Showing posts from June, 2010

I. U. [Heart] at The Third Line, Dubai

Something completely different: this post has nothing to do with opera. It's a text I wrote in the run-up to the exhibition I.U. [Heart] at The Third Line gallery in Dubai, opening on June 23, 2010.

Iranian contemporary art: a view from Europe…

It’s convenient for us to pigeonhole countries we don’t know with a handful of stereotypical attributes. Relatively few people in the West, whether interested in art or not, have a mental picture of Iran that goes beyond the caricature conveyed by the media: a repressive, murderous Islamic republic, enemy of the West and bona fide member of America’s “Axis of Evil,” ruled by elderly, bearded imams and a vociferous, unpredictable president, possibly mad and capable, it seems, of making the wildest claims regardless of the intelligence of his audience.

The first reaction to Iranian contemporary art is often just surprise that it exists at all: there were no white-walled contemporary art galleries in that mental picture we had of Tehran.

The seco…

Rossini - La Donna del Lago

Friday June 18 2010

Conductor: Roberto Abbado. Production: Lluís Pasqual. Sets: Ezio Frigerio. Lighting: Vinicio Cheli. Costumes Franca Squarciapino. Giacomo V (Uberto di Snowdon): Juan Diego Florez. Duglas d’Angus: Simon Orfila. Rodrigo di Dhu: Colin Lee. Elena: Joyce DiDonato. Malcolm Groeme: Daniela Barcellona. Albina: Diana Axentii. Serano: Jason Bridges. Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

It's a brave (or foolhardy) house that schedules a killer work like La Donna del Lago. How to stage it these days is a trivial question beside that of how to cast it. The Paris Opera has put together about the best cast you could hope for (the next morning I listened to Pollini's recording; in the comparison, only Ramey came across as better) but even so, it was a case of "safety in numbers." The ensembles, from duets upwards, were less precarious than the solo arias because, plucky though everyone was, nobody was wholly at ease, wholly consistent throughout the range, (understand…

Wagner - Die Walküre

ONP Bastille, Wednesday June 16 2010

Conductor: Philippe Jordan. Production: Günter Krämer. Sets: Jürgen Bäckmann. Costumes: Falk Bauer. Lighting: Diego Leetz. Siegmund: Robert Dean Smith. Hunding: Günther Groissböck. Wotan: Thomas Johannes Mayer. Sieglinde: Ricarda Merbeth. Brünnhilde: Katarina Dalayman. Fricka: Yvonne Naef. Gerhilde: Marjorie Owens. Ortlinde: Gertrud Wittinger. Waltraute: Silvia Hablowetz. Schwertleite: Wiebke Lehmkuhl. Helmwige: Barbara Morihien. Siegrune: Helene Ranada. Grimgerde: Nicole Piccolomini. Rossweisse: Atala Schöck. Ortlinde: Gertrud Wittinger. Orchestra of the Opéra National de Paris.
You’d hardly have guessed this Walküre was in the same series as the Rheingold that went before. For a start, the singing was much better - so I’ve been lucky with Wagner in the last couple of weeks. As for the production, apart from “Germanja” in giant gothic letters (more later), most of the other gimmicks had gone: instead of bulging muscle suits and plastic breasts, Wot…

Debussy - Pelléas et Mélisande

Opéra Comique, Paris, Monday June 14 2010.

Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Production & sets: Stéphane Braunschweig. Costumes: Thibault Vancraenenbroeck. Lighting: Marion Hewlett. Pelléas: Phillip Addis. Mélisande: Karen Vourc'h. Golaud: Marc Barrard. Arkel: Markus Hollop. Geneviève: Nathalie Stutzmann. Yniold: Dima Bawab. Accentus choir. Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

“I'm not a great fan of Pelléas. I don’t listen to it at home, but it works for me in the theatre if grabbed firmly by the scruff of the neck and given a good shake, as it were: plenty of drama in the pit and plenty of commitment on stage.” That’s me quoting myself. I always say the same thing when writing up Pelléas, so I thought I might as well copy and paste. I don’t actually remember, but I suppose, when filling out the subscription forms for the Opéra Comique over a year ago, I expected Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire – so good in Les Troyens – and producer Stéphane Braunschweig –…

Wagner - Das Rheingold

Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Saturday May 29, 2010

Conductor: Daniel Barenboim. Production: Guy Cassiers. Sets: Guy Cassiers and Enrico Bagnoli. Costumes: Tim Van Steenbergen. Lighting: Enrico Bagnoli. Videos: Arjen Klerkx and Kurt d'Haeseleer. Coreography: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Wotan: René Pape. Donner: Jan Buchwald. Froh: Marco Jentzsch. Loge: Stephan Rügamer. Alberich: Johannes Martin Kränzle. Mime: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke. Fasolt: Tigran Martirossian. Fafner: Timo Riihonen. Fricka: Doris Soffel. Freia: Anna Samuil. Erda: Anna Larsson. Woglinde: Aga Mikolaj. Wellgunde: Maria Gortsevskaya. Flosshilde: Marina Prudenskaya. Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

An excellent (supposedly working) week in Italy, which had already taken in Maria Stuarda in Palermo, ended on the (very) high point - again thanks to my extraordinarily hospitable colleagues there – of Das Rheingold at La Scala, conducted by Barenboim. Well, not quite “ended,” as once more there was a delici…