Thread: What opera have you been watching lately?

          
   
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  1. #2431
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Beethoven – Fidelio – Birmingham Opera Company (2002) – Streaming on Operavision until 2/24
    This is a very unusual staging; one of Graham Vick’s immersive performances where the audience is part of the action. At the start of Act 2, for example, the audience is anonymized with a number, and they have to stand on their spot with a hood over their head to hear Florestan’s aria in darkness. (I may have simulated this at home with a blanket.) There’s a lot of extra stage business which you may find distracting, but at its heart the story is all there, and so are Beethoven’s humanistic themes, in an unusually vibrant and visceral way. The orchestra sounds really raw and fiery, too. ****

    Weber – Der Freischutz – Bayerische Staatsoper – Streaming on staatsoper.tv until 3/15
    Dmitri Tcherniakov productions of non-Russian operas are sometimes intellectually stimulating but a little dry or confusing, but THIS DER FREISCHUTZ!!! It's a non-traditional telling; he has stripped it of the supernatural and all traces of German Romanticism. Now, it’s a psychological thriller about corporate bootlicking and soul-crushing power games. From atop a high-rise office building, Max wants to prove himself to Agathe’s father and his ring of elite friends. The shooting contest is to use a sniper rifle to shoot a random innocent on the streets below. This gruesome game isn’t real, but Max doesn’t know that, and the wealthy have all come to bet on whether he’ll pull the trigger. Later on, Tcherniakov also manages to make the Wolf’s Glen scene legitimately creepy and terrifying, dispensing with the typical Disneyfied “pagan ritual”. As usual, the entire Staatsoper cast is close to perfect, but Kyle Ketelsen as Kaspar is truly awesome. I’m glad this wasn’t my first Der Freischutz – it’s not an ideal first version of the opera – but it’s a revelatory staging. *****

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  3. #2432
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Rossi – The Enchanted Palace – Opera de Dijon – Streaming on Operavision
    This is the first production of this opera since the 1640s; it’s a treasure trove of early-Baroque music with a vivid orchestra and propulsive Renaissance dances. But you can see it’s unlikely to be revived often, as there is an absurd number of characters; there are at least 3 or 4 women (I lost track) that Atalante captures in his palace of mind-tricks, and each one has on average 2 knights who show up to rescue her. This contemporized staging makes the most of the repetitive, potentially confusing libretto by setting the stories in contrast, each couple believes they are in a different locale (hospital or airport or prison) where it’s common to feel separated from the one you love. There’s a nice sense of progression from each act to the next. It’s still overlong, but well worth listening to at least the first act. ****

    Mondonville – Titon et l’Aurore – Opéra-Comique – Streaming on medici.tv
    Another rarity, this is a 1750s pastorale héroïque, wherein the gods of mythology meddle in the romantic affairs of mortals, who remain faithful through various tests until L’Amour arrives to set things straight. It’s slight on story, but is by design a vehicle for various stage effects, which this clever production has in spades with nifty puppeteering effects (i.e. the god of wind has these big folds of fabric that are constantly fluttering about him). It’s pure fluff, but this production shows how centuries-old stage effects are still effective, especially combined with tasteful digital projections to modernize the mise-en-scène. Top-tier music production as well. ****1/2

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  5. #2433
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Janacek – Vec Makropulos – Salzburg Opera Festival (2011) – Blu-Ray
    I love this opera thriller which plays like a movie, consisting mostly of short, dramatic dialogues. Several musical motives are developed, but if you’re looking for memorable tunes you’ll be disappointed until the final five minutes when the music blossoms into full grandeur. Marthaler’s production is okay - the actors have clearly done a lot of work to create their characters – but on video it’s impossible to tell whether the extra things going on at the sides of the stage are adding up to anything. I also really liked his added prologue, a rumination on the merits of a centuries-long life - the kind of philosophical conversation that Janacek apparently cut from the play he based his opera on - but this was mouthed in complete silence. Totally bizarre. Did people really get that upset about adding scenes to opera 10 years ago? ****

    Massenet – Manon – Staatsoper Hamburg – Streamed on Operavision
    I wasn’t really dying to see Manon again, but I wanted to see Elsa Dreisig who got stellar reviews for this role. She exceeds expectations with a beautiful voice, and a riveting presence. David Bosch’s production has a lot of neat character details, but sometimes goes overboard in sleaziness, like Lescaut’s repeated (simulated) heroin use, when the realistic makeup effects on his arm should have been indicator enough. The tenor was okay, but not as convincing as Dreisig or Bjorn Burger as Lescaut. ***1/2

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  7. #2434
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Rossini – L’inganno felice – Opera Sarasota – Streamed for $25
    One of the most impressive small opera companies in the U.S., Sarasota is known to delve deep into Italian repertoire – they recently completed a decades long cycle of all of Verdi’s operas. They have recently reopened with a season of one-act operas, with social distancing enforced in the audience and the pit, and are selling streaming tickets. The staging is traditional, and incredibly beautifully detailed. The orchestra is audibly reduced in number. Tempos were taken slower than I would have liked, likely to accomodate the singers, who are good but likely still developing their voices. I wish the videos were available for longer than a month - this one has expired - but they have Il Signor Bruschino for April. Worth the money if you want a short Rossini bon-bon, but plan to pay a couple days in advance of when you want to watch: it took 48 hours for someone to email me my link to the video. It is incredible that this small company can produce multiple long-format videos of this quality. ***

