Richard Wagner viewed dance as an essential element of art, though he used it sparingly in his operas. The bacchanal he put in the 1861 Paris version of Tännhauser was supposed to depart from classical ballet and serve up an orgy of motion, with figures assembling and reordering themselves, not unlike the physical manifestation of a symphonic poem.
One wonders what he’d make of Staatskapelle Berlin’s 2014 production, now on BelAir Classiques. Director Sasha Waltz’s sweaty pileup of writhing bodies in the opening tableau serves as the jumping off point for a fully choreographed opera in which dancers weave around and through the scenes with sweeping gestures, arresting poses and sometimes sophomoric mimed responses to what’s being sung. Read more »
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is first among equals in a spectacular cast when she sings the title role of Ariodante in this season’s installment of Carnegie Hall’s critically acclaimed cycle of Handel’s operas in concert. A brilliantly melodic work, the opera features outstanding arias for each of the principal singers, including Ariodante’s melancholy “Scherza infida” and show-stopping “Doppo note.” Harry Bicket and The English Concert bring authentic Handelian brilliance to this marvelous opera. (Photo: Simon Pauly) Get tickets. Read more »
Another month, another La Traviata release on video. This performance was culled from the 2014 Glyndebourne Festival and is in many ways the performance of La Traviata that you would get if you took all the major Traviata productions from around the globe and averaged them. The performance doesn’t feature spectacular performances but since none of them are outright bad they round off to “extremely professional and competent.”
Director Tom Cairns’ production and Hildegard Bechtler’s designs follow recent Traviata trends without adding any original touches: vaguely modern-dress, “timeless” non-descript sets, and rather cold person-regie between the opera’s three protagonists. The curtain rises on a modern salon that nonetheless has a chandelier and some other trappings of elegance that would be more true to the demi-mondaine life than the modern high-class escort. Read more »
It seems almost comical to think now but the designer-director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, who died in 1988, was at one time considered the height of regie-theatre scandal.
After a long summer drought, suddenly new Blu-ray and DVD releases are falling, as it were, from the sky.
Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is his masterwork and its themes of social convention and unrequited longing surely struck a deep chord in a composer who, in late 19th century Russia, was gay and had to conduct himself carefully.
Strange as it is to encounter two such disparate works presented with the identical production concept, it’s odder still that the opera you’d think would be the slam dunk is anything but.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s only opera for Rome was written to an existing libretto by the great Pietro Metastasio, L’Olimpiade, which had already been set by Vivaldi the year previously.