Tag: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

Don Giovanni / Peter Sellars (3)

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With a few exceptions, this is not a production that you would buy for musical reasons alone. It’s well executed in terms of the vocal performances. Hunt always gets me with that beautiful, resonant sound — and it’s a sound that she can shrink down to sound gentle and vulnerable in ways that make perfect sense. Dominique Labelle as Donna Anna sounded slight – her voice seemed too small, and sort of lacked punch, although at times, e.g. with “crudele! ah, no mio bene” and the preceding recitative she can make a really bright ringing pretty sound that is like a much smaller version of what Hunt sounds like. (This is the scene where Donna Anna shoots up. I have gotten so used to people getting high in productions of this opera that it has begun to seem normal – and besides, with Anna that bright, fragile, brittle-sounding music itself gives the impression that this young lady is either not taking her meds or self-medicating: heroin kind of makes sense. But anyway.) This production is one of those Regie versions of Mozart where you end up thinking about it more than listening to it. Because there is, of course, the ending to deal with.

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Don Giovanni / Peter Sellars (2)

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Donna Elvira is a tricky character. I have seen versions of her that were slightly more toward the buffa end of the spectrum (here I am recalling Joyce DiDonato packing a shotgun) and also versions that were intended to evoke a reaction more along the lines of “what a strange/haunted-looking woman, and she seems to be very upset about something.” The tricky thing about the character is probably that she’s very much an eighteenth-century type. If you take the story at face value, she’s a woman who on the basis of a promise of marriage did something – sex – that she did not not want to do but would probably not have done under other circumstances. To a modern audience a woman who reacts as Elvira does to this series of events comes off as strange and sheltered and weird and perhaps an object of pity, but not for quite the same reasons that an eighteenth-century audience would have pitied her. Her clinginess and gullibility are a little embarrassing to watch – but this is part of what makes her interesting.

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (3)

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The most moving performance in this opera comes from Lorraine Hunt as Sesto. While Cleopatra is having terrific fun with pool toys, bags of money and the President, and Cesare is spending much of his time either gladhanding or scampering about and looking like kind of a doofus (those blue track pants he’s got on during ‘v’adoro, pupille’ are — well, let us just say that he is not doing his country proud, sartorially), while all this is going on Sesto is having a bit of a personal crisis. Which is perfectly understandable given that he has just seen his father’s head brought in in a box.

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Handel – Giulio Cesare / Gall, Larson, Hunt et al. 1990 (2)

(part one here.)

So, Cleopatra is performing. This is romance ‘staged’ in a very obvious way. It’s hard to miss in ‘v’adoro, pupille.’ It’s rubbed in our faces again in the final scene, where Cesare and Cleopatra emerge in matching red and blue striped bathrobes and a blinding amount of gold jewelry. (I particularly enjoyed Cesar’s line here about the beauty of Cleopatra’s hair while he fingers her very late-80s rat-tail.) But rat-tails and glitter aside, why tell the story in this way?

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Theodora / Glyndebourne 1996 / Daniels, Upshaw, Hunt et al. (3)

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As I was watching this I often found myself wavering between watching closely so that I could follow the visual aspects of this production, with its often strikingly beautiful stage direction, and closing my eyes so that I could follow the music alone. Probably a sign that I should buy the DVD and watch it over again. But this is a phenomenal performance.

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