Cher Public

E qui la luna l’abbiamo vicina

“Puccini’s operas seldom take well to abstraction, since the composer engraved every detail of what should happen into the score so specifically that there was little wiggle room left.” Discuss.  

This production will be telecast live via Medici.tv Tuesday at 1:30 PM EST. Check back at parterre for group viewing/discussion details!

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

    Is that a deleted scene from this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVrPOGoQLao

    The review to which you link is behind a paywall at the FT. Any chance you can cut-and-paste it here?

    • La Cieca

      I have adjusted the link; try again.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Thanks for your efforts, but I still get the message that I need a subscription to access the review (it gives the title but that is all).

        • La Cieca

          Generally you can get the review if you take a text string from the first paragraph and enter it, in quotation marks, in a google search

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            There is no first paragraph from which to extract a text string, but it does work with all that is given: the title of the review, which is “A storm of boos for La Bohème at the Paris Opera.” Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Camille

      Jungfer.
      That was just staggeringly, wonderfully awful.

      Danke.

      • southerndoc1

        Marie “Queen of the Bs” Windsor.

  • grimoaldo2

    ” the composer engraved every detail of what should happen into the score so specifically that there was little wiggle room left’
    You could say that about many operas, including the Ring, the action Wagner envisaged being performed onstage is mirrored in the orchestra the whole time, for instance every time Grane the horse is “supposed to” be led on or offstage there is the “clippety-cloppety” theme of his in the orchestra but even though I have seen lots of Rings I have never seen a real horse. There are many examples in many operas where the music is tied to the action like that but productions these days make no effort whatsoever to follow that linkage, I express no opinion as to whether that is right or wrong.
    The article says “opening-night audience was unconvinced, heckling loudly and frequently in the course of the performance, and greeting the director and his team at their curtain-calls with storms of boos’
    also “‘Planet of the Apes version of Rigoletto for the Bavarian State Opera. That was roundly booed, too”
    When I was at the first night of La Prophete in Berlin there were lots of boos after the” ballet” sequence and for the director, Py, at his curtain call. And when I was in Paris last year for a crazy Aida there were lots of people all over the theatre SCREAMING boos at the end of the ballet sequence in the triumph scene and at the end. and that was not even a first night with the production team there.There is a general idea that they like these far out productions in Europe more than in the US or UK but I am not sure they do really, judging by audience reactions.

    • bertrand simon

      We have seen too much of those, much more than in US (and UK has now our same regime) and audiences begin to revolt .

      • La Cieca

        Some audiences are revolting to begin with.

        • bertrand simon

          Right ! Because they are fed up with all those mad, pretentious and uncultured directors who think they are at the same level as the composers .

          • La Cieca

            Claus Guth is “mad, pretentious and uncultured,” according to you. And who the fuck are you again?

      • PCally

        “…and audiences begin to revolt”

        The Paris opera has had countless successful non-traditional productions, many of which have been revived successfully several times. Using one failed production by a director who has had plenty of success elsewhere proves absolutely nothing, least of all the weird notion that audiences are about to revolt. The loudest cheers I’ve ever witnessed at the house were for Krzysztof Warlikowski for Christ’s sake

        • In my own entourage this production hasn’t been condemned as “failed”. I was told it was coherent and visually often spectacular. I haven’t seen it yet because I’m travelling.

          • PCally

            I hope you enjoy it!

            If the production is bad then it’s bad and that’s that. It just bothers me when someone will use one production as some kind of evidence in order arrogate authority to themselves about how others in the audience feel about the production and opera productions in general. If a production is legitimately a disaster then chances are it will be replaced as soon as possible. But booing means nothing. The Chereau ring was booed and virtually every Weiland Wagner premiere caused some kind of controversy.

