To enter the Music Criticism Contest it is necessary to submit a personal response to one of the five Schumann pieces being performed at Symphony Hall in November. The personal response should address how Schumann’s music makes the writer feel. The contest will have winners in five age categories, each with an assigned topic. Elementary school entrants should write 100 words about the Schumann Piano Concerto, middle school entrants should write 200 words about Symphony No. 1, high school entrants should write 300 words about Symphony No. 4, college entrants should write 400 words about Symphony No. 3, and adults should submit 500 words about Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I'm sorry to say that the Times's definition of "musician" doesn't extend to people in the notational music tradition. So don't play that video expecting to hear Joan Sutherland, Shirley Verrett, Hugues Cuenod, Cesare Siepi, Giuseppe Taddei, Earl Wild, Charles Mackerras, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Philip Langridge, or any of the great classical performers who died this year. The Times should be ashamed of itself.
- Acoustical consultant Christopher Blair's series on building good concert halls, What Makes a Great Concert Hall?, Well-Worn Paths to Failure, and How to Ensure Success.
- Henry Peyrebrune's How Did We Get Here?, which is a superb response to Joseph Horowitz's suggestion that orchestral musicians shouldn't make (or expect to make) a living playing full-time in an orchestra.
Also, I'd heard El Nino the week before, and frankly, I hated it. Maybe what I hated was Adams's own conducting, but the piece just seemed stuck in one tempo, stuck on the endless syncopations, stuck harmonically, stuck stuck stuck. I continue to hate the flattening effect of the amplification - John, why don't you trust either your own orchestration or your singers? And while I thought Michelle DeYoung and Jessica Rivera were both swell, I could not bear Jonathan Lemalu's gray-toned shouting or the effect of the amplification on his sibilants. So I couldn't join in the general rejoicing about the piece. I know five people who walked out of the first performance, so it's not just me.
That said, a favorite or two. I think the music of Doctor Atomic is splendid; grand in scope and conception, beautifully executed. (The libretto, not so much. Undramatic, fragmentary, tough to hang an opera on, even though it does a provide a few excellent set pieces. It needs to lose the Native American child care provider and the clownish portrayal of General Leslie Groves.) But my favorite of all is Naive and Sentimental Music, one of the best new symphonic works I've heard in the last decade.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
- Sending your year-end solicitation within a month of when the donor made his/her most recent donation.
- Losing track of the donor's preferred title of address. Don't send me a letter that starts with "Dear Mr. Hirsch."
- Claiming, even humorously, that you're the charity most worthy of receiving donations. This could be funny in boom times. In a year when employment in Alameda County is close to 12%, the economy is in the tank, and there's a lot of suffering, not funny and not persuasive from a small arts organization.
My first two choices of Boheme recording were at work (Gigli, Albanese and Beecham/Bjoerling, de los Angeles), and I put on Toscanini without pulling out the other sets on my shelves, or I might have thrown on the Bjoerling/Sayao bootleg from the late 1940s. I hadn't heard the Toscanini in years, and you know - damn, it's good. Yeah, I do wish Peerce had a beautiful, rather than serviceable, voice, but he sure did know what to do musically, and of course Albanese is wonderful. Toscanini is brisk, theatrical, passionate, and makes Beecham sound slack. The occasion can't be beat: it was the 50th anniversary of the opera's premier, which Toscanini also conducted. You can hear him weeping during Mimi's death scene.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
- Seattle Opera (Rogister)
- Los Angeles Opera (Nagano)
- Washington National Opera (Reggioli)
- Los Angeles Philharmonic (Salonen)
- Boston Symphony Orchestra (Levine)
- New York Philharmonic (Salonen)
- Cleveland Orchestra (Boulez)
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Boulez)
- Berkeley Opera (Khuner; once in the 1990s, once in the 2000s)
Bluebeard's Castle is a monument, one of the great operas of the 20th c. It does not need a fancy-schmancy staging, as demonstrated brilliantly by the two fine productions at Berkeley Opera. It's not expensive to put on, with only two singers.
Why oh why can't SFO or SFS perform it?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Elliott Carter turned 102! I was lucky enough to be in the same room as Mr. Carter last February, for a concert at Juilliard that included the Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for wind quartet and a great new piece for wind quintet. Happy birthday to one of our greatest composers; may he continue to write great music in good health.
