Thursday, October 31, 2013

Must see: Parsifal by Romeo Castellucci and Hartmut Haenchen

In the sea of theatrical mediocrity that we are offered to see at the opera houses these days, some gems still get to shine through.
Tcherniakov hits the cord every time he stages a new opera (he managed to sculpt the life-loving story out of Les Carmélites, render Il Trovatore not-racist, return Onegin the Russain romanticism,...); Warlikowski manages to tickle our subconsciousness by his thrillingly complex (emotionally and intellectually) productions; Bieito with his razor-sharp theatrical language finds and conveys a deeper and emotionally or socially engaging content of any given opera to his public. There are a few others that probably match these standards but not to this extent or not as consistently at that level as the above mentioned guys...

Romeo Castellucci is the other kind of gem. He is not an opera producer. He is a hard core avant-garde of today's theater and his take on Parsifal was very peculiar, philosophical, intellectually stimulating, deeply human(izing) and also spectacular [despite its  somewhat unspectacular ending]. It was one of the very few opera productions that remains with your for a very-very long time after the show, haunting your brain and your heart. *

Now, good news is that you can order a copy of DVD of that sensational production of Parsifal that I was more than happy to be able to see at La Monnaie/De Munt in 2011, and then blogged about here.  DVD is never a substitute for the real show but it is the best approximation we might have. I saw the DVD last night and I absolutely loved it although I have trouble focusing at my work today ;)
[Did I say that Anna Larson was by far the best Kundry of all time?!]

Trailer below.

Note that in June/July 2014 La Monnaie will give a new production of Orphée et Eurydice staged by Romeo Castellucci and with an amazing Stéphanie d'Oustrac in the role of Orphée. Do plan your trip to Brussels.

*) This is to date the only opera production signed Romeo Castellucci. If you get to see his "Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio", it is very engaging and deeply touching as well. Unfortunately, when it was given at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, it was a trigger for the protests of ultra-conservatives who organized the demonstrations in front of the theater every night so that the police special forces had to ensure the minimal security conditions for the shows to happen. The protesters were mostly politically manipulated by those who did not want to understand a deeper meaning of the content of the story but preferred to see the imagery that they found outraging. And yet that was one of the best evenings at a theater I have ever experienced in my life...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

La mort d'un grand homme

To me Patrice Chéreau will be remembered as one of the great men of 20th century theater, a man who embraced opera and elevated it to the heights that assured its status of gesamtkunstwerk  to our days. He will also be [and should be] remembered as a great man who had courage and intellectual audacity to take Wagner away from the hands of fascists & right wingnuts and show the world that The Ring can be interpreted in a radically new way, as to resonate with our time and with us.

He was one of the precursors of the modern day theatrical language in which theater offers a quality that no TV or cinema can offer; in which a pure human emotion transcends the limits of mostly poor operatic librettos thanks to his ability to distinguish those emotions and shape them on the stage in a very peculiar way (cf. his stagings of the two operas by Berg).

Naturally, the late Chéreau did not have that same vigor to defy the crowds of those who believe that "art must be beautiful" or that "the opera staging is about the colored tableaux", but still remained true to his art that we dearly loved and deeply respected.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Herheim's Critics

After many years I realized that a typical operagoer is conservative, self-absorbed and very superficial. Most of the critics are like that too, with a major difference that they go public with their opinions that are often unfounded or based on personal misunderstanding of what they could see.

Last night I was able to see the new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, directed by Stefan Herheim, and once again I was amazed by his [Stefan's] wittiness, dexterity, and his musicality in presenting any opera he decides to put on stage. If I had more time in the days to come I'll write a few paragraphs about the show.

This morning I just googled to see if the people saw the show and if they saw the masterful quality of the direction of the opera that includes a very awkward and cringeworthy monolog at the end. The first thing popped up on my google list was this review and after having read it I could not force myself to read anything else. It's the stupidity of that review that annoys me the most. In the same text the author --who qualifies this Meistersinger as 'confusing'-- astonished us by confessing that he actually liked Herheim's production of Parsifal - sic! How is that possible?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Macbetto di Monaco

Martin Kusej production of Macbeth is not one of my favorite but it is way above in quality when compared to the productions of this opera offered by The Met or the ROH -- sadly both available on DVD.
Last year I was lucky to see 2 superb production of this opera: one was staged by Ivo van Hoove and presented in Lyon, and another was the most delightful Peter Konwitschny production in Leipzig. Before that I was lucky to see the Richard Jones production in Lille (one of those Glyndebourne productions that didn't make it to DVD even though it was hugely more deserving than the awful Meistersinger or their very mediocre recent Don Giovanni, for example), and the next back in my memory is the Krzysztof Warlikowski production in Brussels that was one of my most astounding moments at the opera in general [which tells a lot since I'm not an unconditional fan of Verdi's work].