            And the idea that not liking someone’s work is a good enough reason to dismiss that person as “mad, pretentious, and uncultured” is stupid. I’m not sure how one would even know this about Guth unless one actually knows him personally. He comes across as exceptionally intelligent and thoughtful about his work in interviews, more articulate than most in fact. None of this means one has to like his work or pretend a production is successful if it isn’t. But the idea that someone who directed a bad production was deliberately shitting on an art form they don’t care about is one that pops up occasionally on here and it’s one that I find genuinely insane. Directing anything, especially opera, is grueling, tiring, rarely a guarantee of financial gain, and generally pretty thankless. Why would someone dedicate their whole lives to an art they don’t give a shit about? People need to stop acting like something they don’t like is some kind of personal affront to their weird fantasy about what they feel an opera should look like.

            • Porgy Amor

              People need to stop acting like something they don’t like is some kind of personal affront to their weird fantasy about what they feel an opera should look like.

              It’s nice to dream. I doubt it will happen, though. I think a lot of it has to do with aging, things slipping away. The sorrows over that get displaced onto the the opera productions or “these movies that are coming out now,” whatever someone’s hobby-horse is. It usually seems to kick in around the time the directors stop being older than the operagoer. There are exceptions in the margins. I understand that the AMOP founder is fairly young.

              My next review here will be one of the most thoroughly negative I’ve ever written. I hated every moment spent with the thing under discussion. But it will be entirely about that, not about “that” as symbolic of all that’s wrong with the art form.

            • PCally

              Well one can always hope. Thankfully there a no comments here that match the vitriol on AMOP.

            • Armerjacquino

              I’m sure opera groups exist on FB that aren’t full of unhinged people and power-mad mods, but I can’t say I’ve found one yet.

            • PCally

              Against amop? If it’s still up.

            • Armerjacquino

              Not seen that one…

            • Just a minute: I’m old!

            • In Paris even great productions sometimes disappear after one outing. I don’t understand their policy. But that’s a different topic.

            • DonCarloFanatic

              One problem with new opera productions is there is no New Haven tryout period where they can make significant adjustments. Today, the adjustments happen from one opera house to another and they tend to be rather small adjustments at that. This is a shame because how an audience reacts to something is a key to what works and what doesn’t. OTOH, I keep hearing that people are booing all over Europe, so it’s hard to believe mere boos would make anyone adjust a thing.

            • PCally

              Has that ever been common anywhere other than bayreuth? Kind of odd that this comment is coming in a post about guth since several of his productions have changed pretty significantly as they’ve traveled. Can’t really thinking of examples of that happening anytime during the bing era for example.

            • DonCarloFanatic

              Of course I am thinking of Verdi reworking Don Carlos. Can’t say I’ve seen Guth before.

            • PCally

              Oh I thought you meant specifically productions, not new operas.

    • La Cote St Andre

      I was in Berlin but had to leave before the opening of Le Prophète at the Deutsche Oper on 26 November. However I was able to attend a lecture-open rehearsal-Q&A for Le Prophète on 16 November.

      The rehearsal was of most of Act III, including the notorious ballet.

      Olivier Py is the stage director. He’s updated the story to today in the public housing ghettos of some city in France. The scenery is more than fifty shades of gray and downright ugly. Act III is full of ballets. (Listen to the music, and you’ll think tutus and Degas.) Well, the choreography for the ballets looked like Le Sacre du Printemps meets West Side Story. The dancing had absolutely nothing to do with Meyerbeer’s music. I guess Monsieur Py didn’t listen to the music, doesn’t like the music, or is deaf.

      To make matters worse Py used the stage director’s chestnut of rotating the revolving stage when he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

      By the end of the ballets I was hopping mad, so at the Q & A, I let Olivier Py (who unfortunately had returned to the rehearsal) and the head dramaturg (Jörg Königsdorf) have it.

      I identified myself and then said

      “I love opera. However, I do not like the style of opera directing called Regie. This is where some stage director thinks he’s smarter than Wagner, Verdi, or, as we’ve just seen tonight, Meyerbeer. What happens too often on stage with these Regie directors is just downright stupid and ugly, and that ballet was, indeed, stupid, ugly, and, worst of all, boring.

      “What can we, the audience, do about this trash?

      “The soloists and chorus can’t do much because if they complain, then they’ll get labeled as ‘difficult to work with,’ and they might not work again.