The Swiss tenor Hueges Cuenod died, at the astonishing age of 108. It's not a tragedy when someone dies at such an age, after a life lived grandly; still, I was sad. Cuenod made his debut in the 1920s, debuted and Glyndebourne in 1950 or 51, going on to sing nearly 500 performances there, and finally appeared at the Met for the first time in 1987, at age 85! He gave his last public performances in his early 90s. A few years ago, when Switzerland legalized same-sex civil unions, he and his partner of many years entered into one. There's plenty of this great singer on YouTube, so get over there and listen to his exemplary style.
San Francisco Symphony announced some of the plans for their centenary season. Commissions by Adams and Bates - daring - and the return of the no-longer-very-mavericky American Mavericks. Um, try something new? Aaron Copland: not a maverick, now or ever.
More positively, the season brings concerts by the orchestras from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, each of which will evidently bring along some of their recent commissions. That is, at least part of the new music side of the centenary is being outsourced to other orchestras. It'll be good to hear those orchestras in Davies, though; a way to calibrate the hall and SFS while hearing some great organizations. Full details to come in early March.
San Francisco Opera announced more details of the September 11 opera, Christopher Theofanidis's Heart of a Soldier. It's about Rick Rescorla, Morgan Stanley's head of security, who warned the NYC Port of Authority in the 1990s that the next attack on the WTC would come by air. Morgan Stanley had few fatalities because Rescorla put into place an evacuation plan, and drilled the heck out of the employees. He died that day because he went back into the WTC to help others and was still inside when the second building collapsed.
The opera is based on a book of the same name. It'll be interesting to hear how this all plays out as an opera; I myself am skeptical about headline opera, especially opera that revolves around an event that propelled the U.S. into two disastrous wars. The cast is impressive, though: Thomas Hampson, Melody Moore, and William Burden. Patrick Summers conducts; Francesca Zambello directs.
San Francisco Opera updated their web site (again). Not sure if it's any better or more usable.
But what on earth persuaded the Los Angeles Philharmonic that a cute animation for the opening Shrovetide Fair music from Stravinsky's Petrouchka was appropriate? Note to LAPO Press Office: Shrovetide is in the Spring.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
San Francisco Symphony performs John Adams's El Niño, with the composer conducting, Dec. 2, 3, 4...California Bach Society has music of Rosenmüller, December 3, 4, and 5, in San Francisco (note venue!), Palo Alto, and Berkeley...San Francisco Bach Choir presents Psallite!, on December 4 and 5, featuring music of Mouton, Gallus, Praetorius, Schütz, Scheidt, Buxtehude,Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Messiah, Messiah everywhere, at San Francisco Symphony, American Bach Solists, and Philharmonia Baroque.
And also Messyah, from the Sanford Dole Ensemble, which they performed to acclaim last year, on Monday, December 20 at 7 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F.
S.F. Early Music Society presents Ciaramella: A Piper's Noel:
Monday, November 29, 2010
Elsewhere, Joshua Kosman tries to make a case for Bronfman's approach, noting some conflicts between the approach taken by Bronfman and that of the orchestra and mentioning that the Berg's second movement sounded under-rehearsed to him. Maybe the whole thing was under-rehearsed. Suffice it to say, I'm not convinced that Bronfman's approach worked; maybe in a less cavernous hall than Davies? It just didn't work for me. But that line about the Academic Festival Overture redeems all.
John Marcher at A Beast in a Jungle agrees with Joshua.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
They've now printed 275,000 copies, and that has not come close to meeting the full demand for the book. Their printer is turning out 30,000 more each week.
It couldn't have happened to a better guy.
I think it is a little silly to talk about "most beautiful voice," because people have different ears. But here are a few candidates for pure beauty of sound; I'll put the sopranos first.
- Leontyne Price. For my money, the great LP had the most beautiful soprano voice evah, though there's plenty of competition.
- Rosa Ponselle
- Edith Mason. If you've never heard of her, it's probably because her career was mostly conducted in Chicago, where she was greatly loved and where her six marriages, two of them to the same husband, must have been an extremely entertaining scandal. You can find her recordings on an out-of-print Romophone CD.
- Montserrat Caballe
- Zinka Milanov
- Ebe Stignani
- Margarete Arndt-Ober
- Jussi Bjoerling
- Beniamino Gigli. Ignore the sobbing and other stylistic nasties, and avoid that recording of "Il mio tesoro."
- Giuseppe DiStefano, before he decided that a great Alfredo and Edgardo should be singing roles like Calaf and Manrico
- Fritz Wunderlich
- Robert Merrill
- Joseph Schwartz. You've probably never heard of him either. German, among the great Verdi baritones of the 20th c., died young of alcoholism.