Two productions that I did not blog about and should be considered in the league with the show by  Richard Jones were the Dima Tcherniakov production presented in Paris (amazingly conducted by Teodor Currentzis!) and the Munich show staged by Martin Kusej. Tcherniakov production was very impressive, very clever, and very contemporary, but in the bulky sets the show somehow missed its target: it looks great on DVD though.  As for the Martin Kusej show, I remember I was very enthusiastic despite the critics that were fiercely trashing the show as not really adapted for the opera. Well, the opera critics are very conservative but I did not think that the modernity of the Kusej work disturbed them the most... You can judge it for yourself in less than an hour time when Macbeth will be live streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich on this link

 Cast: Zeljko Lucic, Nadja Michael, Wookyung Kim, Goran Juric, Emanuele D'Aguanno... Massimo Zanetti will conduct (hopefully well!)

It's from Macbeth despite being reminiscent scene from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Are you watching this?!

Konwitschny alert: Starting now (20:05 cet)

"Every seven years the Dutchman is allowed back on land. There this tepest-tossed creature can only be redeemed by a woman, Otherwise his endless odyssey continues. Will Senta be that woman? After all, she longs to break free from the confining world of her father. All he ever thinks about is money. Isn't the wealthy Dutchman just what the doctor ordered? Wagner's gripping early work: a psycho-thriller of operatic literature. Peter Konwitschny has already provoked audiences to delight and disgust with his spectacular Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde productions. This Munich Holländer is something you just "have" to see. A sea and see journey on the waves of the orchestra."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

D'Oreste, d'Ajace ho in seno i tormenti

In a few hours will begin the premiere of Idomeneo at the Frankfurt Oper, directed by our 'new' fave Jan Philipp Gloger. His production of Le Nozze di Figaro made big waves in German press despite the fact that it was staged at theater of a lesser prestige (in Augsburg and Heibronn), which proved once again that "prestigious" is most often misleading [if not even meaningless] as far as the quality of  productions is concerned.

Oper Frankfurt

Then came that divine production of Alcina in Dresden that I still hold for one of the most wonderful productions I've seen. I unfortunately did not see his Flying Dutchman that opened the Festival in Bayreuth last year [it will be streamed next August, btw].

And so today is la prima of his fourth big show this time at the Frankfurt Oper -- the house twice voted the best opera house in Europe in the past 5 years; maybe less prestigious but definitely the top tier in terms of quality of productions AND of musical performances.

Too many favorable elements converged: one of my favorite operas, produced by one of my top-directors, performed in an auditorium of fantastic acoustic quality...  and so the temptation was just too big for me to resist and I TGV-ed to this snowy and freezing city to see this new Idomeneo. Let's hope Julia Jones will be good conducting and the rest will be cool.

The production that buzzed my brain for almost a month after the show was the one at the Komische Oper in Berlin directed by Benedikt Von Peter, which must be one of the most profoundly staged opera shows ever. Benedikt is now the general director of Theater Bremen but we hope he will soon resume directing operas too...

OK, Mozart's Idomeneo -- version Gloger with elettrifying Elza van den Heever, in a few... .

Edit: Superb show - JPG is already a top-8 director; excellent cast (Elza & Roberto rocked, others were great too). More tomorrow...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lucrezia Borgia with Elena Mosuc and Charles Castronovo [the best belcanto duo in business?!]

Lucrezia Borgia, Cirque Royal in Brussels, March 3rd 2013

Director ..... Guy Joosten
Conductor ..... Julian Reynolds

Don Alfonso ..... Paul Gay
Donna Lucrezia Borgia ..... Elena Mosuc
Gennaro ..... Charles Castronovo
Maffio Orsini ..... Silvia Tro Santafé
Jeppo Liverotto ..... Roberto Covatta
Don Apostolo Gazella ..... Tijl Faveyts
Ascanio Petrucci ..... Jean-Luc Ballestra
Gubetta ..... Jean Teitgen
Rustighello ..... Alexander Kravets
Astolfo ..... Justin Hopkins
Oloferno Vitellozzo ..... Stefan Cifolelli
Usciere ..... Alain-Pierre Wingelinckx
Un coppiere ..... Gerard Lavalle

Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ROH 2013-2014

I did not mention the 2013-2014 season in GTL Barcelona simply because there was nothing really new or interesting to mention, except that the Dima Tcherniakov production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya --premiered last year in Amsterdam-- will be remounted in Barcelona, with our beloved Svetlana Ignatovich singing [plan a trip to La Rambla in April 2014! ]

As expected, Kasper Holten continues reanimating the Royal Opera House, and with his team they propose a very promising 2013-2014 season.
You cannot get rid of all the bad productions in just two years and so he kept the old disposable CarmenTraviataTosca...  on the program. Importantly, however, the pitiful Don Giovanni will be replaced by the new production staged by Holten himself. Amen to that!

