“Disciplined and intelligent.” “Clean and transparent.” “Fleet and lithe.” Though Fabio Luisi’s Wagner performances draw frequent praise for their tidy professionalism, there’s often an undercurrent of frustration with the Genoese maestro for not wringing a little more blood out of the scores, or putting a personal stamp on them. Frequent work in the house where James Levine reigns has a way of creating invidious distinctions, even when clear vision and tasteful restraint can be welcome virtues. Read more »
Contemporary stagings of Parsifal tend to be spare, abstract affairs scrubbed of religious associations, knights in armor and, sometimes, a grail. Modern dress, stylized gestures and suggestive symbols are supposed to help audiences navigate Wagner’s mystifying tale of redemption. Stephen Langridge’s 2013 take for Royal Opera, now available on Opus Arte, is an especially grim, heavy handed specimen that doesn’t show a great deal of confidence in the music or the audience. There’s misery at nearly every turn, with the music functioning for long stretches as accompaniment to an almost cinematic treatment of suffering and fear. While some of the imagery may be riveting, there is little sense of the hero’s spiritual development, or what makes the Grail brotherhood tick. Read more »
If works like Salome and Erwartung defined modernism in the first decades of the 20th century, Die Tote Stadt and Palestrina represented the regressive avant garde. Though they had tormented protagonists, themes of death and other ingredients for a frenzied geschrei, neither could break free of the Romantic era’s pull, instead inhabiting a netherworld that’s sometimes described as “post-Wagnerian” or “Straussian.” Read more »
Herbert von Karajan once said listening to some of his old recordings made him envy painters who could simply burn the pictures they disliked.
When Richard Wagner reached into the past and revised Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, he went beyond the accepted boundaries of tinkering and more or less created a new work that’s fomented aesthetic debates ever since.
One of the things that made François Girard’s 2013 production of Parsifal at the Met so compelling was the way he tried to make the tale of suffering and temptation relevant to a contemporary audience.
Vienna never really forgave Erich Wolfgang Korngold for going to work in the movies.
To some, Anne Schwanewilms will always be the soprano in the slinky black dress who replaced Deborah Voigt at Covent Garden a decade ago.
His 75-minute setting of Oedipus in Kolonos, heard in a live 2009 performance on MDR Klassik, illustrates how Mendelssohn tried to link ancient forms with Romantic-era sensibilities by fashioning harmonically adventurous chorales and believable characters instead of abstract musical representations of mythical figures.
With orchestral and choral forces that could outnumber a small European village, Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder is a composition designed to overwhelm.