(via Richard Jones’ Glyndebourne production from 2014 1, thoughts written in 2014 and, for whatever reason, never published)
Rosenkavalier is a pretty grubby little story of infidelity. To bring it off the characters must come over as sympathetic.
The text makes the characters sympathetic. A grubby little indiscretion only for the terminally uptight. I’m not advocating cheating on your partner but it’s pretty clear from the libretto that Die Marschallin was married off to the Marschal (as that it was the practice of the day, what with Sophie facing the same fate). Choices, eh.
Der Rosenkavalier is rooted in a painstakingly stylised version of Rococo Vienna that, paradoxically, is further fixed in a web of cannily juxtaposed anachronisms.
The problem is by throwing that out, Jones tended to make it a rather crude satire on a satire. The garish sets seemed totally at odds with what Strauss was trying to say and the costumes lacked any reality base in the period that was supposed to be satirised. They looked as if they’d wandered in from Alice in Wonderland.
A verbose way of saying you wanted a traditional production. It’s a show, fiction, make-believe of an opera that is very much about not taking yourself seriously.
The central character is the Marschallin but in trying to make her a ‘strong woman’ Royal only succeeded in making her more like the dirty duchess than the somewhat dignified and tragic figure Strauss intended her to be.
The Marschallin was not intended as a tragic figure. She’s a strong woman in the modern sense of the word. She faces reality and appears to move on with minimal distress. She’s kind, generous and playful. She’s intelligent but also tactful. She’s “in touch” with her emotions and her sexuality, as we’d say today. She’s pretty much the ideal woman 😉
Her relationship with Octavian was therefore distanced, voyeuristic and lacking in intimacy. In fact, the whole thing lacked intimacy and warmth.
More or less, that’s actually their relationship. I don’t know that’s a bad thing. It just is. How deep can a fling with a teenager be? It’s not meant to be a desperately intense Violetta and Alfredo type relationship. Here we have two people in no danger of poverty/illness or loss of social position due to their tryst2. There’s supposed to be a lightness about it, only just touched by the Marschallin’s emerging awareness of her own mortality. She’s still a young woman, there are reasons to believe this is the first time she’s imagined herself old. So just like Octavian is growing up from teenager to adult she’s moving into the next age. They are on different pages so a certain distance is perfectly normal but it’s not as if they don’t care about each other. The reviewer’s opinion is steeped in the Romantic view of opera. But this isn’t about the 18th century from the 18th century – or, worse even, from the 19th century of much judgment and prudishness. It’s from the point of view of the 20th century.
- At that time I was active on talkclassical and I asked a fellow poster about his impressions on this production under the assumption that I won’t bicker with him over diverging tastes. His comments (in italics) became a springboard for some musings on my part about DR in general which I thought I’d share here instead. ↩
- Would the Feldmarschall divorce Die Marschallin if he found out? I actually don’t know. But she’s a rich woman in her own right. ↩
The excuse I hear for why the Met and other big American companies don’t do more Handel is that their stages and auditoriums are too big. In fact, “large” operas do not have to be in big theaters and “small” operas (whatever that means) do not have to be in small ones. London’s Queen’s (later King’s) Theatre, with a seating capacity of about 1200, saw the premieres of more than 25 Handel operas. In contrast, Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, which has 700 seats, hosted the premieres of Verdi’s Ernani, Rigoletto, La Traviata and Simon Boccanegra, all of which we now associate with large opera houses. (from In Opera, Artistry Matters More Than Size)
Too often we think in terms of received size and too little in how things could be or were done. For practical purposes we might want to refurbish opera houses rather than have Handelians shout in hangar halls. After Rodelinda at ENO, nah, just make sure you have a sensitive conductor and an orchestra who knows what they’re doing.
Plotkin also muses:
I love modern and new opera but wonder whether we are missing a lot by not having masterpieces from the first 150 years of opera, which was born in 1597.
What’s more important, keeping to large halls or hearing good music? So perhaps the Met needs a local stage for its Handel, which can go up to 1500 capacity or so. That’s ideal but failing that conductor -> orchestra -> singers who can sing the music.