- Ezio Pinza
- Alexander Kipnis
Although, you know, the one at "And ... there was LIGHT," in The Creation is pretty good too.
*The link is to the great - and I mean great - 1950 recording conducted by Janos Ferencsik, with Mihaly Szekely and Klara Palankay, inferior sound and all. Unfortunately, I cannot find this moment with Christa Ludwig, who could take your head off with a fantastic C.
Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
$20 / $18 / $10
First Presbyterian Church
Dana and Durant
(This is NOT First Congregational, where we usually perform. First Pres. is diagonally across the intersection.)
Note that there's a Cal basketball game tomorrow night and parking in the area will be harder than usual.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I didn't get into a discussion of the fact that Vec Makropulos doesn't easily translate to either The Makropulos Case or The Makropulos Affair, which are the usual titles in English. Apparently it means something more like "the Makropulos thing," and probably refers to the formula.
Lastly, Patricia Racette told me last year that EM is among the roles she'd like to sing. I'd love to hear that. All I can tell you is that it would be different from what Mattila is doing with it. I have already heard both of them in another iconic Janacek role, Jenufa, in which Racette was heartbreakingly perfect. Mattila sang beautifully but could not shed her glamor to truly become Jenufa.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Met premier of this great opera waited until 1996, amazingly. They'd managed to stage Jenufa in the 1920s, with the glamorous Maria Jeritza in the title role. What an EM she would have been!
But the Met premier of Makropulos was dogged by fate. At the first performance, tenor Richard Versailles, singing Vitek, climbed the ladder in Kolanaty's office, sang a few lines, then fell to the stage, dead of a heart attack. The second performance got snowed out. The performances after that were a triumph for Jessye Norman and the rest of the cast.
The Met performed Makropulos in English, and I have to say, it's a tough choice. The opera is mighty talky, to the point where the supertitles are really a distraction from what's on stage. But the opera is firmly tied to the rhythm and snap of Czech, and there would be losses going either way.
Another surprise about this opera, or maybe I shouldn't be surprised: there is only one video available. It is a well conducted production from Glyndbourne, led by Andrew Davis in non-sluggish mode. The cast is extremely strong, with Kim Begley a superb Gregor, Victor Braun a suave and smooth Prus, Andrew Shore as Kolanaty, and the young Christopher Ventris as Janek. But...and this is a big but...it's the theatrically-vivid, vocally-threadbare Anja Silja as EM. She is a trial to the ears.
So I see an opportunity for San Francisco Opera: put out a competing DVD with the magnificent Mattila.
So this past weekend, I turned up around fifteen minutes before the Ensemble Zellig concert at Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, expecting to be able to get a seat without any difficulties. To my surprise, I got a $20 community rush seat, when I'd been expecting to pay $42. More to my surprise, the seat was in the front row not too far off center, two seats from Patrick, who'd actually bought a ticket two days earlier.
I thought about moving, in part because I don't like to have my turned for the duration of a performance, but then figured I might as well experiment. Because of the small forces on the program (piano, cello, clarinet, flute), there was little risk of a Turangalila-style sonic overload.
"Little risk" turned out not to mean "no risk." One of the works on the program was pretty darned loud, giving me that head-between-the-speakers feeling. It was cool to be so close to the flute player for the solo flute work that opened the program - and just how did she make a plucking sound on a flute in one of the other pieces?? - but I'm not going to try this again.
I missed the lack of hall perspective and having an easy view of the whole stage. I would have been a lot happier someplace in the center toward the back of the hall; it's not as though there is ever a problem with hearing what's going at Hertz. So for now I'll consider this a one-time experiment that I'm unlikely to repeat.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Harmoniemesse (WInd-Band Mass)
Der Sturm (dramatic part song)
Te Deum for Empress Marie-Therese
Paul Flight, conductor and music director
Kathryn Krasovec, soprano, Lisa van der Ploeg, alto, Kevin Baum, tenor,
Paul Murray, baritone
First Presbyterian Church
2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
(NOTE: we are NOT at our usual venue, First Congo, for this program!)
Saturday, November 20, 2010, at 8 p.m.
Purchase on line at http://choranova.org/tickets.htm or at the door.