      “If you, however, ladies and gentlemen, are also offended by such trash, there is something you can do. Just don’t buy a ticket!

      “And finally, if there is a hell, then these Regie directors have a special place waiting for them.”

      A pregnant pause followed my rage aria. The head dramaturg, suffering from a terminal hubris attack, was sprachlos.

      A final thought: Monsieur Py, Herr Königsdorf, and the rest of your ilk, just listen to the music.

      • grimoaldo2

        getting a sense of déjà vu here…

  • bertrand simon

    This production is a complete failure largely booed at the premiere . Yoncheva, in bad form, cancelled all her further performances and will be replaced by Nicole Car from the second cast . The unique glory was Dudamel really fantastic . From 12/12 for a few months it will be possible to see it on Arte Concert .

    • grimoaldo2

      Yes I see Yoncheva says she has bronchitis. Hmmmm….

      • bertrand simon

        She was not well already at rehearsals and probably ill at ease with Guth’s vision of her character (a ghost) so she bravely saved the premiere then gave up for the rest .

        • La Cieca

          And now you claim you can read minds at a distance. Is there no end to your talents?

          • bertrand simon

            I am in Paris and close to the world of Bastille and Garnier .

            • La Cieca

              Fuck off.

  • bertrand simon

    I am terribly sorry, i made a mistake : that Bohème will not be on Arte but here : https://culturebox.francetvinfo.fr/opera-classique/opera/cguth-gdudamel-syoncheva-la-boheme-a-l-opera-de-paris-265507

  • I do think that some operas are updated more easily than others, but I don’t think that Puccini’s are any different because of so many details are indicated in the score. As grimoaldo said, that argument can be made about a great many operas and composers.

    For example, Tosca is full of specific references to location and even historic events. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be updated but it’s less responsive to that approach than say, Boheme which is a far more universal story.

    UnlikeTosca, Turandot is set in a mythical time, but the specifics of the plot aren’t terribly adaptable. Young lovers living in poverty translates into all kinds of settings; Ping, Pang and Pong do not.

    So, it’s not about Puccini having dictated things in too much detail to ignore; it’s about the fact that some of his stories and dramatic situations don’t have the same universality that Mozart’s or Wagner’s do.

    • bertrand simon

      I could agree in part with you but for Boheme some details lose strength in updating : a “cousette” in modern time, what might she become and dying from tuberculose (like Violetta) . Of course some put Aids in place . And so on for many other details .

      • No matter how cleverly an opera is updated, there will always be some dissonances between the words in the libretto and the staging. That is unavoidable and doesn’t bother me much. If a director makes a powerful enough case for the updating, then the revelations that one will hopefully experience will far outweigh those dissonances of detail.

        To me, having Mimi dying of AIDS or cancer is no less powerful than dying of TB. The specific disease is unimportant.

        In Cosi, it doesn’t matter whether the men disguise themselves as Albanians as indicated in the libretto or not. The key thing is that they disguise themselves.

        Those kinds of departures from the libretto do not affect the drama in any way, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Luvtennis

      Kashania

      I think that most operas can be updated thoughtfully without dramatically altering the underlying themes of the work. I can imagine Figaro updated so that the count is a rich corporate mogul or some other analogous situation where the relative positions/relationships of the characters are preserved or even highlighted for a modern audience.

      The director takes a greater risk when he or she changes the underlying relationships of the characters, i.e., where Susanna is insane or a secret prostitute or a patient in a mental hospital. It can work, but the resulting cognitive dissonances must be managed carefully to avoid undermining the audiences ability to engage with the characters.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    This looks really interesting. I hope more happens than just sleepwalking.

  • Camille

    Hold on!
    So———Yoncheva has bronchitis and Sir Bryn pulled out of the Tucker Gala last night citing a massive throat infection. What’s left? Oh yeah, “faccia in farina”.

    Who has the Met got on their Rolodex for their December 31st opening gala of this hotly-anticipated premiere of that shabby little shocker? The primadonna has already been replaced as well as the conductor, twice now! Maybe Plácido will sing us the Baron? Anything goes.

