Headshot of La Cieca

Cher Public

  • Liz.S: Boner doner? Messa, sorry I was caught up in something. I didn’t mean that they are dictating... 5:31 PM
  • luvtennis: It is not the privacy of the Klinghoffer family that is the issue unless the libretto contains... 5:29 PM
  • rysanekfreak: Wouldn’t “Dead Man Walking” (both film and opera) qualify? 5:28 PM
  • mirywi: http://www.nytimes .com/2009/02/02/us /02land.html?_r=0 A follow up story to the murder, one hundred... 5:20 PM
  • mirywi: Murder ballad: http://en.m.wikipe dia.org/wiki/Poor_ Ellen_Smith 5:11 PM
  • kashania: The only sympathy I have on the part of the production’s opponents is for the Klinghoffer... 5:10 PM
  • LittleMasterMiles: That’s a truly brilliant review. Four brilliant reviews, actually. 5:08 PM
  • Jamie01: I don’t know if Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwermer, and James Earl Chaney qualify. Surely they... 5:02 PM
  • pirelli: If I recall, the only mention of the Tate murder in “Assassins&# 8221; is when Fromme,... 4:58 PM
  • kashania: From what I understand, it didn’t have to do with bomb threats. Rather it was the spectre of... 4:56 PM

Revolutionary étude

As someone who enjoys Massenet immensely, I was delighted to receive for review his rarely-performed 1907 opera, Thérèse. It is a compact work consisting of two short acts and clocks in just under seventy minutes. The drama, set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, is somewhat contrived and rushed. It feels like a work that is missing an act or two that would fill out the roles and give the drama more depth.

The plot is a love triangle (strains of Werther) consisting of the titular character, her husband André, and her former love Armand, who is a member of the French aristocracy and childhood friend of André. Needless to say, there is a guillotine involved and things do not end happily, with Thérèse forced to choose between her passion and her duty—fleeing with Armand or dying with her husband. Massenet is of course the master of writing for emotional, conflicted heroines and Thérèse is no exception.  Read more »

Autumn leaves

It may have taken most of Verdi’s canon to do it, but the “Tutto Verdi” collection finally manages to do justice to Verdi in his last two operas, though they cheated with the Otello, which is from the 2008 Salzburg Festival rather than from the smaller Italian houses where the rest of the performances in the collection are from.

Needless to say, the Otello is first-rate. Riccardo Muti leads a polished, high-octane performance from the starry, youthful cast and the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit. Interesting, even revelatory details of the score–articulations, harmonies, inner lines etc.–arise from his immaculate approach to the music (even more so when heard live) but there is admittedly a feeling of efficiency and calculation that may not be to everyone’s taste, yet is not exactly incongruous to late Verdi. The cast, headlined by Aleksandrs Antonenko and Marina Poplavskaya in their role debuts as Otello and Desdemona, fits well into Muti’s approach to the score. Read more »

One of three

When I acquire DVDs of opera performances, I look for performances which truly merit a video recording; performances in which the totality of the musical and dramatic elements are worth preserving for repeated viewing.  These three DVDs of Verdi’s middle operas from the Tutto Verdi collection all fail to satisfy this requirement, though by differing margins. And to tell the truth, none of these performances are second or even third choices for DVDs of these operas.

The least satisfactory performance comes first, Un Ballo in Maschera, recorded at the Teatro Regio di Parma.   Overall this performance has the qualities of a bad revival: lack of direction, uneven casting, and lackluster orchestral playing.  The production, with costumes and sets by Pierluigi Samaritani is drab and traditional, and his costumes flatter no one.   Read more »

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Lady in a cage

Sometimes it seems as though DVDs are released just for the sake of filling a hole in the catalogue. Considering the lack of anything truly distinctive in this 2007 production of Verdi’s La forza del destino from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, that would certainly seem to be the case here. (If anyone is wondering, the hole in the catalogue I am referring to is a modern HD version of the standard 1869 Forza with a recognizable cast.) 

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Been there, did it

The word traditional, when used to describe opera productions can imply a certain setting, costuming, stage action, or even overall dramatic conception (or lack thereof).  Tradition at its best can provide a straightforward backdrop for the genius of a work to unfold, and at its worst weigh an opera down with outdated and vapid conventions. Unfortunately, this production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte from the 1983 Salzburg Festival, directed by Michael Hampe, is traditional in the worst way.  It is a safe production which offers cheesy staging that conveniently skates over the conflict and ambiguity inherent in Mozart’s work. 

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Blood simple

Is it possible for a performance of Richard Strauss’s Elektra to be exciting without an exciting Elektra? It of course depends on your priorities and expectations, which will ultimately determine whether such a performance, as preserved on this DVD from Baden-Baden is for you. Linda Watson’s first assumption of the punishing role of Elektra (she learned it only eight weeks prior to this production) is admirable for her scrupulous musicianship, command of the text, and the regality she brings to the role.

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The boys in the back room

“The American Way of Life, lightly satirized, lies at the heart of our production: it is an adventure that takes place somewhere between Wall Street and Hollywood.” Nikolaus Lehnhoff, as can be surmised from these liner notes, makes full use of stereotypically “American” imagery throughout his production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West:  Wall Street traders, menacing skyscrapers, Leo the MGM Lion, and more.   It is unclear, however, what it all adds up to, since there is little overarching or specific meaning in this mishmash of Americana.  The opera opens with a video of frenzied traders on the chaotic floor [...]

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Canon ball

New York Festival of Song’s Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life is a delightfully lighthearted, deeply personal, and colorful recital made of equal parts sex, camp, melancholy, and tenderness.  Steven Blier‘s wide-ranging program consists of five sets of songs, each meant to evoke, as per his program notes, “a quintessential moment of a gay man’s experience (read: this gay man’s experience)”.  The odd-numbered sets are comprised of cabaret and musical theater pieces and the even-numbered sets of art song. 

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Finishing the spat

Although billed as “I Love Lucy the opera”, New York City Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’s conversation-piece Intermezzo offers far more emotional depth than the much-loved 1950s sitcom. Yet ironically, in key moments it lacks the necessary heart which Lucy had in spades. 

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Rumbledämmerung

Performance Lab 115‘s adaptation of the first two parts of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, simply titled The Ring Cycle: [Parts 1+2], is a clever, well thought-out, if not entirely successful attempt to mythologize Wagner’s epic within the framework of 1980′s professional wrestling.

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