Tag: Hampson

Verdi – Don Carlos / Théâtre du Châtelet 1996

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Mel Gibson directed Don Carlos? I raise the question because in this version, directed for the Theatre du Chatelet by Luc Bondy, there is a moment in Posa’s death scene where I’m pretty sure I heard drops of the fake blood, of which there is plenty, land on the floor. But I am going to assume that this was just an accident of microphone placement. (To answer my initial question: I suspect that the auto-da-fe scene would somehow become much longer than it normally is and they would kill Posa with a spiked mace rather than a gun. This would also take much longer than is customary.)

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Verdi – Don Carlo / Salzburg 8-16-13 (3)

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And then there’s Jonas Kaufmann as Carlos, who is certainly also a reason to listen to this. His voice sounds deeper and more solid than some other Carloses I have heard; this Carlos is youthful and passionate, but he doesn’t give the character that “confused and in way over his head” vibe.

not so casto amor?One of the first things that appears in my notes for this (after “has Carlos gone ice-fishing?” because of the scenery in that first bit) is “what a voice this guy has” followed shortly by “yowza” in connection with some of the phrasing in Carlos’s bit where he’s going on about his “casto amor.”

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Verdi – Don Carlo / Salzburg 8-16-13 (2)

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In terms of concept this production did not seem radically different from other productions of this opera that I have seen. But the acting and stage direction do do something rather sweet and human and emphasize that Carlos and Elisabeth love each other in that elevated Verdian way, but they also want one another and crave the comfort of human contact. The two are about to snuggle up together on Carlos’s cloak when the chorus shows up in Act I to give them the news of the great change in plans; there are moments all through the opera where Elisabeth has her hands on Carlos’s shoulders or arms and then suddenly pulls back with this sort of “Merde! I’m touching him again!” look on her face; they consistently have their hands on one another during their big moments together, but it’s neither unalloyed lust nor a simple need for human connection – it’s somewhere between the two, and the fact that they can’t (for a variety of reasons) make it one or the other is fairly key to their whole unhappy situation.

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Verdi – Don Carlo / Salzburg 8-16-13 (1)

This Don Carlos was broadcast from Salzburg back in August. Apparently it has been on and off YouTube ever since – I think the Salzburg people are probably fighting an uphill battle as far as that is concerned. But isn’t that Firefox widget that adds a ‘download’ option to YouTube videos really cool? I say this only as an unconnected observation, not because I have been downloading videos of Salzburg broadcasts.

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (3)

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There are a lot of really interesting performances in this. I don’t know if it’s my favorite Giovanni musically – I am not sure I have one of those – but there’s plenty to like about it. Melanie Diener as Donna Elvira has a lovely ringing resonant sound to her voice; the last high notes in “taci, ingiusto core” were really pretty. There is something solid, even at times careful about the interpretation.

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (2)

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That a production of Don Giovanni might contain some scantily clad women is not going to surprise anyone. (Well, with some exceptions.) But the women in this are not necessarily there to be ogled. There are the women in fur coats who appear during “madamina, e catologo e questo” – but then there are the women cleaning, and later on a little girl. (This reminded me of the Peter Sellars version, which also had a little girl, but she appeared later. Also, come to think of it, that version also played with the question of whether Leporello and Giovanni were different people, like this one.)

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Mozart – Don Giovanni / Salzburg 2006 (1)

Martin Kusej’s production of Don Giovanni is alternately buzzing white light and blue dimness. The thing begins with a large flat image of a group of women in nothing but stockings, lounging on the floor with their backs to the audience. There is a door in this image, and during the overture we see women in trench coats and heels approaching the door, opening it, and stepping inside.

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Puccini – Tosca / Magee, Kaufmann, Hampson / Zurich Opera 2009 (3)

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This performance sounds quite nice. Puccini isn’t my favorite composer, and there are bits of the score, e.g. when the sacristan first comes in during Act I, that always sound over-busy and cute to me, like something from a Disney movie, but this is just me so never mind that.

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Puccini – Tosca / Magee, Kaufmann, Hampson / Zurich Opera 2009 (2)

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As noted, this is a production of Tosca which does not let you forget the theatricality of the story. Neither does it ignore the role religion plays in the drama – as the libretto indicates, Mario is a freethinker, Tosca is very pious, and Scarpia is a nasty hypocrite. Even though the stage for Act I is more theater than church Mario’s painting of Mary Magdalene is definitely a religious painting. (This is a minor point that doesn’t matter, but with all Mario says about how Tosca is ‘bruna’ it’s hard not to notice that Magee/Tosca’s hair is a terrific Agent Scully shade of red).

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Puccini – Tosca / Magee, Kaufmann, Hampson / Zurich Opera 2009 (1)

There are operas where if you ignore the ostensible setting in the libretto it doesn’t matter – or at least, it doesn’t matter very much. There are also operas where if you do this it can work but at the risk of causing the occasional what? moment. Tosca is in the latter category. The story is very specific as to its setting and time period – this is one of those librettos that refers to things like the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome and the Battle of Marengo. And Napoleon.

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