Lisa Hirsch's Classical Music Blog.
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve. Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
Opinions expressed on this blog are mine and not my employer's.
Oh dear, the reviews of McVicar's production have been pretty negative, there's still time to back out SFO!Les Troyens was supposed to have been done during the Pamela Robertson years, but alas.
The Rosenberg (not Robertson, ha!) era production was supposed to be the ENO's, which as a production wasn't any better than this, ISTR.
I was at the same performance as Brian, and can report that the production, though not perfect, is no disgrace. Depending on casting and musical values (which were excellent in London) it will probably be exciting enough in SF.No one should expect a perfect production of The Trojans -- there's just too much to it to get everything right. The worst problem in London was the dances: only 12 dancers (inadequate for such a spectacle), and not only boring choreography but no real conception behind it. I think directors no longer understand the function of dance divertissements in an opera. One expected more from the home of the Royal Ballet.There were other missed opportunities, but there were many virtues, including excellent acting from everyone, for which McVicar also gets credit. The representation of Troy as 2nd Empire France was at worst inoffensive, and it allowed Priam, Hecuba, et al to be presented recognizably as the royal family of a small European state -- this was actually quite touching.As far as SF casting, in the bio section of the London program Antonacci listed Cassandre in San Francisco among her future plans. This alone should make the event noteworthy -- I've heard greater voices in the part (Shirley Verrett, Jessye Norman), but she was still fantastically interesting. Since Bryan Hymel is American, and Westbroek is obviously willing to come to the West Coast, you might get them all.Something worth mentioning is that the set is acoustically magnificent, so that the chorus, about 80 strong, sounded out of this world. I've read complaints that in both its versions (front and back) it looked too obviously like a choral shell -- get your priorities straight, people!
A shame about the dancing, and I'm sure your diagnosis is correct. (I'm not sure that I could describe the function of dance divertissments in an opera!)That is fantastic news about Antonacci. She was Adalgisa in the Norma run here with Vanness and was the only singer on stage who had a clue what she was doing. Really looking forward to seeing her. I'm fine with choral shell sets! The Bluebeard's Castle set in Davies last month made an enormous difference in the sound quality.
Well, I think at least in the 19th century dance was used to create spectacle and/or to ravish the senses. The latter is definitely the purpose of the Royal Hunt and Storm and the 4th act ballet, which are part of a crescendo of sensuality that runs through the whole act, leading to the love duet. Maybe this kind of thing seems like kitch now, so directors shy away from it, but it certainly wasn't kitch to Berlioz.The only opera I've seen in recent years that used dance well was the SFOpera/Mariinsky Ruslan and Lyudmila, which has two 20-minute ballets, the first for a scene of enchantment similar to the Flower Maidens in Parsifal, the second for spectacle at the evil dwarf's court. But then, they had choreography by Fokine from 1917. It makes a difference.
Thank you, and thank you for the extensive comments on the overall production, too.I saw that Ruslan and nearly fell asleep during the ballet sequences, I'm afraid. I hope I would see them differently today - in fact, I wish there were a prayer of getting the production revived, as it was spectacular.
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