    • steveac10

      I wouldn’t panic yet. Dec 31 is nearly 3 weeks away. More than sufficient time to recover from nearly every respiratory ailment. It’s December. Everybody north of the Mason-Dixon line gets them this time of year,

      • Pirelli

        I’m just glad that this is now the 2nd year in a row that the Met has NOT invited Jeremy Sams to have anything to do with the New Years’ Eve prima. Thank the Lord, and may this trend continue. ;-)

        • Porgy Amor

          Sams didn’t have anything to do with Pêcheurs de perles either, so it’s the third.

      • CKurwenal

        December 31 might be 3 weeks away, but don’t forget that people have to rehearse.

        • John Edwards

          Yoncheva does seem to have developed a rather unhealthy beat in the upper range in recent times. I’d have thought a bit of time off and a repertoire rethink might be wise -- it’s a fabulous and generous lyric soprano, but she seems to be pushing ahead fach-wise a little quickly.

          • CKurwenal

            I think that on the whole the results in all her recent work have been very impressive, but sad to say I do think it will all unravel at some point. I think there was a very slight edge of stress on the sound on the forte top notes of her Met Desdemonas, and much of what she has done since or has planned is heavier. I’d be very happy to have this prediction proved wrong, as it is such a beautiful voice and she is an appealing personality. Of course, it’s more interesting when a singer does take the odd risk.

            • John Edwards

              I completely agree -- the generosity of sound and the risk-taking approach are wonderful in many ways, but already in the Norma at Covent Garden the middle and top seemed to rather uncomfortably aligned, and the top notes seemed stressed. We’ll have to see what happens.

      • Camille

        Three weeks isn’t enough time to cure a case of bronchitis though if that is the case and singers working through that, like Damrau did last year, are not doing themselves any favors. Also, Tosca requires a lot of quasi parlato stuff not truly friendly to a lirico like Yoncheva. Maybe Jenn-Row will inherit the lot and I’d be delighted, as such was the positive impression she made on me in the Cyrano repetitions in May. Although Tosca is certainly more physical and dramatic than Roxane, she has sung it before, unlike Yoncheva, to the best of my knowledge. So, if she does the prima I’d be very pleased for her. Very good actress as well so she could make it all work if push comes to shove. We’ll soon see, won’t we?

        • John Edwards

          I’d put my money on Radvanovsky stepping in.

  • Rosina Leckermaul

    Speaking of Puccini, just back from TURANDOT at the Lyric. I have heard many Turandots since my first — Birgit Nillson at the Met in 1961, but Amber Wagner was the most thrilling vocally. Maria Agresta was a very good Liu. The tenor sounded like some of the B list tenors of the Bing era--Barioni, Lago, et. al. He certainly sounded better than the Calafs the Met has fielded recently.

    • CKurwenal

      More thrilling than Nilsson in ’61 is quite some praise -- I look forward to checking her out! If she’s that good, the Royal Opera is sure to offer her Musetta in 5 years time.

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        LOL. Amber Wagner as Musetta might be a bit overpowering.

    • southerndoc1

      That’s great news. There was some speculation after the Sentas last year that her very top notes were not her glory -- I guess Turandot disproved that?

  • Cicciabella

    Shirley Apthorp is one of the fairest opera critics in Europe, and an excellent writer. She didn’t think this particular production worked, but she also listed its merits, instead of just delighting in a sneering hatchet job, as she might have done. Unlike some directors who have a trademark style, Guth is unpredictable. He does something different with each opera and takes big risks. That’s the exciting thing about a new Guth production: it can succeed or fail spectacularly (although which remains a matter of opinion).

    A tip for the commenters who don’t like non-traditional productions in general: join the AMOP-group on Facebook (Against Modern Opera Productions). It’s the place to rant about conceptualised opera with like-minded people.

    • Armerjacquino

      Where ‘like-minded people’ = ‘actual, real life fascists’.

  • Cicciabella

    medici.tv tells me: “This video is not available in your country. Thank you for understanding.” Well, I don’t understand, medici.tv, unless you explain why it’s not available, after you’ve been advertising the live stream all over the place.