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. The French-Canadian director set the looming devastation of Montsalvat in a bleak, desiccated landscape populated by characters in modern dress who emerged from behind a mirrored curtain that reflected the auditorium. Stylized gestures and dramatic lighting evoked an abstract reality that heightened one’s awareness of the way nature and society work. Read more »
Vienna never really forgave Erich Wolfgang Korngold for going to work in the movies. When the exiled composer returned from Hollywood after World War 2 to mount a comeback, he was dismissed as a has-been who all too eagerly cast off high art for the commercialism of the silver screen.
Korngold, it must be said, led with his chin by bringing for the occasion Die stumme Serenade (The Silent Serenade), an hybrid opera-Cabaret that mixes elements of golden age film music with high fructose arias, skittering orchestral accompaniments and other démodé effects as comforting as a serving of Mohr im Hemd. A city by then eager to turn the page and dabble in modernism sneered at the confection, sending Korngold sulking back to California, where he spent his final years miserable and in poor health. Read more »
To some, Anne Schwanewilms will always be the soprano in the slinky black dress who replaced Deborah Voigt at Covent Garden a decade ago and confirmed the creeping influence of film and television values on the opera world. Read more »
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.
The finer performances of Tristan und Isolde have a way of sounding like a four-hour improvisation, the fruit of a single moment of inspiration that makes one forget how emotionally manipulative and painstakingly crafted the music really is.
Marek Janowski’s survey of Wagner operas on PentaTone so convincingly captures the pulse and dramatic flow of many of the works that the music-making at times sounds almost effortless.
Beneath the pageantry, the paeans to German art and the self-referential allusions to the creative process, Die Meistersinger is a story about a community and human qualities like love, friendship, envy and hatred.
The abrupt withdrawal of Katharina Wagner from an abridged seven-hour Ring cycle she was to direct at the Teatro Colon last year prompted no shortage of scorn and Schadenfreude.
The curious things about accepted wisdom is that sometimes it’s correct.