    Glass – The Fall of the House of Usher – Boston Lyric Opera – Streaming now for $10
    This is a beautifully stylized made-for-video animated production. Glass’ chamber opera is perfect for the format: it’s about 90 minutes, and requires only about a dozen musicians and singers. The main plotline, Poe’s story, is depicted with stop-motion animation, beautifully designed and atmospheric. The producers of this video have added a 2nd story line about a desperate migrant family seeking asylum in the U.S. There’s very little connection or parallel to the main story, but the production posits that “the House of Usher” is more of a state of mind. Dread, I suppose. For the production of this video, it was at least partly an economical choice, as all forms of animation are costly and time-consuming. It’s also probable that they felt the atmospheric drama of Usher alone was not enough to carry the production when the main characters are puppets unable to emote with more complexity. I think the immigration subplot could have been integrated more cohesively into the opera, but since Philip Glass himself has used operas to bring awareness to social issues I think he would approve. And it's a powerful story, fits the music it accompanies, and adds some oomph to the dramatic impact of this video. ****

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    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Verdi – Un giorno di regno – Teatro Regio di Parma – DVD
    The famous failure of Verdi's 2nd opera must fall on the libretto; it's a comic opera that forgets to be funny. (Seriously, how is the “king for a day” not a buffoon? He seems a competent proxy?...) I just looked it up, and this isn't opera buffa at all, but dramma giocoso. Which sounds like the favorite genre of poor librettists everywhere (the "drama" ain't that successful either). But it explains why there are so many serious scenes, which Verdi tackles head-on. His music is already full of experimentation and Rossinian energy. This is one of the most star-powered casts of the Tutto Verdi series, and they absolutely sells it as an opera Verdi fans shouldn’t neglect to listen to. ***1/2

    Strauss – Der Rosenkavalier – Bayerische Staatsoper – Streamed on staatsoper.tv
    Barrie Kosky had the fraught task of “replacing” the beloved half-century-old Otto Schenk production. And Act 1 has a color-faded pseudo-opulence that feels like he was trying to harness the audience’s “loss” to strike at Der Rosenkavalier’s own nostalgia. I liked the way Act 2 was staged from Sophie’s point-of-view as her naive fairy tale. Like a lot of Kosky productions, he makes you think about the opera in new ways, while remaining light and entertaining. This was given in a 38-player orchestra reduction (for social distancing) which was very interesting. I’m not super familiar with this score, but at times I couldn’t tell it was a reduction. At other times the score dips purposefully into a chamber score with piano and one or two other instruments, and I really liked these contrasts and the extra intimacy certain scenes were given. If this reduction could allow Rosenkavalier to be played by smaller opera companies, there should be no hesitation. ****

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  11. #2436
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    Yesterday, I watched the newly released ROH production of Faust with Fabiano, Lungu and Schrott. It is the same staging that was used in the 2011 DVD release with Alagna, Georghiu and Terfel. The new release is superior by far to the older version, vocally, dramatically and, especially, technically. Blu ray, of which I am a fan, certainly shows off in this recording. I particularly like Scrott's Mephistophiles: he makes the devil ... well ... devilish.

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  13. #2437
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I haven't watched an opera since the pandemic started... and have rarely posted here, and have neglected my own website... I hope that once the pandemic is over everything comes back including my willingness to tend to this website. As a physician, I'm just too involved with Covid-19 to have the time to think of anything else.

    My son has just recovered from Covid-19. 13th day today, no more fever, no more symptoms, excellent pulse ox; he is off the woods but it drove me crazy while he was still having symptoms, since I do know what can go wrong (most lay people underestimate the seriousness of this virus, even for young patients). Anyway today I'm very happy that he is out of the danger zone.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  15. #2438
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    So glad to hear that your son is nearly recovered. This virus is horrid, and now there's a highly contagious variant out there. The Vienna State Opera just had to delay the premiere of its new production of Parsifal because of a case of COVID-19 (apparently not among cast members). About all we can do is get vaccinated, be cautious, and hope that things will begin to improve soon.
    Again, a big thanks to you and all of the other medical/health care professionals who are working so hard to keep the rest of us healthy.

  16. #2439
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    The Met's Faust-as-atomic-scientist production. Great musical performance, in any case.

  17. #2440
    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Rameau – Hippolyte et Aricie – Opera Comique – Streamed on arte.tv
    This stream expires on May 15, but there is another production available on Operavision
    I always liked Rameau’s colorful orchestration, but having only seen the ballet-heavy Les Indes galantes I had no idea that he was such a great dramatist. This opera is incredible! The characters are well realized. There are some daring harmonic inventions, especially the infernal trio in Act 3. This production does a fine job of illustrating the story, but also includes some bewildering images. In Act 1, the chorus shoots guns at the white backdrop and great sprays of colored paint appear. I don’t know if that’s supposed to mean something, but it was a pretty neat trick. Great cast. ****

    Menotti – The Medium – New Orleans Opera – Streamed from website
    Available until May 15, online tickets to stream it are $40
    A little more expensive than most streams, but consider that it still hardly covers the costs to produce this. This is a pretty optimal performance of this opera, with an atmospheric set, and actors who all look like the characters as you’d imagine them. The libretto by Menotti hasn’t aged well, but musically it’s decent in his simple, direct, populist style which I’m not very fond of. New Orleans is a perfect place for this opera to be staged, and NOO is a great opera company. ***

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