Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The NY Times on From the House of the Dead

The Times has what amounts to an enormous, in-depth preview of Janacek's From the House of the Dead, which premieres at the Metropolitan Opera tomorrow. Anthony Tommasini and James Oesterreich (appearing as "Tony" and "Jim") discuss the music; Charles Isherwood discusses director Patrice Chereau's style; Dwight Garner talks about...some other stuff.

Whether you read the previews or not, you should go see this production if you can. It's Janacek; can't enough of him. The cast and conductor are something: Esa-Pekka Salonen, in his Met debut; Stefan Margita (the magnificent Loge of the in-progress Ring in SF), Kurt Streit, Peter Mattei, Willard White, and Peter Hoare.

13 comments:

Bruce Hodges said...

I'm going tomorrow night (and reviewing it). Along with The Nose, this is the Met production that I'm most anticipating this season. And since I don't know the score at all, most likely I'll go two or three times, to get acquainted with it through live performance.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Ach, you are so lucky. I had originally planned to come for From the House of the Dead and more of that Racette Puccini goodness, but it's not happening.

And I need to link to the Met landing page for the opera.

Henry Holland said...

I'm really ambivalent about FTHOTD; I saw a production of it at City Opera in 1990 and I thought it was really really dull, just a bunch of monologues strung together. And boo! to Janacek for adding the token female voice, I've always admired Britten for resisting the pressure he got to do that with Billy Budd.

What was weird was I saw it in rep with Moses und Aron and the Janacek made the Schoenberg seem like a fast-paced thriller. Of course, there's no way it's going out in the HD theaters thing, I should check out the DVD of this production.

As a side note, I've always wondered why Esa-Pekka Salonen never conducted more than the one production (the Sellars Beach House Pelleas) at the Los Angeles Opera, he did an incredible job in the Debussy.

Doundou Tchil said...

Strange comments in the NY Times. Chereau is hardly unknown : he directed the Wieland Wagner Ring in Bayreuth nearly 40 years ago. And the first 3 act Lulu. Still, get to this if you can. I heard it in Amsterdam in 2007 conducted by Pierre Boulez. It was incredibly edgy, electric, intense: anyone who learned Janacek from Mackerras needs to learn all over again. GRAB the DVD. This is a major work, major performance, major staging.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm incredibly sorry to be missing this, considering the reviews it has gotten.

Salonen and the LA Opera: rehearsing and performing an opera takes something like six weeks, which is a huge chunk to take out of a music director's schedule. MTT has never conducted at SF Opera and I'm sure that's the reason - Runnicles has conducted SFS several times.

Doundou Tchil said...

Get the DVD. It was Boulez's idea and he who persuaded Chereau to do it. It meant so much to him. Afterwards, he said, he wouldn't do opera again. He put ages into this, working with Chereau thru the score, present at all stages. Process took months, but as he said, he'd lived with the score for decades. Truly a labour of love, the like of which will never be seen again.

sfmike said...

@Doundou: Don't you be dissing Mackerras and his Janacek recordings which are wonderful, including "From The House of the Dead" with that incredible rendition of the overture complete with chains.

Having said that, Janacek is one of those composers (Britten also comes to mind) whose works are immeasurably better heard live than recorded. I don't often envy the patrons at the Met, but I do for this one.

Doundou Tchil said...

Mackerras made his name thanks to the Iron Curtain. Because Czech conductors couldn't be heard in the weest he effectively cornered the market. Yet, of all composers Janacek is prob closest to speech rhythms so his music needs to follow Czech, not English syntax. Mackerras flattens and smooths, neutralizing much of the real power in Janacek's music. But because of the marketing hype around Mackerras, people are conned into thinking that Janacek "has" to be a tourist postcard sweet. He's exactly the sort of "expert" that needs to be overcome.

sfmike said...

@Dondou: I am going to again respectfully disagree about Mackerras, who conducted Janacek live in San Francisco (in Czech) and who didn't "flatten and smooth" anything. I originally got to know most of Janacek's operas through old Supraphon LP recordings from Czechoslovakia in the 1970s (they were almost as thick as ancient 78 discs), so I do know the difference. I also heard Mackerras conducting Verdi ("I Vespri Siciliani") and Britten where he was also extraordinary, so do stop slagging my old Australian.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I have the Janacek operas primarily on the Supraphone LPs but haven't listened to them, and must do so.

Lisa Hirsch said...

And I will get the DVD, since I am not going to get to NYC.

CK Dexter Haven said...

Don't forget that Salonen also conducted Messian's "St. Francois" and Ligeti's "Le Grand Macabre at Salzburg, along with Stravinsk's "The Rake's Progress" during the LA Phil's famous month-long residence in Paris in '96.

I'm very sad that he never did the Stravinsky in L.A., even as a concert performance with the LA Phil. The closest we got was Dawn Upshaw singing "No Word From Tom" -- which was part of an awesome concert (with Dawn also singing Copland and Foss, plus Revueltas and Moncayo).

Maybe Placido can convince him to conduct "Rake's Progress" at LA Opera in the coming years.

Doundou Tchil said...

Salonen's brilliant and with the Philharmonia in London he's doing better than ever.Listen to their Gurrelieder. If the singers were better it would be a top recommendation. He came very late to Sibelius, deliberately, to avoid being sucked into habit before he was mature enough to find his own way. As a result, his Sibelius is powerful, edgy, very modern. Many listeners hated it because they were fixed on hearing in other ways. But as Sibelius himself said of conductors in his time, "they don't understand me". Salonen's take comes straight from the score and from knowledge of the composer and is very sharp. True artists are often ahead of their time, or maybe audiences need longer to get used to things. I'm not so sure about Salonen's own work, but he seems so happy now he prob doesn't have time.