One of the underrated Verdi operas --that I really like-- Les Vêpres siciliennes will be on the program in 2013,  directed by Stefan Herheim (no less!) The last show in the run will be live broadcast to the cinemas around the world.

New Parsifal directed by Stephen Langridge could be interesting too [curiosity factor = 80/100], and the Claus Guth production of Die Frau ohne Schatten is not to be missed: it comes from Milan where it was recently premiered and enthusiastically acclaimed by pretty much everyone.

Finally, Maria Stuarda will be intelligently staged (just hope Leiser & Caurier do not decide to make it too dark) and definitely worth a trip [Elena Mosuc will be missed in the cast though].

All casts look very good on the paper [happy to see that the phenomenal Alfred Kim will make his house-debut]. The only snag is that John Daszak (one of the very best opera singers today) is only proposed a tiny role (Aegistus in Elektra): that (English)man is a living treasure for any relevant 21st century opera stage -- he sings AND acts like no one out there.

 N.B. that Eurostar often proposes good deals to frequent travelers

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eugene Onegin: Praise Kasper Holten

Could it be that Kasper Holten [the author of arguably the best Ring production to date] is bringing a wind of change to the tired Royal Opera House that after so many tepid shows --Don Carlo, Carmen, Roméo et Juliette, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Tamerlano, La Traviata, and even Les Troyens... -- finally comes up with something more challenging, creative, smart and passionate?!
I most definitely hope so, and my hope was growing bigger after I read a few ultra-conservative media discussing what they recently saw in London [e.g. this].

Old remorseful Onegin standing next to a young desperate Lensky who will romantically die the next day

The recently premiered Kasper Holten production of Eugene Onegin, after its run at the ROH, will travel to Turin where it will be presented in May this year and then it will move to Australia.

I would have missed this amazing show --which was a major European operatic event of the first trimester in 2013-- if it was not broadcast to the selected cinemas across Europe. To be honest, the super-expensive seats for a rather unimpressive production of Ring des Nibelungen in London last fall significantly reduced my interest in live shows at the ROH. This Eugene Onegin had precisely the opposite effect on me  [eagerly waiting the list of the new ROH productions in 2013-2014].

So thanks to whoever decided the ROH would broadcast this show [last year's Tosca was truly dreadful].

Jenufa from Munich

If you saw more than one production of this excellent opera, then this Barbara Frey production will most probably not be your favorite one, but since Karita Matila is singing the title role and this opera is musically really magnificent... I would like to invite you all to watch the today's show that will be live streamed from Munich on this link starting from 19:00 (cet).

Our faves Stefan Margita and Ales Briscein will sing the roles of Laca and Steva respectively. Tomasz Hanus (conductor) can be great or wobbly, so let's hope for the best and enjoy the show!

Trailer  attached below

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Does anyone listen?

"Trying to reproduce pure historical reality is an illusion. We don't know exactly how opera was at the end of the 18th century. We only have images from the last 70 or 80 years. We have a duty to transpose the work to the present,"

Michael Haneke 
prior to the premiere of his second --which will also be his last-- opera production
Cosi fan tutte at Teatro Real in Madrid

Friday, March 1, 2013

An extraordinary performance

D'amour l'ardente flamme is a notoriously difficult aria from La damnation de Faust by Hector Berlioz. In a slow pace, Tugan Sokhiev remarkably conducted his orchestra and the phenomenal Olga Borodina who delivered one of the reference renditions of this aria.

Красивая Ольга!

One could nitpick about her pronunciation, but this is vocally huge.
Concert version of the opera was given in Paris and in Vienna.
Video attached below is from the concert given at Musikverein Wien.


The Met 2013-2014

No, it is not that the recently presented Met productions are worse than those presented before. It is just that the standards remained the same as they were in the 80s, 90's, 00s. Somewhat surprisingly The Met refused to embrace the change in opera by preferring to label as Eurotrash anything that would be a slight theatrical attempt to elevate opera to the new artistic heights. And so while the others moved on, The Met continued with the same old static, no-brainer, uninteresting shows created only to entertain the most conservative part of the opera aficionados [recent such examples that I could see were Il Trovatore, Don Giovanni, (Faust), Carmen, Capriccio, Boris Godunov, Maria Stuarda, ...].

