In the absence of any operas to attend, I’ve been reading the most recent defence of ‘director’s opera’, a book with the characteristic title Unsettling Opera, by the American academic David J. Levin.
It is characteristic of Wagner’s operas, in their remarkable urgency and depth, that initially one thinks they are dealing with one or another opposition, for instance, Power versus Love in the Ring, only to find, as one gets further into them, that they are very much more complicated than that, and often that what seems to be their subject matter is not what actually is.
Semyon Bychkov has rather unspectacularly become one of the world’s most sought after conductors, and at present he is in London to conduct a series of performances of Wagner’s now least often staged canonical opera, Tannhäuser, at the Royal Opera House.
Having been away, I only got to Alexander Raskatov’s opera A Dog’s Heart at its fifth performance by ENO, by which time everyone knew that it was brilliantly mounted, but not of much musical substance.
The subtitle of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is ‘Il dissoluto punito’ (the rake punished), that of Rossini’s La Cenerentola is ‘La bontà in trionfo’ (goodness triumphant), while Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea might well be subtitled ‘Vice rewarded’.
When is a country-house opera not a country-house opera? When it no longer has a country house attached. This is what is about to happen to Garsington Opera, which is moving, lock, stock, barrel and picnic basket, from the exquisitely planned and intimate gardens of the Bloomsbury-redolent Garsington Manor near Oxford to the wide-open rolling hills of the Wormsley Estate in nearby Buckinghamshire.
Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, his biggest success, dating from 1902, leads a fringe existence, but it persists thanks primarily to the name role, dramatically meaty and not imposing too great a strain on the performer.
Don Giovanni is an opera which gives plenty of scope for alternative interpretations, as has been very clearly demonstrated in the past 30 or so years, since directors took over as the determining force in productions.
Jonas Kaufmann’s ascent to the position of the leading German lyric-dramatic tenor has been surprisingly gradual. I first saw him in Edinburgh in 2001, giving a Lieder recital in the Queen’s Hall, and was immediately astonished that I hadn’t heard of him before. For the next few years, I heard him there in more recitals, and in concert performances of Der Freischütz, Capriccio and culminating as Walther in Die Meistersinger in 2006.
The Royal Opera last revived its production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette ten years ago, with what were then known as the lovebirds, Gheorghiu and Alagna, who imparted their own kind of glamour to the work.
It’s been too long since I saw The Merry Widow. I have been thinking that for some time, and the superb new production of it by Opera North only made me feel that we should be able to go to more performances of it than we get a chance to. It has been newly and wittily translated by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, and the production is in the safe hands of Giles Havergal, with set and costume designs by Leslie Travers.
The more often I see Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, the more I am bewildered and fascinated by it.
Promised EndLinbury Studio, in rep until 16 NovemberRadamistoEnglish National Opera, in rep until 4 November‘There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions and interests our curiosity.
Any seasoned opera-goer is likely to have had the experience of attending a performance where most things are right, but the overall impression is dismal; and also where, even more puzzlingly, most things are wrong but somehow the total effect is good or even overwhelming.
Hänsel und Gretel
Royal Albert Hall
While I was living in Tokyo, a Japanese girl friend of mine fell in love with a British investment banker.
You are celebrated as the architect of one of the most famous buildings in the world, now in your late eighties and living quietly in your home outside Copenhagen.
There is a slightly odd but pleasingly old-fashioned feel to the design for the dustjacket of this book, with its early London Underground style of lettering and a painting of the Coliseum at night, as viewed from Trafalgar Square, in 1905 — some decades before the building became home to English National Opera.
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