Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Night at the Opera - Don Carlos from Vienna

     I finally got to watch this wonderfully sung performance of one of my favorite operas from the Vienna State Opera.  Musically it was terrific.  The cast included Rene Pape, Ludovic Tezier, Ramon Vargas and Anja Harteros.  They were all terrific.  The performance was at times riveting and at times very moving.  But I have to say that the production is really pretty uninteresting.  In fact, it is the most uninteresting production I have seen of this opera.  The lighting is dark, dark, dark.  The set is non-existent. I suppose the production is traditional.  The costumes are a few hundred years later, but for the most part it doesn't seem to matter.  The best part is the singers and the singer's own characterizations and interactions.  Given the nature of this production it really is the only thing that saves this production - well that and the singing.  If the singers weren't so terrific this production would not be worth watching.  The chorus is adequate, the orchestra is pretty good, but the soloists in this performance were outstanding.

Wozzeck from Zurich:
     I have been meaning to write a little about the Zurich "Wozzeck" I watched a few weeks ago. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate at New England Conservatory of Music I had the opportunity to perform this opera with Gunther Schuller conducting.  I played English Horn and it was a semi-staged production with a variety of singers - students and professionals.  I initially found the part hard as hell, but as I got to know it I came to really love the piece.  It is a brilliant opera and the music is genius.  This production from Zurich is very ingenious. The characters are like caricatures and it is as though they are all players in a carnival.  Which really works, the carnival being life itself.  One thing I found really effective was that all of the children in the last scene are costumed exactly like all the rest of the cast.  So the younger generation is a clone of the older and the cycle just repeats over and over again.  I felt that this production really captured the pessimism and futility that the piece conveys about life. I personally do not share Berg's pessimism and hopelessness about life.  But I understand it and this is a piece that needs to be experienced and taken seriously.  Many of the issues are universal, and the cycle continues and continues and continues. The cast - led by Christian Gehaher in the title role, were all excellent.  Gun-Brit Barkmin sang a compelling Marie; Brandon Jovanovitch was the creepy Drum Major and he was terrific I also really liked the Captain of Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke and the Doctor of Lars Woldt.  This is a terrific production and performance.

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