That’s probably the easy part; the most difficult thing must be the perception of how opera sounds and to some extent, its heroes/heroines. If the usual Met public is coming for high Cs and sopranos dying of TB and other patriarchy induced issues, the transition to Baroque voices and heroines like Alcina, Agrippina and Poppea might take a while. That being said, if Boston has been doing its Baroque thing for so long, there is clearly a public hungry for this kind of thing.
recently at the time of my rant hit on a subject that still (STILL) gets my goat. Naturally I ran to my 6 many months old ranty draft and stroked it a few times. Then I thought I should vent my anger (for it makes me foamy (oh, so foamy…)).
Eagerly awaited by yours truly, the 2011/2012 Munich I Capuleti e i Montecchi turned out to be a spectacularly inept production1. There are only two good things about it: Bellini’s music and Romeo. The rest is like a wisdom tooth ache: dull, painful and the mere thought of it almost as uncomfortable as the thing itself. Shame on you, Bayerische Staatstoper!
To those few who don’t know, in 2012 this production had VK as Romeo, Anna Netrebko as Giulietta and some guys in the other roles, plus Maestro Yves Abel running the shoddy ship into every rock on the way. To add insult to injury, midway through the run AN decided she’d had enough of her sink and unceremoniously boarded the nearest lifeboat. Bayerische shipped the 2011 Giulietta (Nakamura) back and refunded 1/2 of the (ridiculously high) ticket price to the angry Netrebkites.
Back in 2012 I watched the livestream (on mum’s ancient desktop) and then I re-watched it on youtube on a brand new laptop, which mum thoughtfully bought the day after. I read others’ comments on it, some of which made for very good reading though they appeared to be about something else than what I had seen. I didn’t make an effort to snap it before the cerbers at Bayerische mauled it off youtube. I eventually acquired it in hopes that time brings perspective. I’ve watched it a couple more times and my disappointment has turned to anger. There are just too many things that irk me:
Giulietta – NO. NO. NO. NO. Also: no.
fussy/inept costumes – epitome of fashion hype: unflattering and completely impractical
harsh lighting that made them all look like zombies – it’s set in a morgue, then
all-over-the-shop choir – perhaps coached by some fashion hanger-on
- overly precious ending – just look behind you already, Romeo!
- saddles – obviously!
- sink – the sink is to regie what stairs are to trad productions = a bold statement of lack of imagination; this is a
- wedding party on bleachers – fashion shoot on stairs, duh
- reflective and uneven walls – the stage designer and the light designer meet after a successful double lobotomy
To be fair to the end, VK too seemed a day or two past the sell-by date. Major meh. It’s beyond annoying that posterity will be left with this video version of her Romeo, when she’s done such an exceptional job with this role over the years. At the time I was very upset that I couldn’t see it live but in the very long run it looks like I saved myself further frustration not to mention money and fuss.
- I don’t truly like any Capuleti production I’ve seen so far. Very frustrating. ↩
…but might have an issue with Madamina, il catalogo e questo and possibly Mozart comedy in general. Time to unsheath the sword.
I wish this blog was still active, because it’s a very different take than the kind the readers of this blog and I have and would have liked to engage. Though I rarely agreed, I found myself reading on because it is so different. Example:
The transcending appeal of the Ring Cycle can definitely be compared to that of the The Lord of the Rings books. A big reason why the latter became more than “just fantasy” in the public imagination was because of the beautiful film adaptations that came out in the early 2000s. They were made by someone who loved the books. He spared no detail in making the movies, and almost by default they were amazing. It was a big story, and he wanted to do it right. (from Why do we LOVE the Ring Cycle?)
As a self described “opera lover” who doesn’t care about the Ring Cycle and who’s (unsurprisingly) suffered impatiently through the neverending journey into hobbit
imminent annihilation maturity, I found the post interesting. Whenever something bores me to death I want to understand why anyone puts up with that sort of thing. I think the last two phrases sum up the appeal of both: lots of details, big stories.
