Sunday 6 January 2008

Gleanings from this month's Opera magazine

Gleanings from this Month's Opera Magazine.

David Grant writes in the Letters page that he is producing a new, Urtext, edition of Wallace's Maritana. Evidently the original, some 150 minutes of music, has not been heard for over 150 years. It will be interesting to compare this version (due to be published in time for the bicentenary in 2012) with that which has been recorded on Marco Polo (with Majella Cullagh in the title role), where the entire set lasts some 110 minutes or so.

Susan Bullock, having successfully stood in for Lisa Gasteen in the Covent Garden Ring, has 3 further Ring Cycles (not in London!), her first Kundry and is recording Salome (for Chandos in English I believe). So, when do we get to hear her Brunnhilde in London?

Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking has made it to Vienna. Christopher Norton Welsh is very sympathetic to the opera, though a Viennese critic has dismissed it as well-crafted film music. I have my own prejudices about the piece, but until we get to hear a fully staged production in London then it will be a bit difficult to tell. But Martin Bernheimer has come out against Barber's Vanessa. I must confess to have missed the concert performances of this opera in London so can't comment. But loved Bernheimer's comment that 'the music seems redolent of cheap perfume, wrong-note harmonies and orchestral busy-music supporting vocal indulgence amid knowing nods to Puccini and Strauss'. At the New York performances Rosalind Elias (Erika 48 years ago) was the Baroness, quite a lineage.

Over in Prague, they have just heard their first Norma in 70 years, rather amazingly. Another amazing gap, the producer Nikolaus Lehnhoff hasn't worked at Bayreuth since being on of Wieland Wagner's assistants in the 1960's. Considering that Lehnhoff is one of the major Wagner producing talents of our day, this is rather striking.

Over in the Deutsche Oper, Berlin they have performed Richard Strauss's Elektra along with Vittorio Gnecchi's rather fascinating 1905 prequel, Cassandra. A fascinating idea.

In Munich, the ideas were less fascinating. A new production of Eugene Onegin where Onegin and Lensky are depicted as a homosexual couple. Nice idea, except that that music just does not seem to go there. Evidently the Act 3 Polonaise was danced by a corps de ballet of bar-chested gay cowboys (inspired by Brokeback Mountain.) Eh?

Hugh Canning, in Amsterdam for Pierre Audi's cycle of the 3 Monteverdi Operas was suitably impressed. He refers to the 1978 Zurich Opera performances of the 3 in Ponnelle's productions, I think implying that it was the last time he heard all 3 in a cycle in strong productions. I saw the 1978 productions, and the Orfeo has stayed in my memory ever since.

Andrew Porter mused about adding music to a major dramatic text, and whether you need to do major surgery to the text before musick-ing it. This was in the context of Boesman's Miss Julie, which doesn't do violence to the text. But Porter's review gives the impression that the result is not quite an opera. I have always had a feeling of the unsatisfactoriness of operas where the text is set verbatim.

George Loomis, in his review of Max Emmanuel Cenci's aria disc, that Rossini wrote only 1 role for a castrato. In fact, it is curious to associate Rossini with castrati at all, making you realise how long his career is and how long they lasted on the opera scene. Loomis also comments on the casting of counter-tenors in roles in Baroque operas where the original was written for a woman. I have often wondered about this and have hankerings to buy yet another recording of Solomon so that I can have a woman singing the role rather than a counter-tenor.

Finally, in the We hear that.. column. Martin Duncan is directing the first British production of Martinu's Mirandolina at Garsington in 2009. Then in 2010 Angela Gheorghui is doing Adriana Lecouvreur, I can't wait. Della Jones is returning to ENO as Auntie in 2009, she has been woefully underused there in recent years. I wish she was doing something more than Auntie. Richard Jones is doing The Gambler at Covent Garden in 2010. Having seen it at Grange Park then I look forward to seeing John Tomlinson as the General. Tomlinson is also doing Sir Morosus in Schweigsame Frau with Toby Spence as Henry, but you'll have to go to Munich to enjoy it.

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