In 2015 the Metropolitan Opera premiered a new production of Verdi’s Otello directed by Bartlett Sher. It was broadcast in the Met in HD series and subsequently released on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s a bit hard to judge the production on video because of the video direction. I don’t think there are any big ideas but it’s decorative enough with arrangements and rearrangements of plexiglass wall/rooms and some effective video projections for things like the storm scene. Only Act 4 breaks the mould with a sparse stage with just a bed and a few chairs. I strongly suspect though from the occasional wide angle shot that there was a lot more going on visually than one sees on the video. Costumes are 19th centuryish and quite decorative.
Cineplex’s The Met: Live in HD features Franco Zefferelli’s Tosca on January 27 and Bartlett Sher’s production of L’Elisir d’Amore on February 10th
My first thought was that I would rather be suspended upside down in a vat of ordure and flogged by drug crazed trolls and then I realised that unless I was somewhere in the the multiverse where the Met still had Robert Carsen’s Eugene Onegin this couldn’t be right. The body text clarified. It’s actually the, by now scarcely distinguishable from the Zeff, Caledonian knight Sir David MacVicar “Rivaling the splendor of Franco Zeffirelli’s Napoleonic-era sets and costumes”.
The Met’s abridged version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in English, got an HD broadcast in 2006 and a subsequent DVD release. It’s Julie Taymor’s production and it’s visually spectacular with giant sets, loads of very effective puppets and very good dancers (I wish every opera company used dance as effectively as the Met. Too expensive I guess). It’s more something one might expect to see at Bregenz than at the Four Seasons Centre. Costuming is sometimes a bit weird. The Three Ladies have removable heads and the chorus of priests look like origami angels but it’s never less than interesting visually. There’s nothing about the cuts (it comes in at about an hour and threequarters) that changes the plot in any way that makes it obviously kid friendly beyond being shorter and there’s no attempt to make it anything other than a pretty fairy tale. If one wants a Flute with deep meaning this isn’t it.
Moving into winter what does the Toronto opera/concert calendar have to offer? This coming week there’s an interesting looking concert in the RBA at noon on Tuesday. The Haven Trio (soprano Lindsay Kesselman, clarinetist Kimberly Cole Luevano, and pianist Midori Koga) will perform the world premiere of Toronto-based composer Kieren MacMillan’s Three Portraits, a dramatic setting of poems by Dana Gioia, the current Poet Laureate of California.
Here’s a preview of things to see/listen to next week. It’s Met in HD season again and the next two Saturdays have broadcasts. On the 7th it’s Bellini’s Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato. It’s a David McVicar production and no prizes for guessing what happens when you cross McVicar and druids. On the 14th it’s Die Zauberflöte with the Resident Groundhog conducting. It’s the Julie Taymor production but given in full in German rather than the abridged ‘for kids” version. The best thing about the cast is René Pape’s Sarastro.
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.