People go nuts over the Ring Cycle. As in Woodstock crazy. It’s the kind of event that young opera lovers like me dream of attending. It is an initiation into opera craziness like nothing else. (from the same post as above)
Heh. I have one word for you: contraltos 2017 (one word made of two words 😉 ). No need for lavish sets. Someone pass around the rainbow bandanas 😉
So that’s a short write-up on why opera freaks love the Ring. If you want to be a “true” opera fan, it pays to at least check it out. Which leaves folks like myself and the Opera Teen who haven’t yet seen it in a weird spot. But that craving for the Ring Cycle lingers within us. We want to see it and experience it with a desire uncommon to most works of art. (from same)
legit trv kvlt.
Ring fandom is difficult to comprehend because the Ring is so far removed from all negative stereotypes associated with opera. (from same)
😀 😀 😀
As an audience member at the opera, I may get bored if some prat in an opera is whining onstage about how many women his master’s slept with. (from The Billy Connolly Problem (or, Why Opera Is Boring))
Interesting. Someone can sit through a 50 hour plot recapping opera mini series but gets bored by one of the most hilarious arias out there (though her example is from the Met production; ’nuff said). To be fair, she goes on to say:
But if he’s emphasizing the repetition with his body, using the language as an acting tool and not just a script to sing out, entertainment is achieved. (from above post)
So the conclusion is, we need a good director+actor if the music is boring. Agreed here but poor Mozart. Seriously, people think that aria is boring?! She did sit through Come scoglio on a different occasion and her comment was:
Miah Persson is excellent as the (mostly) faithful Fiordiligi, but her aria is the Billy Connolly Problem incarnate. She plants herself on stage and never only seems to alter her facial expression twice throughout the entire number. In earlier and later scenes, Persson lends a gravity to her character that few could ever conjure. But in her aria, she settles into being a diva. (from Review: The Glyndebourne Festival’s Cosi Fan Tutti)
Heh. The aria is called Come scoglio, after all. I suppose the subtitles were on? Otherwise, I have a feeling google translate will side with Persson. Also it’s a comedy. Mostly. I think it might have been more of a comedy in the 1790s than it is now. But there is only so much serious in a libretto that centrally features boyfriends disguised with only ‘staches.
It seems to me that a certain part of the opera going public might need a bit of adjustment to comedy before 1800 (wait, was there comedy in the 1800s? Oh, yea, Rossini, Offenbach 🙂 sorry!).
This is definitely a fluffy Romantic opera
(from the post quote above)
This is why it’s good to read up on your opera before commenting. I hope she meant Romantic in the “Romantic comedy” sense. Because it’s definitely not a Romantic opera in the Verdi sense. Nor is it as fluffy as it may seem.
Captain (18th-Century-Opera) Obvious’ Mini Lecture
It’s funny to hear an opera seria aria sendup like Come scoglio in the middle of a comic scene. That’s what Mozart and DaPonte are doing, making fun of the upright opera sentiments (here costanza) come down from Papa Metastasio (changing mores are a very important reoccurring theme in Mozart operas). This is one of those meta moments when if she looks like she’s doing a shit job at acting she’s actually acting well.
Then there’s the issue of repetition. I don’t think anyone who’s ever hummed a contemporary pop song has a leg to stand when complaining about someone else using repetition in music. Not that repetition is necessary a fail. Repetition is not only widely used in all art but it appears in nature and, by extension, everyday life (don’t tell me you woke up today at the usual time, had a cup of coffee/tea and then went to work? Was this what you did yesterday? And the day before? Like, wow).
But! Remember Statira’s aria with the endless repetition of birds chirping? Even back in Vivaldi’s time they knew repetition could be used to amuse not just in earnest. Ponnelle here uses that trick brilliantly for Come scoglio (and Gruberova is just wonderful).
I can see how people who enjoy through composed opera may be adverse to the concept of simple tune. I mean, it is simple. After all, we’ve established earlier that LOTR is not just fantasy. It’s… complicated fantasy (ok, ok, there might not be any other kind 😉 ). Like one of those dreams in which you’re trying to get out of a building only to have one corridor turn into another and then another.
