The recent production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen broadcast live from the Styriarte Festival reminded me again how much I enjoy Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s conducting. This came to mind during the overture, at various little moments of transition from one mood to the next – and just in general at many points throughout the performance. It’s something about the pacing, or the rhythm – hard to pin down in words, but Harnoncourt conveys just the right amount of energy with this music, so it’s engaging to listen to, but not in a way that sounds unidiomatic for Baroque music. (It feels not like “baroque music” but just simply “music”.) For me, watching this was essentially a very pleasant two and a half hours of well-executed Purcell, punctuated at intervals with “hey, there’s Dorothea Röschmann again!” (and Florian Boesch and Martina Jankova and a number of other people whose names I did not recognize, including a tenor, Joshua Ellicott, who gave a very lovely rendition of the autumn song in the ‘four seasons’ section in the second half.)
I should offer a caveat going into this description: I slept only four hours the previous two nights, and as a result I fell asleep for a little bit of Part I. But I got the gist.
This both is and isn’t an oratorio by Franz Schubert. Schubert did begin an oratorio called Lazarus, but he didn’t finish it. The score breaks off as Mary and Martha are mourning their dead brother Lazarus – it ends on the word “and” halfway through a phrase. So, what the collaborators on this project (more information here) did was to weave together some other bits of music by Schubert and – wait for it – Charles Ives to finish the story. The director of this interesting operation is Claus Guth. Like many things Guth related, it makes more sense than it sounds like it would if you merely hear it described.
I just finished watching a really infectiously enjoyable performance of Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten. This is that broadcast from Salzburg that, after a great deal of monkeying around and a certain amount of technical assistance I managed to coax from 3Sat’s website.
(Previous section here.)
So, the emotions the characters are feeling are real. These people have not turned into automatons. Ferrando (Topi Lehtipuu) really means it about that dirt. And when Ferrando is about to seduce Fiordiligi in “fra gli amplessi” there is a moment where he seems furiously angry and rather threatening – this is revenge and there’s a hint it could get unpleasant.
(Previous section here.)
So, we’ve got Alfonso as sometimes frustrated manipulator of others. This is standard for this opera, in some ways – but it doesn’t feel so in this version. Perhaps this is because Alfonso is not teaching these silly young things a lesson. Rather, he appears to be manipulating them out of a kind of compulsion. I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that part of the vulnerability that is being showcased here is Alfonso’s.
I watched this dvd for the first time nearly a year ago now, and my initial response was a sustained feeling of irritation. I watched it again this past weekend, and while I was still feeling irritated through a large chunk of Act I, I was coming around by Act II, and by the end, although I wasn’t leaping up and down and shrieking with excitement, I did not feel as if my time had been misspent.