Cher Public

After dark

The Canadian Robert Carsen would appear to love the theater to the point of fixation. In a three-decade career as one of opera’s busiest directors, he has returned again and again to the device of the meta-theatrical frame. While by no means interchangeable, Carsen’s productions of Mefistofele, Les contes d’Hoffmann, L´incoronazione di Poppea, Capriccio, Tosca, and Ariadne auf Naxos all toyed with similar theater-within-theater tropes and motifs, and so does La Scala’s 2011 season-opening Don Giovanni, newly released on DVD/Blu-ray.   Read more »

The rules of attraction

Is Manon Lescaut a cold, clinical tale of the splendors and pitfalls of transactional sex, or is it a romantic Italian opera at its most lush and melodic? Actually, it’s both.  There’s always been a disconnect between Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica’s adaptation of the Prévost novel and Puccini’s music. The libretto is episodic, with the title character portrayed as a calculating courtesan who abandons her lover des Grieux “without even a kiss goodbye.” This is however Puccini’s most romantic score. It swells with romantic ardor at every moment.

The director of a new DVD of this opera, Jonathan Kent, favors the transnational, exploitative aspects of the opera. His production is updated to modern times, and the opera begins at a seedy red light hotel. Manon Lescaut moves from a quick initiation into the sex trafficking world to being a spoiled porn star.  Read more »

And never brought to mind

For centuries, European history has provided source material for operas, but it would be generous to say that history comes alive on the operatic stage. More often it is frozen into exhibits of dubious validity, and the power must come from the music. Wars of hundreds, even thousands of years ago must have been ignited by fierce passions, and no doubt there were unspeakable acts committed in their course. But in historical operas of the standard repertory, the material tends to be safely distant from the experience and understanding of most of the audience.
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Roger amazon

A Pole in the head

Enthusiasm is contagious–you have to cover up carefully lest it make you sick.

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Aida amazon

Ardori inospiti

The most recent Egyptian voluptuary of 2006 by our friend Franco has now been replaced by the most singularly spartan production of Verdi’s masterpiece I think I’ve ever seen.

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Gli enigmi sono due

Giacomo Puccini’s final opus interruptus is and shall always remain my favorite opera. The reasons for this preference are so varied and numerous that if they were printed and bound the volume would most assuredly require its own stand.  

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La farsa del destino

There might be nothing in the world as joyous as a Rossini overture.

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Battle of the network tsars

For all their orchestral and vocal attractions, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 15 operas are rarities in the West.

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Money on the dresser

“Hailed ‘the Meryl Streep of opera’…” begins one sentence of a promotional piece for a Diana Damrau recording of another opera, reproduced on the soprano’s website.

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Slash by night

Enthusiasts of Janácek’s opera will want to pick up this video immediately.

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