Cher Public

Bella come un tramonto

boheme-amazonTwo recent DVD issues of Italian operas by Puccini are both set in Paris, both have second acts in cafes/nightclubs, and both have stellar performances in crucial leading soprano roles. La Bohème, first seen in 1896 in Turin, has been since its premiere one of the world’s most popular operas, with its  tale of love, highjinks and tragedy among young artists and working girls. This performance was filmed at the Puccini festival at Torre del Lago, an outdoor venue, in 2014. Ettore Scola, veteran Italian film director, who died earlier this year, had directed only one opera before in his life, but was chosen for this production which also features real life partners and lovers tenor Fabio Armiliato and late, lamented Daniela Dessì, both very famous in their native Italy due not only for their operatic work but for television appearances as well. Read more »

Mourning Wood

Schicci amazonSometimes when you find the club that will have you as a member, you do not easily give up your spot. Woody Allen and Plácido Domingo, the main selling points of a new Gianni Schicchi DVD from Los Angeles Opera, recorded in fall 2015, have several things in common.

Both appeared as promising young talents in the 1960s and cemented their legends over the rest of the twentieth century, first by mining obvious strengths and then by branching out and taking risks. Each man could have retired with honors and nothing more to prove at the turn of the millennium, but each has continued to work tirelessly, even compulsively, in advanced age (Allen is 80; Domingo claims 75).  Read more »

No contest

tannhauser amazonRichard 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 »

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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Sybil, shepherd

The original conductor of Nielsen’s opera summed the piece up well I think…

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Hello from the other side

A woman reads from the Bible. There is a dance scene in a tavern. The discovery of blood gives away the protagonist.

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After dark

The Canadian Robert Carsen would appear to love the theater to the point of fixation.

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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?

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