A dull Don Carlo in Munich, though one worth seeing for the singing (especially goddess Anja). Note to directors: black on black is a bad color scheme. Note to translators: please actually translate the libretto rather than leaving us to guess every other line. Note to artistic directors: Asher Fisch is a much better conductor for Strauss than for Verdi.
A silly Barber of Seville for Children to kick off my Salzburg Festival experience. The young singers were not only musically solid, but also fabulous actors (especially the Figaro). Even the conductor (Duncan Ward) was wonderfully dramatic. I prefer my Rossini in Italian and complete, but this abridged version in German was interactive and fun.
The Conquest of Mexico in a VIP-filled crowd at the Salzburg Festival (including the composer Wolfgang Rihm). It had nothing to do with Mexico. It was modern and bizarre and high-tech but also primitive and abstract. Artuad, Octavio Paz, Hegel—philosophy and literature and tones and grunting and screaming. Sound coming from all sides. Brilliantly staged so that it was somehow accessible despite the chaos. A totally unique operatic experience.
In preparing to review Le Comte Ory as performed by the Opernstudio of the Bayerische Staatsoper, I discovered a new operatic delight. There’s nothing serious about Rossini’s short opera of disguises and mistaken identities, and the music can be almost Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like with its patter and call-and-response choruses. It’s wonderful fun. Unfortunately, while the 80s setting for the Opernstudio production showed promise, the slapstick direction by Marcus Rosenmüller often undermined the comedy rather than adding to it. The young cast was generally quite good, though, especially mezzo-soprano Marzia Marzo in the trouser role of Isolier. My full review (for Opera Online, a French website I will be writing for more in the future) is here.
I had two opera nights in a row this weekend! On Saturday, I saw the next installment in the Staatsoper’s Ring cycle. I wasn’t terribly excited about the first opera in the series, but Die Walküre was fabulous. My review is here.
Then for something completely different came Rossini’s La Cenerentola. (That’s “Cinderella” in English.) It was silly and kind of dumb, but very charming. I couldn’t stop smiling by the end. And I am now convinced that the tenor Javier Camarena is not human. His high notes are simply impossible! My full review is here.
I rushed home from Vienna this past weekend to catch Guillaume Tell at the Bayerische Staatsoper. It combines two of my favorite things: Schiller plays and bel canto opera! This was definitely a Regietheater take on the text and score, but it worked very well. My full review is here.
Rossini’s The Turk in Italy (not to be confused with The Italian in Algiers!) is one of those silly old librettos that isn’t quite politically correct anymore in its portrayal of gypsies, women, or Turks. Well, so what? Pretty much every classic opera has serious sexism or Orientalism problems. But if a director is going to stage a problematic opera, she or he has a responsibility to deal with those problems. A lazy (but acceptable) way to do this is to set the opera in the far past (for instance, the composer’s time) or an obviously fantastical world. That says, “Look, these ideas don’t belong here and now!” A more interesting approach is to find ways to make the staging subtly critical of the libretto’s or score’s problems.
Unfortunately, watching The Turk in Italy was really uncomfortable, because the director did neither of those things. In fact, he made some of the problems worse. Full review here. (Note: I originally wrote a more critical review but revised it at my editor’s request. Fair enough, given that there were a lot of good things about the production, too. The posted version is the revision.)