Thursday 1 June 2006

This month in Opera magazine

A number of interesting things in this month’s Opera magazine. I’ve just reviewed a disc of Judith Weir’s music, so it was interesting to read Julian Grant’s article on her operas. I’ve always felt that she was under used by our opera companies and hope that the recent spate of performances of her operas in the UK means that we might hope to see more of her work on the bigger stage.

Reading about Peter Jonas’s time at ENO and Munich makes laudatory reading, until I remember that when Jonas left, ENO possessed a significant number of productions that I would not want to take my mother to; I particularly remember the Traviata with Helen Field in the title role, a Pountney production I think. And Jonas’s devotion to baroque opera at Munich has always looked mouthwatering until I look at the producers. I saw production photos of Richard Jones’s Julius Caesar and certainly could not cope with Anne Murray in a kilt and large plastic dinosaurs on stage! But that might be me jumping to conclusions again, after all I do enjoy the David Alden Ariodante at ENO (we’re going tonight to see it, with Alice Coote in the title role). Quite often I find that cutting edge productions of opera seria don't pay enough attention to the conventions of the genre; if you subvert convention sufficiently then the entire structure become meaningless.

Interesting movements on the conductor front. Mark Wrigglesworth is going to La Monaie in 2008; a great opportunity for him, but a loss for a UK house. There again the amazingly talented and amazingly young Robin Ticciati (we saw him recently conducting the Salomon Orchestra) is taking over as Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour. Alas, he’s not conducting the Cosi van Tutte which we’re seeing in Norwich in Novemeber.

Hugh Canning’s profile of Soile Isokoski makes an interesting point. Evidently she learned many of her early roles in Finnish at the Finnish National Opera and Canning feels that singers who learn roles in the native language first become the most rounded and perceptive interpreters of the roles when they move to the original language. Discuss!!!

Dessau mounted a new production of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahogonny. The role of Jenny Hill was sung by Stefanie Wüst, who studied with both Edith Mathis and Gisela May; a remarkably combination that would seem to make Ms. Wüst perfect for this sort of part. I still treasure the time when, in 1988 on a visit to Berlin with the Pink Singers we visited East Berlin and saw the Berliner Ensemble in Mother Courage, with Paul Dessau’s original music and with Gisela Mai in the title role. Fabulous, even though I could only understand one word in three.

A production of Das Rheingold in Thailand with the gods displayed using Thai imagery. Part of a planned complete cycle. Sounds fascinating, O please, someone bring it to Europe!

A bizarre quote from John von Rhein in his review of Gluck’s Orfeo from Chicago. Harry Bicket resisted the temptation to turn the reduced orchestra into a period band, enforcing proper articulations, balances and transparency of texture while keeping things moving along lightly and crisply. Well that sounds like period performance practice to me.

Most curious casting. Jane Eaglen as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus! Not a complete success I gather, but she’d have work really hard to match the spectacle of Dame Gwynneth Jones singing the Csardas (on a TV programme). Pity the review was not enamoured because it sounded like interesting casting. The sort of thing that works on paper but does not always come off in practice I suppose.

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