(Ignore deadline on web site of May 26, 2010, which is for a previous program)
Friday, November 05, 2010
In this YouTube video, she is in superb form, circa 1971, in a characteristic role:
And singing a great Liebestod a few years later in 1977:
Rest in peace, Miss Verrett; you were one of the greats.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
It's a 22-LP set pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl of the complete San Francisco Symphony Mahler cycle. It includes the completed symphonies, the Adagio from the unfinished Symphony No. 10, and all of the orchestral song cycles. You can hear Isabel Bayrakdarian, Laura Claycomb, Michelle DeYoung, Susan Graham, Anthony Dean Griffey, Thomas Hampson, Elza van den Heever, Katarina Karnéus, Quinn Kelsey, Sergei Leiferkus, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, James Morris, Thomas Moser, Yvonne Naef, Marina Shaguch, Stuart Skelton, and Erin Wall on the cycle.
Limited edition of 1,000, to be pressed only when pre-orders reach 600. Pre-ordering requires you to plunk down $75. For more information, visit the San Francisco Symphony web page about the release.
This is a tempting chorus concert, with a fascinating selection of composers:
Stanford Chamber Chorale: "Remember"
Saturday, Nov. 13, 8:00 pm
Stephen M. Sano conducts this evening of a cappella choral repertoire
featuring the theme of memory, remembering, and remembrance, with works by
Farrant, Berger, Howells, Finzi, Pearsall, Delius, Barber, Moran,
Mantyjarvi, Chihara, Hamilton, Daley, and Chatman. | Stanford Ticket Office
General $10 | student $5 | senior $9.
You might know Scott St. John's name, because he is the second violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet. George Barth teaches piano and does research into 19th century piano performance practice and history. He's a terrific player, and I'm sure this will be a great concert.
Scott St. John, violin, and George Barth, piano
Sunday, Nov. 14, 2:30 pm
Campbell Recital Hall
Two of the Department of Music¹s faculty collaborate in this recital, with
selections from Brahms, Busoni, and Ives. General $10 | student $5 | senior
For a complete list of Department of Music events and for tickets, please
To purchase tickets by phone please call the Stanford Ticket Office at
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Monday, November 01, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
If you were there yesterday or can't go, then come to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Oakland at 3 p.m. for Pacific Collegium's performance of the Monteverdi Vespers.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
- Anthony Tommasini in the Times
- Martin Bernheimer in the Financial Times
- Anne Midgette in the WashPost
- Alex Ross in The New Yorker (subscription required to read the online version)
- Justin Davidson in New York Magazine
- Richard Garmise at Opera Britannia
- Brian at Out West Arts
- John Marcher at A Beast in a Jungle
- Classical Iconoclast
- Alex Wellsung
- Sieglinde at Sieglinde's Diaries
- Octavian, reviewing at Parterre Box
- An Unamplified Voice
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Gotta add this, though: Levine looked frail and was moving very, very carefully when he came on stage for his bows..
How did I feel about it? Well, you could say I'm firmly on the fence.
To start with, the camera direction doesn't do much for the production or for the singers. I now know way too much about Eric Owens's teeth, and I can tell you all about the extent to which Bryn Terfel and Adam Diegel sing out of the sides of their mouths. Even when singers' shoulders or faces weren't filling up a two-story screen, mostly we got tight shots taking in one to three singers and 20 horizontal feet of the Met's enormous stage. And many of those were from the robot camera running on a bar at the lip of the stage, so the perspective was absolutely nothing like anything you'd see in the house unless you were in the back of the pit looking up.
The direction took in the whole stage just a few times: at the beginning of Scene I, during the descent to Nibelheim and on the return trip, briefly at the beginning of the Nibelheim scene, briefly during the two scenes with the giants, and for the rainbow bridge. So I can't speak to the effect the machine, Robert Lepage's giant
Musically, it was all much better than I'd thought it would be based on the netcast of opening night. Levine was more alert, though I still wanted to pinch him a few times, like during the giants' entry. I continue to find his Wagner too glossy and not nearly well-articulated enough. The Met orchestra played like gods - lord, what a sound they make!
By and large, I liked almost everyone. Eric Owens blew me away; I would not have thought, based on a generally excellent Porgy last year in SF, that he had a superb Alberich in him. Maybe German repertory suits him best, maybe Alberich is exactly in his vocal sweet spot. But he sounded great; in fact, he sounded a whole lot better than Bryn Terfel's licht Alberich, aka Wotan. Terfel is in sad shape compared to the last time I heard him live, a decade ago in The Rake's Progress; he sounded worn and his once-tight vibrato is considerably loosened. He shouted a lot less than on the netcast, but still, I found it alarming. I don't see how he'll make it through the Walkuere Wotan. (Personal to Peter Gelb and James Levine: Richard Paul Fink Richard Paul Fink Richard Paul Fink. Got it? He knows a good chunk of the role already and sounded fabulous singing it in Berkeley this summer.)
