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.
There are too many Traviatas out there to waste time on bad ones. But I was disappointed by the Bayerische Staatsoper’s current production. (My review is here on Bachtrack.) The house was full—Traviata always sells well—but neither the staging nor the musical delivery were anything special.
I promised you the review, and here it is! While setting an opera in a strip club is always a little awkward (do you have people strip? it might attract people to the opera, but it’s also a tad distracting), Kasper Holten pulls it off with a gritty, modern production. Homeless Violetta (and Alfredo’s obvious sense of guilt) in act III is especially excellent. So is the stern, Bible-thumping interpretation of Giorgio Germont. If only Violetta had received a tad more acting coaching! (Lana Kos emotes effectively, and she could clearly act the role very well with better guidance about her interpretive choices.)
I saw Verdi’s Falstaff at the Staatsoper last week, and I forgot to post my review on this blog! You can read it here. Falstaff is not my favorite Verdi opera, and this production was fine but not super-exciting. But there were kilts.
I’m starting to think that the Staatsoper’s stage is simply too big for sort-of-minimalist productions unless they have stellar Personenregie. Singers just get a little lost without sets or excellent direction.
Il trovatore is one of my favorite operas. I also love the original play by Guitierrez, to which it’s pretty true. But both are completely ridiculous. The Bayerische Staatsoper’s production doesn’t hide from that absurdity—it’s crazy, too. Leonora is blind. Top hats abound. Uncomfortable nudity keeps popping up. But it works, especially when sung by such an amazing cast. (Anja Harteros is a goddess!) See my full review here.
I had some drama when trying to pick up my tickets for Rigoletto—I arrived too late and they’d been re-sold! Persistent arguments and lots of smiling at the kind box office teller led to a phone call to management and an extra chair being placed in the imperial box for me. (I’d always wanted to sit there, so I was pretty excited about that, actually.) Now I know to arrive earlier, and all’s well that ends well.
Unfortunately, while I would love to give the show a great review as a thank-you for the Staatsoper’s kindness in accommodating me, it doesn’t deserve it. My take on this competent but disappointing production is here on Bachtrack.
The Bayerische Staatsoper’s Simon Boccanegra is precisely the sort of production that makes people think opera is boring. Nothing is quite wrong with it, but nothing is quite right either.
Continue reading A gray Simon Boccanegra
My parents first took me to the theatre when I was two years old, and I have been a regular audience member ever since. I would guess that I’ve seen between 300 and 500 productions in my life. I don’t say that to brag; I say it so you can grasp the full meaning of any superlatives I use in my reviews. All clear? Good. Then I can tell you that last night’s La Traviata at Teamtheater was without a doubt the strangest show I have ever seen.
Take Moulin Rouge. Throw some of Verdi’s music back in. Move it to the present. Make Violetta the only character. Imagine that, and you might get a sense of this pop/rock/country/metal cabaret put on by Violetta Valery (Johanna Weiske) and her band ‘The Imaginary Friends.’ The strangest thing about it all is not the hoop skirt made of tree branches or the bowl of blood she pours on her head or even the death-metal ‘O mio rimorso’ complete with a smashed guitar. The strangest thing is that it sort of works.
Continue reading Violetta Valery & The Imaginary Friends