Opera on the BBC

There’s been a lot of opera related programming broadcast on BBC TV recently.  Probably the biggest event was Jonas Kaufmann’s role debut as Otello in the Verdi opera conducted by Antonio Pappano but there’s also been a 90 minute documentary on Kaufmann and a two part series called Lucy Worsley’s Nights at the Opera and a broadcast of Brett Dean’s new Hamlet from Glyndebourne.  I haven’t yet watched the Hamlet but here are some thoughts on the other three shows, plus an extra bonus.

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Nobody vomits on Dolly Parton’s shoes

I’ve tried several times in the past to watch the DVD recording of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole and never made it past the second scene, which is revolting and, I still think, rather patronising.  This time though I made it all the way through and I think, taken as a whole, this is a pretty impressive piece with a clever libretto and some real musical depth.  It’s also, in the true and technical sense, a tragedy, and a very operatic one at that.

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Monochrome Nabucco

Daniele Abbado’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco, recorded at Covent Garden in 2013 was the vehicle for Placido Domingo taking on yet another Verdi baritone role.  It’s set in the 1940’s because, Jews.  At least it’s costumed that way because nothing else about the production has any kind of sense of time or place.  It’s virtually monochrome and quite abstract.  The Temple is represented by a set of upright rectangular blocks which are toppled at the appropriate moment.  The idol of Baal is a sort of wire frame that comes apart rather undramatically and so on.  There’s also nothing in the direction to suggest any kind of concept.  It’s quite straightforward with rather a lot of “park and bark”.  There’s some use of video projections behind and above the action but it’s rather hard to figure them out on video as they tend to appear in shot rather fleetingly.

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Patchy Andrea Chénier

What’s become of David McVicar?  His 2015 production of Giodarno’s Andrea Chénier for the Royal Opera House seems typical of his recent work.  It looks expensive.  It features a starry cast.  He flirts with dramatic risk but in the last analysis it comes off as a bit tame and even sloppy.  Basically when the principals are at the centre of the drama it’s compelling stuff but when they are not it’s not and there are curious inconsistencies.

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Next week

uglyMessiah season gets underway with Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah on Monday.  On Wednesday night, Opera 5 have a seasonal fundraiser at the Extension Room including an ugly sweater comp (Greg Finney at very short odds).  Then on Saturday owing to bizarre scheduling you can take your pick from the ROH’s Così at Bloor Hot Docs or the Met’s L’Amour de Loin at just about any Cineplex Odeon.  Both essentially at lunchtime, for some value of lunchtime.

Upcoming opera in cinemas

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.

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Where would you go to see opera in cinema?

party2So further to my rant the other day about the ROH and ENO approach to their cinema broadcasts in Canada and the Met’s lock up with Cineplex Odious…

Suppose one were responsible for marketing the Royal Opera or ENO’s product in Canada what would you do?  Personally I wouldn’t worry about signing up loads of suburban and small town fleapits.  I’d go for the where the opera audience is in the downtown areas of the cities that have opera companies and maybe university towns.  I’d also go for the upscale theatres with decent sound and bars with decent beer and that sort of thing.  In Toronto that would be the TIFF Lightbox and Bloor Hot Docs.  Elsewhere I don’t know but I’d like to push the idea with the ROH marketing folks so any ideas on the “right” cinemas in Montreal or Vancouver or even Hamilton would be most welcome.