There were attempts to cross the line and bring a bit of life to the creative process, and even though some of the new shows were really bad [e.g. Sonnambula, Ring, Armida] they revealed something important & positive -- that the house's artistic management wanted to take risks but was just too afraid to really go for it [instead of N snoozefests directed by Bartlett Sher,  they could have given a chance to a bundle of talent -- Thaddeus Strassberger (also American), for example]. In any case, even these failed attempts to create something new are to be preferred to the old mothball events such as La Bohème by Zeff...

Happily, however, there are some rare but true gems  -- c.f. the new & currently running Parsifal (tomorrow in the movies!)

The Met's 2013-2014 program  indicates a big improvement as it announces the arrival of two great directors: (a) Deborah Warner who will present her take on Eugene Onegin [with Anna Netrebko singing, the event should be a winner], and (b) the über-talented Dima Tcherniakov who will most probably be viciously booed for his staging of Prince Igor, but like all of his productions this will provide a breath of fresh air to the house. Yours Truly is tempted to go to NYC for  the premiere despite the fact that one show in the run will be live broadcast in the cinemas worldwide.

You could nitpick about a few names missing in the casts but overall it is the top notch, as you would expect it to be from The Met's artistic management.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

De Nederlandse opera 2013-2014

While mentioning the best opera houses in the world I forgot to mention the Zurich Opernhaus which now --under Andreas Homoki-- should be making strides of improvement. But this post is about those big opera houses that are steadily great, and superbly run by Pierre Audi -- De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam -- the house that I relatively frequently visit and love dearly.

For 2013-2014 they are proposing a top-notch cast for the revival of their Ring des Nibelungen, but more importantly they propose five new productions, including Armide/Glück [one of my fave operas] directed by Barrie Kosky, and The Gambler staged by Andrea Breth, with Marc Albrecht conducting and the phenomenal John Daszak in the cast. Their new Faust might be very interesting too: a superb cast lead by the most exciting singer right now, Sonya Yoncheva; good guy from La Fura (Àlex Ollé) will  direct and always brilliant Marc Minkowski will conduct.

The DNO production of Lucia di Lammermoor is one of a few that are worth seeing. Good news is that their show will be back on stage in 2014. Soooo....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Teatro Real in Madrid 2013-2014

Together with La Monnaie/De Munt and a few German opera houses, and thanks to a remarkable work by Gerard Mortier, Teatro Real in Madrid is nowadays among the best --if not the very best-- opera house in Europe.

For its interior it was the most beautiful opera house since quite some time, but now it is also artistically the most amazing opera theater we have around. Even though their 2013-2014 will begin with a mediocre production of Il Barbiere, everything that comes after that is brilliant.

See below

Paris Opera 2013-2014

After a couple of really bad years at the Paris Opera, a glimpse over the 2013-2014 makes you think: OK, it's less bad than before. Revivals are more often than not well done in Paris, so I won't say much except encourage everyone to go and see a wonderful production of La Clemenza di Tito with a wonderful Stéphanie d'Oustrac, and the superb Warlikowski production -- The Makropulos Affair.

I like Robert Carsen, but seriously... Out of 8 new production at the OdP, two of them [Elektra & Zauberflöte] are staged by Carsen, whose Capuleti and Alcina will be revived too!
Olivier Py too is supposed to come up with two new production [Alceste & Aida].

No younger directors, no contemporary opera, revivals of the embarrassingly bad Cosi and Italiana...

New Traviata by Benoît Jacquot will most probably be a tepid sellout  show [smt like the awful  ROH production by Eyre]... If we cannot be entirely enthused by the list of conductors, overall  --and modulo a few exceptions-- the lineup is good. I like the casts for the most part [YAY for Sonya Yoncheva and Jochen Schmeckenbecher!]. 

To stay positive, on the paper, it looks as if the operatic program at the ONP is improving.

see below...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thank You Denmark

For Borgen, for The Hunt, for A Royal Affair, for Adam's Apples, for Kapringen, for the insuperable actor Mads Mikkelsen, or the phenomenal Pilou Asbaek and Sidse Babett Knudsen, for the immeasurably talented Thomas Vinterberg, for Lars von Trier (who sees the deepest corners of the human soul)...

Tak Danmark for saving film from the aggressive commercial mediocrity and socially/culturally damaging propaganda.  You're the island of hope!

On the same note --but independently from Denmark-- thank you Michael Haneke for Amour.

