Thread: What opera have you been watching lately?

          
   
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  1. #2401
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Excellent production.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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  3. #2402
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    This is another classic with an outstanding cast.

  4. #2403
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Bellini – I Puritani – Oper Stuttgart – Streamed on Operavision
    The singing is really terrific; I came for Rene Barbera – who has dazzling high notes, only the high F at the end showed signs of requiring human effort – and I stayed for the equally appealing voices of Ana Durlovski and Adam Palka. Wieler & Morabito use Puritan costumes but on a drab, modern set; since theirs is a psychological approach it works fine. Only a few things left me scratching my head – I have no idea why the walls kept slightly moving back and forth – but traditionalists will be frustrated by things like the chorus acting like wind-up-doll zombies. I found most of the choices interesting, and enjoyed this more than expected. (I usually prefer listening to Bellini.) Out of 5-stars: ****

    Schreker – Der Schmied von Gent – Opera Ballet Vlaanderen – Streaming on Operavision
    Not as convincing musically as Schreker’s astonishing Die Gezeichneten, but it’s a well-paced opera and a unique take on the Faustian pact. The director gives us two acts of wonderfully and colorfully macabre expressionism, but in act 3 makes a huge leap to tie the opera to Belgium’s shameful colonialist past in the Congo. I do agree that the main character is a self-centered clown who hardly deserves the happy ending the opera gives him. It’s a fun production with great singing. ****

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  6. #2404
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemorino View Post
    Bellini – I Puritani – Oper Stuttgart – Streamed on Operavision
    The singing is really terrific; I came for Rene Barbera – who has dazzling high notes, only the high F at the end showed signs of requiring human effort – and I stayed for the equally appealing voices of Ana Durlovski and Adam Palka. Wieler & Morabito use Puritan costumes but on a drab, modern set; since theirs is a psychological approach it works fine. Only a few things left me scratching my head – I have no idea why the walls kept slightly moving back and forth – but traditionalists will be frustrated by things like the chorus acting like wind-up-doll zombies. I found most of the choices interesting, and enjoyed this more than expected. (I usually prefer listening to Bellini.) Out of 5-stars: ****
    I have that Puritani. It is very good. Durlovski is very good. If you like Durlovski, you will love her in Sonnambula. In this production she seems to have a bit of a mental breakdown as she is very shaken at the end. Love her voice and acting in this. Wonderful, Lisa too.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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  8. #2405
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    I have that Puritani. It is very good. Durlovski is very good. If you like Durlovski, you will love her in Sonnambula. In this production she seems to have a bit of a mental breakdown as she is very shaken at the end. Love her voice and acting in this. Wonderful, Lisa too.
    Ooooh. Sold. This does sound like something I'd like.

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  10. #2406
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemorino View Post
    Ooooh. Sold. This does sound like something I'd like.
    You gotta watch the trailer here. Love this, especially when Lisa helps mamma zip Amina's dress.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

  11. #2407
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Just finished this one. Awesome performance. It may be my very favorite of the six I have. And it seems to be the best one to recommend to anyone wanting to delve into Meistersinger for the first time.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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  13. #2408
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Just finished tonight. Perfect timing too because my Barenboim Meistersinger DVD arrived today.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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  15. #2409
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Offenbach – La Belle Helene – Paris Chatelet (2000) – DVD
    A suitably silly production of one of Offenbach’s mythology-based satires, if not Laurent Pelly’s most memorable. It always makes me sad that Offenbach isn’t more common in opera houses in the States, because there’s a lot to enjoy – it’s breezy on the surface, but never lacking in depth and sophistication. An incredibly young Stephanie d’Oustrac appears in a small part with an even tinier costume. ***1/2

    Czernowin – Infinite Now – Opera Vlaanderen – Streaming on Operavision
    This is an acclaimed new work, and after watching it I believe in the power of the work although the recording does not convey the full experience (even more so than a traditional opera). Her music is more about texture than melody; I wouldn’t say atonal, as there are tonal passages; abstract is also not quite right because some soundscapes are described quite vividly. Very expressive, sometimes brutal and sometimes delicate. Czernowin’s concept for the libretto, of combining two unrelated works, was spot-on, they fit together perfectly and add meaning to each other in surprising ways. This work feels like a timeless capsule into which the story of humanity in the 20th century has been distilled. It’s difficult; it’s filled with trauma, but also moments of peace and hope. The production felt too sparse to me, but it likely was also not served well by video. ****

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  17. #2410
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    The musical performance is wonderful and the soloists are engaged with their characters.