Whilst we’re on the Glyndebourne Così, check out Vondung’s ending to È amore un ladroncello. I did not expect her to end so well based on how she started but I found myself in love with her (repeated, ha) “così” at minute 2:45. Splendid sound, even aside from her dramatic commitment to a breathlessly satisfied Dorabella. Now that I think about it, “chiede” at minute 2:39-2:41 is great too. That’s how you do sexy vowel ending. She earned that cake!
If you love Tito and haven’t seent Double Indemnity, do it now. If you have, revisit, it’s more than worth it 🙂
Someone mischievously suggested that what was needed was extra time, and then a penalty shootout, with the singers going for the highest notes in their particular vocal range.
sigh Do you really want to judge basses and contraltos by the same tokens you do sopranos and (counter)tenors? I mean in the event you actually remember there are other fachs out there…
Yet I sort of like the idea of penalty shootout, though I’m not sure it doesn’t turn the whole thing into a gimmick. But my idea of said shootout would be “show me your best trick” and would be up to each contestant to wow us with something they do very well but is quite different from what they did so far. Maybe a recit? Though I guess that’s not very good TV. Either way, just not a ping fest, though if sopranos and (counter)tenors think that’s the best they can offer then fair enough.
However: glad to see there was a mezzo winner in Cardiff this year! I actually don’t think I knew of her.
Your execution is my retribution or Rodelinda, queen of hilarious choreography (ENO, 9 November 2017)
The challenge for ENO was not only in rendering a Handel libretto palatable to 21st century audiences but in making an obscure 7th century AD political situation entertaining when you understand every word of it. Enter Richard Jones and team, officially my favourite Baroque opera director/team. If you liked his Aix Ariodante you will like (potentially love) this. Check out what he has to say about it:
For whatever reason the pertinent commentary from Jones has no visuals from Rodelinda, so here’s the trailer, but ignore the comments, which are heartfelt but tell you nothing:
Rodelinda: Rebecca Evans
Bertarido: Tim Mead (with a cold)
Grimoaldo: Juan Sancho
Eduige: Susan Bickley
Garibaldo: Neal Davies
Unulfo: Christopher Lowrey
Flavio: Matt Casey
Conductor: Christian Curnyn | Choir and Orchestra of the ENO
Director: Richard Jones/Donna Stirrup (revival director)
Choreographer: Sarah Fahie
The Longobards/Lombards, right? There are few foggier historical periods than those significantly lumped under the term The Dark Ages (of Europe). The constant waves of migrations criss-crossing Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire never quite got big in popular culture. One can rightly assume this period was the theatre of political musical chairs, with tribal hopefuls stealing thrones from each other only to be swallowed by the black hole of historical oblivion. Jones sort of updates this to fascist Italy, says the Guardian, but to me it looked like the mob in the ’20s. Strangely, though, for all the update it still feels like way back when. In a good way.
Purely on a “let’s not do another story from the Big Book of Greek Myths” basis I welcome the librettist’s decision. I also welcome the presence of leading damsels who stand up to their oppressors. I mentioned before that a Baroque opera named after a woman means said woman is no shrinking violet. Rodelinda is possibly the most kick ass Baroque heroine (the line quoted in this post’s title is hers).
The Guardian review mentions “a dark vision of Handel” but I think it’s rather a dark subject matter, treated in an unexpectedly funny manner. I don’t know if my sense of humour is particularly bleak, but, omg, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard during a
Baroque opera production before, even during comedies. Surprise was a major factor. I attended this performance because I recently fell in love with the music but I found out there were so many hilarious moments and they were so cleverly placed as the night progressed, it was hard to keep track and generally not to snort.
As I was saying, I’ve only discovered this musically wonderful opera this year, with the livestreamed Madrid performance, featuring Crowe, Mehta, Zazzo and Prina, in Guth’s thougthful and sensitive production. Let me tell you, Jones’ 2014 production is not thoughtless by any means, but sensitive it is not. I liked Guth’s as well, but I would say this is more in keeping with the ethos of the Dark Ages.
