Monday, 12 November 2007

Gleanings from this month's Opera magazine

Jessica Duchen introduces Korngold's Wunder der Heliane which the LPO are doing on Nov 21st. This is one of these overblown symbolist laden plots where I sometimes think I'd be better off not knowing what's going on and just sit back and listen to the music.

And Nicola LeFanu introduces her mother, Elizabeth Maconchy's operatic output. Independent Opera are doing a double bill of Maconchy's works this week at Sadlers Wells. Rather poignantly, the libretto of The Sofa is by Ursula Vaughan Williams, who died recently.

Lilian Baylis always makes good copy:-
'Now then you bounders, I know you enjoy Faust and Torvatore, but you've jolly well got to like these other things we do for you or we shall have to shut up shop.'
In her article on Baylis, Elizabeth Schafer refers to Joan Cross's unpublished autobiography. From the bits quoted it sounds fascinating and I would hope we could have it published. Another source was the Old Vic/Sadlers Wells magazine; articles by Ethel Smyth on opera in England (was it a wash out), Edward Dent on Rossini and an introduction to the first English production of The Snow Maiden.

Rose Bampton has died. You might not know her name, but she was 99, a remarkably link with a bygone age. She sang alongside Ponselle and gave the New York premiere of Barber's Dover Beach.

In New York, Gerard Mortier has published news of his first season at NYCO (Rakes Progress, Francis of Assisi, Einstein on the Beach, Nixon in China and Death in Venice with Ian Bostridge. All very 20th century but nothing to really frighten the horses. Mortier has also said that he's not interested in taking NYCO into the Cinema (like the Met) but opera houses should be taking people out of the cinema and into the opera house. Quite So!

A 21st century opera, Margaret Garnier, made its way to New York. But Martin Bernheimer describes it as another let's pretend modern opera for people who hate modern opera.

In St. Louis, there was a gala for Colin Graham, including an old St. Louis discovery, Syliva McNair. She seems to be retired from opera which is a shame. One of those talented, where-did-they-go people. The new opera at St. Louis was another versio of Anna Karenina with a libretto by Graham. Graham emphasised less the social drama and more Levin's philosophical musings - probably not what people want when they think of Anna Karenina.

In Australia, Deborah Jones was less than convinced by Previn's A Street car Named Desire, commenting that it might have been better not to have set Blanche's famous phrase to music, leaving it spoken. Still, I'd have liked to have heard Yvonne Kenny in the role. Jones also felt that the word setting was 'uncongenial or the vocal line too high for comfortable apprehension'. Quite. Another plus seems to have been seeing Teddy Tahu Rhodes's washboard stomach!

In Vienna, a production of Le Nozze di Figaro centred round a football team, where do these ideas come from.

Over in Halle, the annual Handel Festival has finished. Again I've not been, though always mean to. The performances of Riccardo Primo with Lawrence Zazzo, Geraldine McGreevy and Nuria Rial sound as if they were well worth catching. Stephen Lawless's production of Ariodante was set on what seems to have been comic book Scotland. Still it did have Caitlin Hulcup in the title role and Gillian Keith as Ginevra. Bernd Hoppe and I seem to disagree over Christopher Robson in the old ENO production, so I'm not sure whether his approbation of Axel Köhler is good or bad.

Over in Potsdam they were enterprisingly doing Purcell's King Arthur and Lampe's The Dragon of Wantley. The productions sound as if they were promising, I think the Purcell was brought to England and played at the newly restored Theatre Royal in Bury St. Edmunds. The reviewer mentions another Lampe opera, Margery, or A Worse Plague than the Dragon, now I wonder what that's like?

Chris Merritt seems to have made a brief reappearance at Pesaro. The reviewer mentions his early career there in Rossini and then his later career in character roles. But the linking between this is, I think, a foray into bigger more dramatic tenor roles which may not have been entirely sound. Still the production of Otello, the Rossini one, did have Juan Diego Florez in it even if his wig was awful (and it doesn't look to bad in the photo.)

Max Loppert's review of the Robert Carsen Ring is interesting. Hugh Canning loved it when it was in Cologne, but Loppert disliked the Venice incarnation. Always a fascinating problem, do the 2 of them simply disagree or was there a fault in translation from Cologne to Venice. Sharing and borrowing productions can often be a tricky business and in a new atmosphere, things which previously worked no longer seem to.

Back in London, We Hear That... holds forth the promise of lots of Handel in London; David Daniels as Jonathan in ENO's new Saul, Rosemary Joshua in ENO's new Partenope directed by Christopher Alden and Graham Vick doin Tamerlano with Chrisianne Stotijn at Covent Garden. Quite wonderful. Also in London, Jonathan Miller is doing a new La Boheme in 2009 for ENO. It doesn't seem that long since the present one was new.

Susan Graham is going to be doing her first Marschalling, in Houston, and Renee Fleming will be doing Rossini's Armida at the Met.

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