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  19. #2411
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Just finished this one. Excellent production.
    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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  21. #2412
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Braunfels – Die Vögel – Bayerische Staatsoper – Streamed on staatsoper.tv
    Sadly, the Staatsoper was only able to perform this once before the theatre was shut down again. It’s a gem of a rediscovered opera, and the cast gives a very committed performance. Charles Workman is terrific (as always), and so is Caroline Wettergreen, who has to exhibit the nervous energy of a bird constantly turning her head to see in all directions, and sing virtuosic coloratura. I’m impressed with the beauty of the score; its biggest weakness is that neither Act really builds to a very satisfying climax. Frank Castorf throws a lot onto the stage, including not particularly ingenious references to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and “The Byrds”, and I don’t see how most of that contributes meaningfully, but overall he still produced a result that made Aristophanes feel contemporary. ****

    Ullmann – Der Kaiser von Atlantis – Rice University – Streaming on Youtube
    Ullmann’s small orchestra, of musicians that were available to him in Theresienstadt ghetto, has made this opera appealing for revival during social distancing. I already mentioned in our Youtube thread how much I love the primary color design, and the performances which are about as good as they get. It’s not a perfect opera, but it’s in an eclectic, modernist, jazz-infused style that I adore, and combined with the story of its completion I think it is almost always a very powerful experience. ****1/2

    Moody – Push – La Monnaie – Streaming on Operavision
    Since Der Kaiser is only an hour-long I watched it as a "double bill" with this contemporary opera based on the story of a Holocaust survivor. Simon Gronowski was a young boy on a train to Auschwitz when his mother pushed him off, saving his life. I can’t even imagine facing a choice like that, but this short opera aims to put its performers and audiences in Simon’s shoes in order to have a positive transformative experience from it. The opera was therefore designed as a “community opera” for mostly non-musician performers. To a certain extent, the music is understandably simple with that purpose in mind. But there are moments that still struck me as condescendingly insipid, such as “Escape” which relied on a jaunty rock tempo to depict Simon running all night to safety, rather than something that could better express how terrified and alone he must have felt. But even if the music is a little bland, the production looked like it was very inspiring to all involved. ***

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  23. #2413
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Pandemic-Era Opera Videos

    I think made-for-video operas is a genre which could do a lot to raise the profile of opera among younger generations, and now that opera companies have been forced to experiment, it ought to continue to be an outlet for creating content after the pandemic. The productions are already more sophisticated than I expected (speaking as someone who started his career in video production).

    Little – Vinkensport – Houston Grand Opera (HGO Digital) – Streaming on marquee.tv until 11/23

    Vinkensport is a sport in Belgium where people raise finches and meet to see whose bird produces the most birdcalls in an hour. The characters created for this opera – some inspired by real incidents – are the most outrageous examples of what competitors in this sport might be like. The production team smartly saw similarities to the mockumentary films of Christopher Guest (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind); solo arias are now ‘talking head’ interviews. The costumes and direction are very funny, but the editing is particularly terrific: there’s a lot of cross-cutting used for witty comic effect, giving extra context for what the characters are singing about. There's also a lot of split-screen – since the characters are all 6-feet apart (due to the rules of Vinkensport, of course). The cast is terrific and over-the-top hilarious. ****

    Menotti – The Telephone – Scottish Opera/Edinburgh International Festival – Streaming on Youtube