As someone whose first language isn’t an operatic one and who has been introduced to the art form via operas in their supposed languages, it is always striking to hear an opera in a language that you instantly understand 100%. There is also the issue of translation. When you have a couple of lines that get repeated over 5min you/I really want a poetic translation. I quite struggled during Partenope on that account. Here the translation was also mostly to the point (except for a couple of arias) but the choreography was so clever it turned something potentially bland into the height of hilarity.
My favourite moment was Rodelinda’s aria where she tells Garibaldo just what she’s going to do to him after she is forced (by him) to marry her reprehensible stalker Grimoaldo. Whilst she’s singing, she and son Flavio are mimic-ing just what she has in mind and let me tell you, that was some imaginative(ly amusing) choreography to fill 3 to 5min.
Then we have metrosexual double agent Unulfo coming up with a plan to free Bertarido, in which he selects a gigantic meat cleaver from Garibaldo’s serial killer shed, whilst Eduige is busy unscrewing a window frame for easy transfer. Said meat cleaver returns to “haunt” Unulfo later, when Bertarido accidentally stabs him (repeatedly) with it, only to apologise profusely.
Unulfo (caughing blood): my lord, is that you? How handy with a sword you have become!
Bertarido (aghast): omg, I’m so sorry, Unulfo! How could I do this to you?! Let me press my jacket to your fatal wounds.
Unulfo (leaking entrails all over the floor): there is no time, my lord! You must save yourself and your loved ones!
Bertarido: but me must get you to the A and E!
Unulfo (crawling heroically, hands him the fatal meat cleaver): I’ll… be… fine!… Save… yourself!
But we’ve all figured out that Unulfo is devoted to the literal last breath, and although he’s more chopped liver than human by this point, he makes sure there is a happy ending – just not for him, sadly, as, forgotten by all, he collapses in the last scene. Dark Ages, eh? I know this sounds gruesome but it isn’t visually offensive.
Like I said, there is more, not the least the happy ending chorus, during which Rodelinda and Bertarido lock up Grimoaldo and Eduige, with Grimoaldo getting the meat cleaver treatment from Bertarido’s traumatised son Flavio (that one is going to need a lifetime of therapy; failing that, the serial killer shed is already set up).
So that’s 800 words on the production alone.
Musically I was surprised the Guardian reviewer felt Curnyn’s conducting occasionally lacked definition and impetus. I thought it was some of the best Baroque conducting I’ve heard in London. The orchestra, too, played beautifully and idiomatically, with the harpsichord (just right, volume-wise), oboe and strings particularly in good form; really nice interplay between the sections and with the singers (never overpowered).
Though a notch below the Madrid team (except for Davies = vastly superior to aging Chiummo), the singers were strong throughout and they also had a lot of stuff to do physically, more often than not requiring perfect timing with each other.
Bertarido’s entrance aria (Dove sei, amato bene) was rather uneven but Mead’s performance grew in strength over the evening (much better in his lament at having lost it all) and he still had enough energy to power through Vivi, tiranno (I saved you), or at least power it as much as possible given his countertenor-of-the-lyrical-kind voice. You really need a contralto for Eduige; a mezzo, no matter how experienced, is not the same. Above mentioned Davies rocked Garibaldo’s late aria in praise of gung-ho tyranny.
Io t’abbraccio (Ah, my beloved) wasn’t bad, Mead and Evans mixed well; all it needed was that extra bit of something. Lowrey did a very good job as general butt of jokes Unulfo (I didn’t even know this one had so many arias!), gamely coping with it all and showing top comedic skills (best moment: when he sings whilst holding the meat clever of doom, on which Eduige is writing a VERY long message to Bertarido – who subsequently reads it all in recit, much to everyone’s amusement). Imagine a metrosexual
holding propping up a giant, rusty meat cleaver like it’s dipped in poo.
Somewhat like Lowrey, Juan Sancho had to put up with a thankless role, in his case deconstructing evil into pathetic – his singing had something wistful to go with that. In fact, beyond the
cheapish laughs, Jones has once again given us a production that deals with (toxic) masculinity and which, interestingly, includes Eduige (and possibly Rodelinda herself) as a culprit. I was pleasantly surprised to see this dealt with here, after our discussion during and after the Madrid livestream. Here the big sign of the macho is getting a tattoo. Bertarido has one of Rodelinda on his arm (foreshadowing), Eduige has one of Grimoaldo on her back and Grimoaldo gets one of Rodelinda (whilst singing! I’m telling you, they get up to some stuff in this production). Rodelinda needs no tattoos to assert herself when she makes Grimoaldo an offer he can’t bring himself to accept.
