This production of Handel’s Alcina, directed by Katie Mitchell and conducted by Andrea Marcon, turns upon the complex and many-sided relationship between sand, flasks of bright blue liquid, and a luggage scanner that spits out taxidermy specimens. There is also BDSM.
This production of Handel’s Ariodante has a little twist at the end that I rather liked – it was particularly effective in that the production itself on average does not scream “weird!” or “we’re going to mess with this opera!” It’s set in what looks like a farmhouse in Scotland in the 1940s. (Or, based on the amount of hair and mild griminess and puppets and lots of chunky sweaters, possibly in the vicinity of the Evergreen State College in the 1990s.) During the overture, we see a minister, who turns out to be Polinesso (Sonia Prina) leading a religious service around the table – Polinesso reminds everyone of the evil of women and so on and so forth.
I was amusing myself listening to this recital by everyone’s favorite weird French soprano (from Radio 4 Concerthuis – thanks to Rob for the info) when I realized via reading the website that I had just learned the Dutch word for “encore” : Toegift.
I suppose that as an English speaker I should not make fun of other people’s words for encore, given that we stole ours from French. But still.
(Related: the German idiom for “it’s now or never” or “now is the moment of truth” is “jetzt geht es um die Wurst” which literally means “now it goes around the sausage.” I’m over this now, but there was a time when I could not hear a Vitellia sing “ecco il punto, o Vitellia” without thinking “now it goes around the sausage, Vitellia!” But as I said, fortunately this period of my life is over and done.)
And now for something slightly different. It’s Patricia Petibon singing a collection of French, Spanish and English baroque arias and songs. The title of the recording is “new world,” and so it makes sense that we’ve got the English, the French and the Spanish, and via the two excerpts from Les Indes galantes, I guess at least baroque representations of Native Americans. (But if were talking about the colonial world, what about the Dutch? I ask you, what about the Dutch? Then again, I’m not sure that “Patricia Petibon sings the Dutch baroque” is necessarily a winning concept, as far as marketing goes. This not intended as a criticism of Petibon. I would be skeptical even of, say, Dorothea Röschmann and Vesselina Kasarova singing the Dutch baroque, together, in matching dresses, with a halftime performance by Joyce DiDonato. I mean, I’d buy that in in a second – wouldn’t you? – but that is not really an argument for the soundness of the idea.)
(Previous section here.)
I found myself enjoying Rameau’s music more than I did Lully’s from a few weeks ago. It felt as if there were a little bit more color and variation in the orchestral writing. I noticed this with the woodwinds, e.g. with the bassoons during the ballet of the “Incas” section, as well as in the opening music to “les sauvages” and in bits of “le Turc généreux” — although some day I would like to find a French baroque opera that doesn’t have a “storm” bit in the music or make use of a wind machine. Please?
First of all, a slightly unusual sort of pattern is emerging with regard to university library DVDs of French baroque operas. Every single one I have checked out has been missing the booklet. Other DVDs have their booklets. But these do not. If there is someone collecting them, I would really like to hear the explanation for this.
(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.
This isn’t a DVD but rather a copy of (I think?) a live broadcast from the Zurich Opera in 2003. It’s pretty fantastic.
The staging is simple – a series of blue walls and wooden doors that look perfectly appropriate for Turkey in the eighteenth century. Costumes are eighteenth-century, with Belmonte (Piotr Beczala, who has one of those faces that somehow goes with wearing a white puffy wig) and Pedrillo (Boguslaw Bidzinski) in very nice pink suits and the women in dresses – Konstanze’s is a little more “Turkish.”
[edit 5/15/12: I wrote this a long time ago. I think I may end up changing my mind about this production – it’s on my list to watch again.]
Today we are concerned with a DVD of a production of Cosi fan tutte from Salzburg in 2009. I watched the first act, and by the time I got to the end of that I pretty much had the trick of the thing, so I listened to the rest of it while I typed up my notes. So, there may have been any number of brilliant and wonderful things that happened after “una donna a quindici anni” that I missed. If so, I hope someone lets me know.