Colourful Vixen from Glyndebourne

Melly Still’s 2012 Glyndebourne production of Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen is straightforward and rather beautiful.  Certainly the staging matches the magic of this extraordinary score.  There are really two ideas underpinning the designs.  The animals are very human rather than the furries sometimes seen.  Their specific nature is hinted at rather than made terribly explicit.  They are differentiated from the humans by being very boldly coloured.  In contrast, the human world is a sort of monochrome 1920’s Moravia; all greys and browns.  Within this framework there are some neat touches.  The foxes carry their tales and use them to great demonstrative effect.  The chickens are portrayed as sex workers with the cockerel as, sort of, their pimp.  It’s not overdone and it’s very effective.  The sets are centred round a stylized tree with other structures as needed being erected on the fly with flats so the action never really stops.

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El Niño

John Adams’ El Niño was conceived as an oratorio but thoughts turned to it being staged early in the creative process.  The final result, as staged at Paris’ Châtelet in 2000, defies easy characterization.  There are singers and dancers on stage but they don’t represent unique characters.  So, for example, at one moment Willard White is Herod and at another Joseph.  To further complicate matters video is constantly projected onto a screen above the stage space.  It was specially created for the piece being shot on location in Super 8.  There’s no clear narrative either.  To some extent it tells the Christmas story but it’s at least as much about the feminine experience of giving birth as anything from Isiah or the Gospels.  It also uses a very eclectic mix of texts; from the Bible, from the Apocrypha, from female Latin American poets, from Hildegard of Bingen and so on.  There are lots off Sellars’ trademarks in the staging too; semaphore and so on.  Does it work?  I don’t really know as it’s really hard to tell from the video recording (see para 3).

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Bard of sex and Eros kinky

The sudden death of Italian opera has always intrigued me.  Works, by Italians or to Italian libretti, dominated opera houses, at least in the English speaking world, for centuries.  The Metropolitan Opera even commissioned new work in Italian (Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, 1910).  But after Turandot (1924) new works in Italian pretty much dried up.  I can’t think of a single one that could be considered a repertory staple and even more recherché pieces like Pizzetti’s Assassinio nella Cattedrale are few and far between.  Indeed, since WW2 at least, the dominant language for new operas has been English with German some way behind and the odd work in French or something more obscure.  So, I was intrigued to get my hands on a recording of Luca Mosca’s 2007 work Signor Goldoni; a commission for Venice’s La Fenice inspired by the 18th century Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni.  What’s really surprising is that the libretto (perhaps we should say “book”) by Italian writer Gianluigi Melaga, is in English!  Apparently librettist and composer consider that English is better adapted to the kind of word play they were aiming for than Italian.

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Dark but straightforward Zauberflöte

The 2003 Royal Opera House recording of Die Zauberflöte has a terrific cast and it has Sir Colin Davis conducting.  The production is by David McVicar and it’s one of those that make one wonder how he ever got a “bad boy” reputation.  It’s perfectly straightforward though rather dark (emotionally and physically) and has a vaguely 18th century vibe.  In places it seems a bit minimalist, as if the director couldn’t really be bothered with things like the Trials.  The interview material rather suggests that McVicar was a bit overawed by doing Mozart with the great Sir Colin and tried very hard to match his rather old fashioned theatrical sensibilities.

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Kitchen sink duly chucked

There’s a pretty good “making of” extra with the 2013 Glyndebourne recording of Rameau’s rarely performed Hippolyte et Aricie.  In it, director Jonathan Kent argues that there are essentially two ways of dealing with the French baroque; elegance or “throwing the kitchen sink at it”.  To this one might add a weird pastiche of bare chests, stylized gesture and high camp but that’s another story.  My best experiences with Rameau have definitely been of the kitchen sink variety.  I’m thinking of productions like José Montalvo’s Les Paladins.  Kent is a bit more restrained but still pretty inventive which I think is necessary as Hippolyte et Aricie is rather episodic and fragmented and could use some livening up.

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Third blogiversary

Fafner cat guards the magic Bikehelm

Fafner cat guards the magic Bikehelm

So, today marks the third anniversary of this blog.  This will be the 824th post.  There are over 300 DVD/Blu-ray reviews in the database.  As I write there have been 1,981 comments and 182,996 views.

As I have said to many people I started this project with no ambitions.  I certainly didn’t expect it to change my life but that’s what it has done.  I have had the chance to experience music that I would likely never of heard of and tp learn about it from the people who create and perform it.  More importantly I have met some really amazing people, some of whom have become firm friends.  It’s been especially welcome as coincidentally my previously heavy involvement in rugby came to an end because of advancing age and eye problems almost exactly a year after starting this new venture.

so, to those of you who have made this journey so rewarding, my sincerest thanks and to those who will make it fun for the next few years, I look forward to meeting you!