For some reason the Metropolitan opera decided, in 2014, to give an HD broadcast to Otto Schenk’s 1993 version of Dvorák’s Rusalka with revival direction by Laurie Feldman. This production must have seriously old fashioned even then and actually looks and feels like it was created fifty years before the opera was written. It’s not just the dark, dreary, over detailed Arthur Rackham like sets and costumes or even the the stock acting and the lame choreography. The biggest problem is that it completely ignores that Rusalka is essentially about sex and its pathologies. Does Schenk think that Rusalka wants to hold hands with the Prince at the cinema or take the Foreign Princess to the ball instead of Rusalka? You would think so from this Disneyfied version. Has the man even heard of Freud (let’s be clear Dvorák had)? The result then is stultifyingly dull and actually just rather silly. I’ve seen panto with more psychological depth.
I missed this when I wrote up the Met season this morning but the HD cinema season has been announced too. The line up includes all four new productions but also repeats of La Bohème and L’elisir d’amore. Outside of the new stuff there’s nothing exciting but then that’s pretty much the story on stage too. Here’s the line up.
October 7th 2017 – Bellini – Norma
It’s the new McVicar production which sounds utterly traditional though no doubt we’ll get an over sized axe and a few human sacrifices. This is one of the shows where both Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato appear which would seem to be the main attraction. Carlo Rizzi conducts.
Averse as I have become to the Met’s HD broadcasts the lure of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin in a new production by Robert Lepage proved too strong. I’m glad I went. In fact this was probably the best Live in HD broadcast that I’ve seen. Lepage’s production is magical and absolutely at one with the libretto and the score. It’s deceptive simplicity mirrors the same qualities in both. Basically we are face with bands of light (32000 LEDs) across the stage which change colour as required and provide an ethereal shimmering backdrop. The chorus, rarely more than their heads or hands or both, appear in tight ranks from among the lights. There’s a sort of swivelling gantry with a platform at each end that configures to be the various settings for Jaufré and Clémence and there is the Pilgrim and his/her boat. Simple, configurable, effective and very, very beautiful. Indeed, Lepage and his team at the top of their game.
Bloor Hot Docs, after something of a hiatus, is showing three Royal Opera House productions in December. Here’s the schedule:
Saturday, December 3, 12:00 PM Norma (directed by La Fura dels Baus’ Alex Olle) with Sonya Yoncheva in the title role. It was described as “striking and perverse” by The Guardian. Sonia Ganassi is Adalgisa with Joseph Calleja as Pollione. Antonio Pappano conducts. More info.
Saturday, December 10, 11:00 AM Cosi fan tutte directed by Jan Phillip Gloger, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. With Angela Brower (Dorabella), Corinne Winters (Fiordiligi), Daniel Behle (Ferrando), Alessio Arduini (Guiglielmo) Looks like an updated “theatre in theatre” production. More info.
Rossini’s La Donna del Lago is based on the Walter Scott poem, itself a deliberately romantic view of Scottish history, simplified until not much is left but the rivalry for the heroine’s hand by her three suitors and a completely unexplained war between the king of Scotland and the Clan Alpine. Dramatically it’s thin indeed but it’s Rossini so there is crazy virtuosic music and it’s very hard to cast. One needs two mezzos; one a mistress of Rossinian coloratura, the other more dramatic, and two tenors; both of which can do the crazy high stuff. The supporting roles aren’t easy either. Realistically only a major house could cast this adequately.
The Met has announced it’s 2016/17 cinema season. There are again ten productions with what seems now to be a settled mix of a smattering of the Met’s new productions and a bunch of war horses that have already been broadcast. For myself, I’ve pretty much had it with watching opera this way. There aren’t that many productions in the program that I have any interest in and the combination of far too common technical problems, cheesey scripted and rehearsed “interviews” and over long intervals make it all rather tedious. For the operas I want to see I’ll wait for the DVD release. Still for those who are still interested, here’s the line up. Continue reading →