Rodelinda: I’m ready to marry you…
Rodelinda: … on one condition.
Gariblado: she’s going to ask for my head!
Grimoaldo: … anything, except his head.
Rodelinda: pffft, who cares about that moron?
Grimoaldo: very good! What, then? Name it and you shall have it.
Rodelinda: in order to get the throne, you must kill my son, the rightful heir!
She even draws a big X in lipstick on her son’s chest whilst singing the taunting aria! Rodelinda is right out of Orange is the new Black, yo. So the “happy” ending comes less as a surprise.
I had a seat up in the gods (you can always get a row all to yourself up there, so you can move around as needed1, and it’s above the angle where you get the Balcony railing to block half of your view). London venues offer very good sound from their amphitheatre seats. Given this is the biggest of them all, I had time during the evening to re-think my usual position on big venues vs. Baroque. I now think it’s mostly down to acoustics and a thoughtful conductor. So there you go, big halls of the world, update your acoustics, hire a good conductor and bring on the Baroque, gruesome or not.
PS: ENO, I ❤ you. Please don’t screw yourself up any time soon. We need “people” like you.
- If, say, you get a tallish woman with a brazen bun in front of you. ↩
Remember this one? I posted parts I and II way back when in January 2014. Thanks to this performance I 1) got interested in Idomeneo, 2) realised I quite like Rene Jacobs as a conductor, 3) became interested in the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, 4) Theater an der Wien appeared on my radar in style. So whilst cleaning the cobwebs inside the vault I thought I should to put this last part out, even all this time later.
I care because you do, as Richard D. James would say. Thanks to some interest shown in Act I and II, I took pity on this production and went back to finishing Act III, most of which – you will weep – was already written in January. Yes, that’s right, I had it in my drafts just sitting there, gathering virtual dust. But I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to say about Andro ramingo (I’m still not sure) and the ending (dramatically; now I think meh) and I had to also watch it again because my attention drifted away from the extremely exciting production. And then a flurry of Clemenze completely distracted me for many months. We all know it’s game over for everything else when that happens.
- Idomeneo: Richard Croft
- Idamante: Gaelle Arquez
- Ilia: Sophie Karthauser
- Elettra: Marlis Petersen
- Arbace: Julien Behr
- Il Gran Sacerdoto di Nettuno: Mirko Guadagnini
Conductor: Rene Jacobs | Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 2013 | Freiburger Barockorcherster | Arnold Schoenberg Choir
So it’s only been what, 3 years+? Right. Back in January 2014 we left off where Nessie gets angry at the Cretans. But by Act III he’s lost some steam and the weather has improved, because Wolfie needed to shoe in a bit of lovin’. Monsters and storms are fun for a couple of acts. But what’s the use of having two young people of marriageable age in your opera if you won’t make them fall in love?
Act III starts with Zeffiretti lusinghieri. Up to this point I said barely anything about Ilia. SK started quite screechy but maybe that’s how the director wanted it or maybe it was nerves. I gave her time to come into her own but by now I know that I don’t particularly like her voice. It’s sort of run of the mill, her vibrato bothers me and I’m not one to call foul on its use. She’s not that lacking in technique just kind of meh in presentation.
Principessa, a tuoi sguardi… ah, s’io non moro a questi accenti isn’t bad. Arquez is coping very well with Idamante’s transporto. Ilia takes pity on Idamante, who is at the end of his tethers after being rejected by both father and the woman he loves. She admits to her feelings and tells the poor sod she actually shares his love. They launch into the gorgeous duet that is S’io non moro. It’s a sweet moment, where our hitherto doomed lovers are finally getting a bit of respite from all the gloom and mud. Tutto vince il nostro ardor, Arquez and K sound beautiful together – moving and delicate. (But now that I’ve been there a few times it’s really hard to imagine the stage at TADW as muddy as that!) Of course they get interrupted but at least now they know where they stand which is together.
