Finn got things going by throwing up on my office floor. So we are having a nice quiet evening of Mozart and close monitoring of the dog.
I had to sweat blood not to, but in talking about the Glyndebourne version of Rodelinda I avoided comparisons to the Bayerische Staatsoper one because I wanted to talk about what I was seeing/hearing rather than what I wasn’t. However, so as not to let all that blood go to waste, I figured I’d get this out of my system. Besides, these are the only two DVD versions of this opera that are easily available (they’re the only two I know of, at least) so why not?
(Previous section here.)
The silent film conceit does more than just allow for a certain amount of hand-waving. It’s sort of interesting, isn’t it, to stage an opera – an art form where the performers are right there with the audience – with reference to film, where there isn’t any contact between the two? Especially given that here the performers are often addressing the audience directly. Unulfo’s “sono i colpi della sorte” in Act I is sung more about than to Bertarido. And during Act II, Eduige’s “de’ miei scherni per far le vendette” is done almost as an aside. Rodelinda is in the room, but she’s not paying much attention, except when Eduige gets a little too caught up in it, receives a sort of “what?” look from Rodelinda, and looks embarrassed for a moment. There is an extraverted quality to all this – lots of asides, little glances or facial expressions aimed at the audience, this type of thing. You can’t get deeply drawn into what is going on because your presence is so frequently acknowledged – you’re reminded that this is being performed for you. My point isn’t that this is a bad way to stage a Handel opera, just that it’s not necessarily one calculated to hit you where it hurts.
This production of Handel’s Rodelinda remains in Italy – we see Garibaldo reading Corriere della sera in Act II – but the story has been moved to the 1920s. Rodelinda is not the queen of the Lombards here in any obvious sense. I’m not actually sure what she’s queen of. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
But there are definitely people in positions of authority here. Except for Grimoaldo, who wears some very snazzy suits, the men wear military uniforms. But lest you think hm, Italy in the 1920s and military uniforms – I wonder where they’re going with that? rest assured that this opera is not about fascism. Or, at least it wasn’t about fascism in any way that I was able to determine. If fascism is commented upon in the woods and no one is there to hear it, etc. etc.
As noted, this sounds very much as you would expect an opera by Hector Berlioz to sound. Much of it has that feverish quality that is characteristic of his music, e.g. in Cassandra and Chorebus’s duet from Act I, particularly after 5.40 or so. Don’t get too attached to either of these characters, because they will both shortly be dead. I could make an argument here that this variety of dramatic discontinuity is an effort by Berlioz to force us to focus on the music alone, but I think what is really happening is that when you adapt bits of the Aeneid into an opera, it is hard to work the thing so that no one ends up dead before the end of whatever section of it you’re adapting. Like Schubert, Berlioz sometimes struggled with the limitations of his source material. Anyway, here is the duet:
I had cause recently to think about smut, specifically smut in music. Because I have the mind of a twelve-year-old it led me to mentally review all the ways that I have seen the erotic depicted in opera. Sometimes things remain in the realm of the metaphorical. Such as the Marschallin and Octavian’s plates of pie, for example, or Donna Elvira’s cigarette and general air of satisfaction. I believe that if we were going to get picky, Donna Elvira’s cigarette is a metonym rather than a metaphor, but this is an opera blog and not Literary Criticism Smackdown, so probably we don’t care all that much one way or the other.
Anyway. There are productions that handle sex via metonymical cigarettes and there are productions that are more direct. I’m sure we can all think of one or two of those. But I am not going to talk about them. I ended up recalling what may be the most cringe-inducing representation of sex in any DVD of opera ever, and as a result I decided to write about Berlioz.