesting that defenders of the Met production deplore those who condemn the opera without having seen it. It reminds me of the problems two operas had right after 9/11. One of them was this work; the Boston Symphony decided not to perform choruses from it, out of sensitivity to the NY & DC victims. The other was a work commissioned from Marc Blitzstein for the Met in 1960 and completed by this writer in Feb. 2001. After the semi-staged premiere in CT in Aug. 2001, Opera News printed a diatribe against the opera’s completion by a man who’d attended a symposium on the work, but no performance of it. This prompted what the magazine itself called “A Storm of Protest” letters -- 14, of which they printed 5, including a supportive one from the Blitzstein family. But there was no follow-up; portraying anarchists (even innocent ones) as heroes wasn’t what the post-9/11 USA wanted to see.

    So now the Met has put itself behind a work about a family that calls the piece anti-Semitic, compromising only in not sharing it with a world abroad that has become increasingly anti-Israel. Maybe, in the interests of balance, it should consider producing a piece written for it (much of it in Israel, in fact) that was praised by the family involved, and every critic who saw it: SACCO AND VANZETTI -- by Marc Blitzstein and
    Leonard Lehrman
    (Assistant Conductor/Assistant Chorus Master, Metropolitan Opera, 1977-78)”


  • steverino

    I was in the $275 section on Wednesday. Some rock concerts cost as much. I thought the WHOLE THING was up there with the Kaufman,Pape/Gatti Parsifal. After reading Gardiner’s section on St Mathew I just got so much from this ‘ritualization.’ Padmore was just magnificent, as was Kozema. EricOwen got into some trouble- just pushing too hard I thought. The chorus was wonderful. Amazing solos from violin, woodwinds….When it ended I was ready to do it all over again. Fortunstely the DGG DVD is available with same =cast exempt Quastoff not Owen.

  • Ok, about to sound Philistine here: I know St. Matthew’s Passion is great music, I’ve just never been able to get into it. I have a hard time getting into a lot of religious music, but St. Matthew’s Passion presents an even bigger hurdle for me because I actually feel guilty even listening to it and not really being very religious. I don;t get the same feeling of guilt when I listen to Verdi’s Requiem or Handel’s Messiah. But Bach’s oratorios seem to be coming from a place of such deeply held religious convictions that I feel like I’m intruding on something that isn’t mine. The intensity and fervor frightens me, and I think “I shouldn’t be a part of this” and I shut down.

    Does this happen to anyone else?

    • luvtennis

      Not I. I have loved the Matthew Passion since I was a kid. Whether a testament to God or to the mind that created it, or both, it is for me a singular thing. I can think of no greater work of art to come out of Europe.

    • Cicciabella

      It’s a pity you feel like this about the St. Matthew Passion, which is a kind of musical Sistine Chapel in terms of artistic achievement. Believers certainly respond to the work in a deeply devotional way, but it wouldn’t be such a great work if it didn’t transcend religion and resonate with universal human emotions, experiences and ideals: grief, guilt, empathy, betrayal, selflessness, atonement, and the need to be saved from whatever plagues and debases us. Every religion tries to satisfy the last need, but the need itself is not exclusive to the religious.