Andro ramingo e solo – an unsual one, this ensemble. Idamante: I’ll go looking for death and I’ll find it (and after that I’ll write a long post about it in my (online) diary). Ilia: Me too, me too! I wanna go with you. Elettra: (mocking Ilia wordlessly) Me too, me too! Then she abuses a lone plant (standing for hope I guess) Ilia later cares for. Idomeneo: Somebody kill me! I can’t watch Nessie chomp on my son! All: I can’t take this anymore! Idamante gives his dad his jacket (to sing to?) and Idomeneo physically abuses him a bit. Hey, mister, you’ve been really tough on the youngster by which we know you mean you really love him. Idamante puts the jacket back on, ready to take on Nessie. Ilia takes off his jacket, because we all know he can’t leave without it.
Arbace mourns Sidon’s fate and goes on a bit of rampage of his own then sings his aria about saving the local royal family. Behr’s voice is pleasant but the aria ain’t all that.
Nice intro to the Gran Sacerdoto, who’s got a pleasantly sacerdotal voice. The chorus swings low and noble then the music goes on like this for quite a while.
Trumpets. The choir gets busy. Idomeneo wonders what’s going on. Arbace rushes in with the news that Idamante put on his power suit to face off with Nessie. Idomeneo isn’t sure his delicate son is cut out for hand-to-tentacle combat. Idamante tries to convince him how noble it is to save his people by handing in a son. They argue over idealism vs. paternal love. Ilia shows up and isn’t keen on this Idamante as sacrificial lamb deal. She offers herself. She and Idamante go back and forth outdoing each other on who’s more ready to die.
Creepy celestial womb rumbles, all stand to attention. Foetus ex machina speakth: Idoemeo’s humanity has been taken on board but as a manager he has failed. He’s fired. Idamante is replacing him as King of Crete effective immediately. Ilia shall marry him and to hell with Elettra’s plans.
She can’t take this dissing and flings herself about in mud with abandon. The wig comes off. No more Miss Ditzygirl, she’s feral now. Marlis Petersen, that was some taking one for the team. The entire crew owes you one for getting mud in your eyes whilst singing the best (known) aria from the opera. Jacobs offers gentle support and she copes (although she bypasses the second set of evil laughter), especially considering what she has to do but it’s not all that grand vocally. I don’t think Petersen holds back as much as she doesn’t have the vocal oomph for this aria. I might be among the few who thought this production was entirely miscast save for this bad motherfucker. I mean, HELL yea, that’s portraying your character. No need for mud there. Harteros is pretty damn good in the Salzburg production but not on that level of losing it. Then again, her timbre is the closest to how I envision Elettra. Good thing nature never tossed Behrens and Harteros together, the earth might cleave and swarms of locusts might obscure the sun. (this paragraph sounds amusing to me now but that’s what I thought at the time…)
All live happily ever after. The end, tnx bi. (By which I mean I don’t get whatever Michieletto is trying to say. If you do, please enlighten me. Some productions seem very hard to break through)
The ballet and chaconne at the end is some of my favourite music in the whole piece, though I can imagine it gives headaches to directors (and is often cut? luckily it was neither here nor at ROH later that year). Conclusion 2017: Jacobs and the Freiburger Barockochester, the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and Richard Croft rock. The tempi are great. The other singers are pretty good. There was another chance to see this in concert performance form at TADW earlier this year but I couldn’t be in two places at the same time 😦 Anyway, it’s really worth listening to.
Ow, ow, check out the chap banging out Parto on the piano 😦 so wrong. The starting tempo is too fast (what will we be doing by the cadenza? Rossini patter? – to be fair, he’s better at that point) and the setup for the initial partos is way too even and decisive. Decisive? Mr Pianoman, what the hell is this aria about? The subsequent lack of legato, the insensitive take on the clarinet line… 😦
To be fair, La Fleming is exclusively talking about sound production here (which is an interesting thing) and we all know what this aria is about so there’s not much loss. Also she thinks he’s good so maybe I’m talking bollocks. Still…