Thursday, July 02, 2015


We could see more performances of Les Troyens if opera companies would stop performing Faust, Romeo & Juliet, Manon, and Samon & Dalilah* and put the money aside for better operas. Seriously, just stop with that stuff.

* Added for Joshua Kosman's benefit. I thought it was a hoot the one time I saw it....but once in a lifetime is enough for me.


john_burke100 said...

Besides, when you've heard Mae West sing "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix," anything else has to be a disappointment.

bgn said...

I'm as sick and tired of Gounod and Massenet as you are...but, alas, an opera company doesn't work that way (and I don't mean the old saw about the old standards). If you're thinking of saving money by not doing new productions of Faust et al and putting the money aside for Les Troyens, then you have to either do nothing at all or do some pre-existing production of something else in its place.

Henry Holland said...

We could see more performances of terrific Respighi operas like La Fiamma, La campana sommersa and Marie Victoire if opera companies would stop performing Nabucco, Ernani and rataplan rataplan rataplan La Forza del Destino and put the money aside for better operas.

We could see more performances of terrific German operas like Braunfel's Szenen aus dem Leben der Heiligen Johanna, Egk's Peer Gynt and Zemlinsky's Der Traumgörge if opera companies would stop performing Lohengrin, Tannhauser and *shudder* Der Meistersinger von Nurenberg *shudder* and put the money aside for better operas.

We could see more performances of non-tonal operas like Lear, Die Soldaten and The Bassarids if opera companies would stop performing Die Entführung aus dem Serail, *shudder* La fille du régimentr *shudder* and I Puritani and put the money aside for better operas.

Etc. etc.

Lisa Hirsch said...

bgn, I'm exaggerating for effect, but only a little. Companies could stop performing the dreck that is in the repertory in favor of better operas. I know they've gotta sell tickets, but they could make more of an effort to sell less-known works, too.

Henry Holland said...

What I've found frustrating almost from the beginning of going to opera is how conservative the audiences are, which translates to the stuff that's programmed. Fine, I don't expect people to rush out to buy tickets to Birtwistle's operas (though they do in England), but I've read more than one opera administrator (anonymously of course) complain how sick they are of programming La Boheme and La Traviata but they have to pay the bills.

It used to amaze me to go to people's apartments/houses and there'd be hundreds of CD's/LP's in shelves and I'd think "Great, we can play some stuff I've never heard before" and it'd be 18 recordings each of the same 30 operas.

What's even more frustrating is that there's plenty of operas that would do well with people who think that opera ended with the death of Verdi but the conservatism and risk adverse mindset means that even *those* aren't given an airing.

bgn said...

By now. though, how much "lesser-known" is Les Troyens than Faust or Manon? Berlioz's concert-hall music is standard repertory, after all...I remember a quarrel I had fifteen years ago with someone on Opera-L about the wisdom of replacing Trovatore (which was virtually uncastable at the time, at least on the international level) with The queen of spades (which seemed more castable and just as thrilling a night out), and I pointed out that Tchaikovsky composed The queen of spades, with the implication that audiences might be curious about what such a popular concert-hall composed would have to offer in opera. He brushed me off, noting that you can whistle Trovatore while waiting for your car to be repaired. Lesson from that? Opera people are not concert-hall people, for better or worse.

But Les Troyens is so large-scale that performances are never going to be everyday fare, In that respect its real competitors in the standard repertory are other grand grand operas--Aida, La Gioconda, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Guilliaume Tell, various Meyerbeer and Rimsky works among the lesser-known but much demanded. I'd be glad to hear Les Troyens rather than Gioconda or , especially with today's crop of singers. But there is plenty enough elsewhere to replace .

Lisa Hirsch said...

I've never seen La Gioconda, so if it turned up on the SFO schedule in a couple of years, well, I would be happy.

SFO has various special funds that they use for fundraising purposes and to support particular initiatives. It is apparent from the Troyens program that they made a special fundraising effort to stage the opera, and the program quite rightly calls out a long list of donors to the effort, both foundations and individuals. Among other funds, there's a special fund that I assume supports Nicola Luisotti's salary; there's a fund for new opera; there's a Great Singers fund that must pay for overscale singers (I bet Domingo got more than $17,000 per when he sang Cyrano here...). I'm all in favor of a fund to support the production of unusual and rarely heard works, or especially expensive works such as Troyens and Frau.