Cher Public

Better call Saul

saul-amazonHandel’s dramatic oratorios are very difficult to stage—many clutch their pearls while bemoaning “…but they were never meant to be staged”—and require a vivid theatrical imagination to bring them to life. Director Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne 2015 production of Handel’s 1739 oratorio Saul (released on Opus Arte DVD) shows just such an imagination as well as a strong cast and design team. The familiar Biblical tale begins with the aftermath of David’s slaying of Goliath, and Kosky eschews any attempt at realism, leading us through the story in an almost dreamlike state.

Kosky calls himself an “extravagant minimalist” and here, the costumes are extravagant and the scenic elements minimal, both created with great style by designer Katrin Lea Tag. At the beginning, we see only the severed head of Goliath; after the prelude, we have decorated banquet tables reflecting the Israelites’ celebration of the victory of David. Read more »

Park and bark

elektra-amazonLike Orest, I return to this house. Six months after the Met’s acclaimed new production had parterre preoccupied with all things Elektra, we have a C-Major DVD of something entirely different.

The Catalan theatrical collective La Fura dels Baus created—for “staged” does not seem appropriate—an open-air Elektra for NorrlandsOperan in August 2014. Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s opera plays out on, around and high above a 200-meters-wide stage within the vast space of a Swedish industrial park, Umestan företagspark. The maids gossip and squabble at twilight. One hundred minutes later, Agamemnon’s three surviving children watch as Klytämnestra and Aegisth, or their parade-float representations, burn against a black night sky. Read more »

The upper depths

perles-amazonPity poor Georges Bizet. After winning the Prix de Rome at 19 years old he worked on, in part or completed, 10 operas. The last of them, Carmen, he was convinced was a failure. He succumbed to a heart attack three months after its premiere at 37. His widow, having no concept of the musical legacy she had inherited, gave away or lost many of her husband’s autographed manuscripts.

But what of those other efforts of Bizet? Other than La jolie fille de Perth, which is almost akin to spotting a unicorn, only his Les pêcheurs de perles has managed to be fished from the sea of obscurity and plated on the rare occasion. The Met made a big deal about presenting it for the first time in a hundred years recently but failed to mention that 1916 only saw three performances with the renowned Caruso, Giuseppe de Luca and Frieda Hempel.  Read more »

I saw three ships

“Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams…”

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Bella come un tramonto

With the performance of Dessì we move onto a different plane than the other singers.

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Mourning Wood

Sometimes when you find the club that will have you as a member, you do not easily give up your spot.

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No contest

Richard Wagner viewed dance as an essential element of art, though he used it sparingly in his operas.

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Cross purposes

“Has anyone ever seen a truly great production of this opera?”

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Shooting in low light

What we really need, some seem to believe, is fuller representation of the 19th century.

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Site unseen

Giuseppe Verdi was so unhappy with the first production of his Giovanna d’Arco at La Scala in 1845 that he swore an oath to himself that he would never entrust that theatre with a prima again.

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