Stephanie Blythe's Fricka was outstanding, superbly sung; so were the giants of Hans-Peter Konig and Franz-Josef Selig, who sounded related without sounding identical. Similarly, I loved the Rheinmaiden trio of Lisette Oropesa, Jennifer Johnson, and Tamara Mumford, three beautiful but distinctive voices. Dwayne Croft made a mighty impressive Donner. For some reason not apparent in the movie theater, Richard Croft, singing Loge, got some boos; he sounded accurate and musical if occasionally croony. I've read that he sounds disproportionately small-voiced compared to everyone else, which could certainly be so, but he didn't earn boos that I could tell. That said, if you want to hear a stunningly great Loge, come to San Francisco next summer and watch Stefan Margita steal the show.
Adam Diegel is mighty handsome and has a good voice, but he sounded more studied and stiff than anyone else on stage. Gerhard Siegel was a suitably craven Mime. Wendy Bryn Harmer was a lovely and vocally excellent Freia; Patricia Bardon just about perfect as Erda.
Now, back to La Machine. Reportedly, the Met has spent $16 million to date on this Ring cycle, which is as much as the whole Seattle Ring, new in 2001, cost. I will have to see Die Walkuere on screen and maybe see one of these operas in person to be able to tell whether the Met got its money worth. But many of the effects I saw yesterday could be achieved in a more conventional production at a lower cost and make just as much theatrical impact. Yeah, it would also be lots less possible to generate publicity and raise funds with a more conventional production, but I also am afraid, based on what I saw, that the machine itself is getting in the way of interesting direction, both in terms of interactions among the characters and in terms of how the singers are moved around the stage. Both of those seemed utterly conventional, unsubtle, and uninteresting. (Again, repeat after me: it must have looked different in the house.)
As far as I could see yesterday, in some cases the set hinders the action and directorial possibilities, and results in less magic than I've seen elsewhere. Take the opening Rheinmaiden scene. I found the flying/swimming Rheinmaidens in the Seattle Ring are more magical, because they fly for the whole scene. At the Met, they initially swim against the backdrop of the vertical machine, then the machine folds up and they are plopped down on top of it. They can slither around a little, but because their costumes have tails, they can't more around all that much. I have no idea how this looked in the house; on screen, flying them for the whole scene would have been better.
The first scene with the giants is played with the two giants located on some planks that are above the plinth level, which is where the gods are. This seriously limited how much the two groups could interact, and there are all sorts of dramatic possibilities there. When the gold is being measure out against Freia, she's suspended horizontally in netting that is hung from two sets of planks. The netting is put up by D. Croft and on of the other gods, which is pathetic. They're gods, for crying out loud, not stagehands! It looked seriously half-baked, and possibly a workaround for the fact that the giants are up there and the gods and gold are down here. I also spent the whole scene worrying that the damn net would fail in some way and drop Wendy Bryn Harmer on her head. That's not good.
Then there's the business of the sideways staircase to and from Nibelheim. The doubles move slowly, so it's not at all exciting and doesn't match the music. It felt to me as though they did it because they could, and it's not better than what I imagine during the music covering the scene change.
And then there's the sledding effect: there are several places where a character slides down an inclined plane of planks, or slithers up and down them, and....I can see that this will get old pretty fast over the length of the full Ring.
Finally, the costumes. Holy moly, they are bad bad bad. I'm sure they would have looked bad in the house through my binoculars, too. Stephanie Blythe's dress looks like something off-the-rack from Macy Woman, and Fricka can absolutely afford something better. The male gods are all wearing godawful breastplates evidently intended to make them look manly and muscular. Unfortunately, that's not the effect they achieve. The giants look like cavemen, and where did Alberich get that lace-up wet suit? A fetish shop??
Ah, well. We'll see how the next three installments go, and if I'm lucky I'll get to see one of them in house.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I've said this before, and I'll say it again (and again and again and again): could SFS schedule Carey Bell in a clarinet concerto other than the Mozart? Great piece, yeah, but I've heard it approximately five thousands times, and it's so popular it's a KDFC staple.
I'd love to hear the Lindberg concerto again, but if not that, how about the concertos by Aho, Carter (I make myself laugh), Corigliano, Hindemith, Maconchy, Martino (triple concerto!), Musgrave, Nielsen, Penderecki, Piston, Rautavaara, Stravinsky, Takemitsu, or Tower? Yes, I did get those names from Wikipedia.