I'm halfway through Borgen S02 and it is enriching in more than one way. Excellent filming, acting, amazing intellectual content, decent depth of arguments, openness to the 21st century, and despite the main theme the fact that they resisted at every stage to dive into nationalism or cheap self-celebration is praise-worthy...  -- great great stuff: one of the best TV shows of this genre ever.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Les Contes d'Hoffmann on La Rambla

The (re)new production of Les contes d'Hoffmann, directed by Laurent Pelly, is finishing its run tonight [Saturday, Febr 23rd 2013] at the Grand Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and the brilliant Mezzo TV will be live broadcasting this last show to us.

Pelly proved to be particularly doué for staging the works by Offenbach so this may well be a treat for all opera aficionados. Merci Mezzo!

In addition to always excellent conductor, Stéphane Denève, the top-notch cast includes Michael Spyres, Laurent Naouri, Michèle Losier, Natalie Dessay, Kathleen Kim, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Susana Cordón, Salomé Haller...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Calixto Bieito is a genius!

I'm watching the Munich production of Boris Godunov directed by Calixto Bieito --that I DVRed while I was at the theater attending the Martin Kusej show-- and it looks to me as a 'scary sequel' of his [Calixto's] take on Der Fliegende Holländer.
I'll probably throw in a few paragraphs about this gem when I finish watching it but as of now I just wanted to unleash one more time "Calixto Bieito is a freaking genius!"

He is a good man, humanist to the core, a man with a huge heart, with a big pair... , and with a subtle ear for every human state or emotion.

I am also glad the Bayerische Staatsoper (BSO) finally scores a big show.
The advantage of the BSO over the other big opera houses is that they're constantly trying to explore various theatrical styles, which means taking risks all the time. Unfortunately, several of their recent new productions fell flat, but this one grandly compensates for all those unhappy outcomes.  [I love the cast too!] I believe this is the first great BSO show since Mitridate [if I don't count The Ring]. So, congrats to BSO from their old fan!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Good Shows Alert

  1. Mezzo TV will live broadcast the new production of Boris Godunov from Munich, tonight (Wed, Feb 20, 2013) starting from 19:00. The show is produced by Calixto Bieito (with Rebecca Ringst!) which should be a guarantee that the show will be a bright spot in the sea of mediocrity of what is currently produced in operahouses worldwide. The cast is good as ever (always high Bayerische Staatsoper standards), and his greatness Kent Nagano will be conducting. 

  2.  The Perfect American, opera by Ph. Glass, was recently created at Teatro Real in Madrid [one of the top 3-4 Opera Houses in Europe today]. Christopher Purves --who we can never admire enough-- sings the role of Walt Disney and the rest of the cast is very good. Directed by Phelim Mc Dermott (to discover!), this opera to see was conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. Here are the links to Arte-LiveWeb and Medici-tv.

  3. La Monnaie/De Munt --a.k.a. the best opera house in Europe  [although Berlin, Madrid, Dresden, Lyon, Zurich... boast terrific opera houses too]-- completed the run of their new production of Manon Lescaut which is now available for free viewing on this link [until March 3rd].  Opportunity to see a show produced by Mariusz Trelinski (one more Polish talent!)
    OK, Puccini is cheesy with too much pathos to take, but that mixture is diluted by a high quality of direction and the superb singing by Eva Maria Westbroek and Brandon Jovanovich. So do give it a go! 

  4. Usually I would not encourage anyone with IQ>80 to go to cinema,  pay for one of very pricey seats just to see a broadcast --live from The Met-- of one of The Met's catastrophic recent productions (better go to a restaurant or donate to charity). A few exceptions happen, however, and those are usually the shows co-produced with Opéra de Lyon: The Nose, From the House of the Dead, and now Parsifal.  Although the cast is unlikely to match the brilliance of the show presented in Lyon, it should be brilliant too in its own way [btw, why do they push Kaufmann to sing Wagner?] and the François Girard production is truly great -- perhaps not the Castellucci kind of great, or the Herheim kind great, but great for totally different reasons. Daniele Gatti conducts! So, do try and go to your local theater and see this gem: live broadcast is scheduled for Sat, March 2nd at 18:00 (cet).

From the Calixto Bieito production of Boris Godunov presented at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich

Pour les parisiens: En ce moment --et pendant seulement quatre jours-- vous pouvez voir  Der Weibsteufel [Le diable fait femme] à l'Odéon Théâtre de l'Europe. C'est un spectacle mis en scène par Martin Kusej et la production vient du Residenztheater à Munich... A ne surtout pas louper!