This live recording of Die Entführung aus dem Serail conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin follows those of Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni, the latter of which I bought because Joyce DiDonato was in it, and the former because why the hell not, and also Miah Persson. Both of those proved to be mixed bags. So is this one. There is some overlap of casts, but the only singer common to all three is Rolando Villazón, which choice – well, as they say, nobody likes it, but it keeps happening.
Just finished listening to that CD of baroque laments by Haïm and company. It’s a series of little pieces for solo voice and chamber accompaniment, with one or two ensembles, performed by a variety of singers with Le Concert d’Astrée It begins and ends with Rolando Villazón, which strikes me as unfair, since if someone is going to get two solo turns, I’d rather it be Jaroussky, or DiDonato, or Lemieux or Gens or Lehtipuu. I have no quarrel in any deep way with Rolando Villazón. I am merely pointing out that even within the constraints of this particular recording there are other options.
When I first saw the title of this opera out of the corner of my eye, my brain read ‘Ercole sul Termodonte’ as ‘school on top of something that might have to do with baths.’ This did not seem like an extraordinarily winning concept for an opera. Fortunately ‘ercole’ is not the Italian word for school. It is the Italian word for Hercules. And while ‘terme’ is the Italian word for a spa or Roman-style public bath, Termodonte is something rather different. It is
a type of dinosaur prone to sticking its head into hot springs; the name means “thermal-toothed” the place where the Amazons live.
This is one of those recordings where I had more “huh, that’s interesting” moments than “wow!” moments (although there are some wows, mostly associated with Joyce DiDonato as Donna Elvira).
(Previous section here.)
One other thing about the production. Unlike in many versions, where Carlos is hustled off into the tomb or otherwise ambiguously disposed of, here he really does die at the end, which I appreciated. It’s a little more satisfying than that typical nineteenth century ‘death but not really kinda sorta’ thing, like with Carlos being pulled into the tomb, or to take another example, the end of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer where Senta is supposed to leap into the ocean and drown but also be spiritually reunited with the Dutchman. I’d much rather we cut to the chase and have dead people be dead. And here Carlos is definitely dead – after a sword fight he’s wounded, falls, and expires in Elizabeth’s arms. If he can’t die in that particular location metaphorically, he at least gets to do so literally, I guess.
For the record, this performance of Don Carlos is the Italian version and does not have either the first Fontainebleau scene, where the poor French peasants complain that life is hard, the scene later on in which Eboli and Elizabeth switch masks so that Elizabeth can avoid a palace party, or the ballet. It’s still five acts, but it doesn’t have all the same pieces as the five-act French version. Having thought about it, I think I’m rather partial to the five-act 1867 version in French. But I like the Italian one too.
I just watched a really good La Traviata (It’s Netrebko and Villazon, Vienna Philharmonic, Carlo Rizzi, Salzburg 05). Netrebko is really in her element with this kind of thing.
This is one of those productions that is obvious-weird. You know, not ‘what the fuck are those kouroi doing in the finale’ weird, but just abstract enough that none of the symbolism requires much thought.
Also, ever notice how Violetta gets Lady Dedlock’ed? Yes, there is a connection between Traviata and Dickens’s Bleak House: there is a fallen woman who everyone has realized is still really rather a good person, and the people who ought to love her still do, but, well, we can’t have this kind of thing work out so of course she dies. Fun! But great music. (Verdi, I mean, not Dickens. I imagine Dickens would have had rather awful taste in music.)