Monday, October 04, 2010
Who knows if I'll get to all of these? I wish I could!
Magnificat performs John Blow's Venus and Adonis
Warren Stewart, Music Director
October 8, St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park, 8 p.m. October 9, St. Mark's Episcopal, Berkeley, 8 p.m. October 10, St. Mark's Lutheran, S.F., 4 p.m.
(No ticket prices because of the amount of click-through to find them!)
Blueprint with soprano Marnie Breckenridge
This program includes a preview of Ensemble Parallelle's February, 2011, production of Glass's .
California Bach Society performs Purcell and Handel
Purcell's Hail! Bright Cecilia, Handel's Acis and Galatea
Paul Flight, music director; Ann Moss, soprano, Brian Thorsett, tenor
Pacific Collegium performs the Monteverdi Vespers
Really hoping to get to this despite the conflict with Urban Opera's Purcell program!
Christopher Kula, Music Director, with a chorus of Bay Area choral luminaries.
October 30, San Francisco, St. Gregory's Episcopal (presumably this is St. Gregory of Nyssa), 7:30 p.m.
October 31, Oakland, St. Paul's Episcopal, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $45/$30/$25/$15, but the Sunday performance is free.
Urban Opera performs The Witch of Endor
October 30 and 31, 4 p.m.
2325 Union Street (@Steiner), San Francisco, CA 94123
$50 Premium Seating (available only in advance)
$30 General Admission
Saturday, October 02, 2010
If you don't feel like clicking through to the Times web site to read the response, I'll summarize for you: why do directors feel the need to modernize Wagner when he says right there in the score what he wants?
So, first off, the new Lepage staging is apparently pretty traditional in how the singers are blocked and how the characters relate to each other. The costumes look like they could have been designed any time in the last 50 years; they are traditional and kinda dull, compared to, say, the famous 1970s ENO Ring, the Mariinsky Ring, or the Freyer Ring. They are dull compared to the beautiful and ultra-traditional costumes of the 2001 Seattle Ring.
Yeah, the stage machinery is modern and circusy, and so what? You got yer river Rhine, you got yer Nibelheim (and descent thereto), you got yer rocky places.
More to the point, I rolled my eyes at that letter.
Nobody thinks we should always stage Shakespeare the way Shakespeare expected his plays to be done - in Elizabethan dress, on an outdoor stage, with men and boys playing women's roles, and apparently hurrying through the text. (See the timing given for the play in the prologue of Romeo and Juliette.)
Pretty much any 19th c. and earlier play you can think of has been updated (or backdated - Julius Cesar in togas instead of doublets), relocated geographically, made abstract, etc. Only in the opera world is there a significant coterie of fans who scream when Tosca isn't wearing an Empire gown, when Wotan doesn't wear long robes and carry a spear, when the Duke of Mantua's court becomes Fascist Italy in the 30s, when unusual staging techniques are used (see Wilson; see Freyer). (Note: I saw only one opera in Freyer's Ring, but it was one of the great theatrical experiences of my life despite underwheming singing.)
These people essentially claim to know what the composer would have wanted if he were alive today. Nobody knows what Verdi or Wagner would want if they had 21st century theaters and technology in hand. We have no idea what Wagner would have thought of Wieland Wagner or Acheim Freyer' stagings.
It's crazy. It's part of the reason so many people have problems relating to opera: fans who want operas to be performed as if it were still 1890. Wagner and Verdi were experienced and (mostly) practical men of the theater. They were also great musical reformers. Of all people, they knew that stagecraft is a living, changing thing, not a fossil frozen in time.
Friday, October 01, 2010
- The Momenta Quartet performs a contemporary music program mostly by New Yorkers at Roulette Intermedium, 20 Greene St. between Canal and Grand, 8:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, October 2, 2010. Works by Melissa Hui, Huong Ruo, Gordon Beeferman, and Philip Glass are on the program. Tickets are $15 GA / $10 seniors/students / Free to members of Roulette/Location One.
- TRANSIT Subway Series presents a triple bill of noteworthy new music. So Percussion plays; there's the world premier of a new work by Tristan Perich; a new multimedia group called Corps Exquis makes its debut. All this on Thursday, October 14, 2010, at Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main (at Water), Brooklyn, NY. Doors open at 7, show at 8, tickets $15 at the door or on line.
- The Metropolis Ensemble asks "What would a house sound like if it could sing?" And the ensemble answers, it would sound like Brownstone, by composer Jakub Ciupinski, which they describe as "