Tag: Magee

On the other hand, if it wasn’t worth seeing more than once, why post it at all?

You ever have one of those days when you fully intend to do all kinds of interesting and important things, and then you realize midway through the afternoon that you’ve spent the last hour or so watching clips of things that you’ve seen many times before? Possibly clips that you yourself have posted on YouTube? And you feel a bit silly?

Yeah. That kind of day.

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

(Previous section here.)

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)

(Previous section here.)

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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Ariadne auf Naxos

In a restaurant!

But I like it.

First of all, this production reversed my opinion of Emily Magee. As some of you may know, I am prone to knee-jerk aesthetic judgements that are usually defensible but sometimes not. I made one of those about her, based on this production of Le Nozze di Figaro, which I own because . . . well, you can probably figure out why I own this. But anyway, the world’s best Countess she was not.

However. as Ariadne, she’s pretty damn good. In general, this whole thing is pretty damn good. The conceit works: the first section is one of those nowhere spaces with curtains in which we witness not only the order that the farce and the opera be performed simultaneously but also we learn that the prima donna and the composer were together, and when the composer kills himself, this is the switch to Ariadne abandoned on the island: the composer is Theseus. But the island is not an island; it’s a restaurant, where Ariadne/the prima donna is drowning her sorrows in red wine and, eventually, some pills. The whole thing works quite well if you imagine Ariadne is a little sloshed throughout. I mean, she expires in the arms of Bacchus at the end, right?

Zerbinetta (Elena Mosuc) is great and her entourage (let it be known that I hate that little tune they keep singing, and as a result the less of non-Zerbinetta part of the commedia dell’arte crowd the better) is endurable. In addition to her shoe, they make off with her bag and her underwear without much fuss from Z herself, which makes total sense: after all, wouldn’t Zerbinetta be the sort to say ‘eh, fuck it, I have more underwear’?

(I have to make sure not to write Zerlina when I mean Zerbinetta. Some similarities, though.)

And when Mosuc stops to bow at the end of (I think) “noch glaub’ ich” you cannot complain that it is breaking character: which character?

And the tenor/Bacchus: I approve. From what I understand, this role is wicked tricky as far as sounding good, and Roberto Sacca definitely manages that.

Minor complaint: too many close ups. I don’t mind watching Magee sing, but the first half or so of the ‘opera’ part of the opera borders on claustrophobic. Give the lady some space already.

Finally: whenever I see a production like this, I wonder how I would explain it to past opera-goers. I actually think that sophisticated audiences of Mozart’s day would be more into this sort of thing than, say, late 19th century ones would. The nineteenth century was so obsessed with making it REAL by making it BIG and making it LOUD and making it LIFELIKE that I think they often lost touch with the fact that sometimes fake and weird can be more real than ‘real’ often is, no?