    This short has the best photography by far of the three, it has the warmth and intimacy of a big-budget department store Christmas commercial; I mean that as a compliment, they clearly hired a professional crew with high-end equipment for this. I have mixed feelings about Menotti. I think there is impressive craftsmanship to his orchestration, of a kind that is lost today, but his melodies are sometimes irritatingly vapid. In The Telephone, Ben is trying to propose to Lucy, but she constantly interrupts him to answer her telephone. Taken as characters, Lucy comes off as hideously shallow; but as archetypes for a 20-minute buffa opera about the perils of modern technology... it’s fine... but I wish the opera made more of how Ben is also a massive idiot. The Edinburgh production does a job of updating the story for the smart-phone era without changing the libretto. ****

    Poulenc – La voix humaine – Welsh National Opera – Streaming on Youtube until April 25, 2021

    Now, this production is really interesting, and the highlight here is the sound editing/mixing, because I believe this is a “live” vocal performance rather than a lip-sync. David Pountney’s crew appears to have rigged an apartment with a series of hidden cameras and microphones. I think soprano Claire Booth has a wireless earbud giving her the pre-recorded piano to sing to; because she has free reign to move around the apartment, alone, to give a total performance. The audio is less-than-perfect - you can hear her get far from one microphone, and then closer to another - but in the context of opera this creates a visceral presence and vividness that most videos lack. Booth’s performance is a tour-de-force, and I can't recommend it enough. I understand this is a love/hate opera for some people, but - without spoiling it - let me say that Pountney's take adds a tiny wrinkle that makes the melodrama easier to justify. This is a piano reduction, and an English translation, but because of how remarkable this video is, I can give it no less than: *****

    Please donate (even a small amount) to these opera companies if you watch their videos! And tell them where you're from and why you donated. I'm sure they'd love showing their Board of Directors proof that their video got them international reach and support.

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  25. #2414
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    "Music is enought for a whole lifetime--but a lifetime is not enough for music." --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

  26. #2415
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    I needed to reach my quota of baroque operas in 2020:

    Monteverdi – Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria – National Theatre Mannheim – Streamed on Operavision
    This was the first time I’ve seen Monteverdi’s over-shadowed middle opera. I’m delighted that it sounds a bit like Orfeo, but with the advancements in dramatic technique of Poppea. It doesn’t feel like a ‘numbers’ opera; it’s mostly accompanied recitative, and very expressive. On paper, I always thought there were too many characters in this opera, but this production reveals it to be a vivid world, a very modern-feeling stage work. Sometimes I think Monteverdi perfected opera, and all of the subsequent great composers just got back up to his level. In this production, there’s a stage contraption that’s noisy and over-complicated, but the personenregie is smart. Minerva is like mischievous Puck, providing comic relief, until she’s revealed to be a chaos-craving psychopath. Ulysses’ PTSD is a contemporary touch that works surprisingly well with the music (I suspect the somber tone of the finale was an interpretive deviation from tradition, although Monteverdi didn’t always notate tempo or dynamics, so maybe creative license was used but with no room for debate, lol). ****1/2

    Rameau – Les Indes galantes – Bayerische Staatsoper – Streaming on Operavision
    There are 4 spectacular first-billing-worthy sopranos in this production. I always worry that I’m going to get bored with this one, since its 5 acts are only thematically connected, but between Rameau’s colorful music and modern directors throwing the kitchen sink at it, that hasn't been the case. The director sets up an interesting premise to explore a lot of contemporary issues, like immigration, but not all of it adds up meaningfully. There’s at least one act where it doesn’t feel like he had anything to say. But it was intriguing how he connected the stories by making each singer play a recurring character. So the overall experience still averages out to a good ****

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    Gluck – Iphigenie en Tauride – Opernhaus Zurich (2001) – DVD
    I haven’t really acquired a taste for Gluck yet – other than the short version of Orphee – but this one I enjoyed. The score seems more hot-blooded than Alceste, and it helps that the libretto was more action-driven. This production has doubles for all the characters acting out memories or premonitions, but they’re wearing these giant papier-mache heads which are kinda ridiculous. In general, it’s the right approach to this opera – exploring the psychology of the characters to add depth – but in execution, forgettable. Rod Gilfry gives a fantastic performance; the rest of the cast is good but not great. ***

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