About a week ago (maybe longer? I’m only just recovering my sense of time after the madness of July/August), a commenter by the name of Antonio pointed me towards Re:Classical’s “5 Reasons Why Traditional Opera Kind of Sucks” post. The “About” section of my blog is getting rather ungainly, so I’m trying to start shifting discussions from the About section into blog posts.
This past Monday, the DC Wagner Society hosted a lecture by Asher Fisch at the Goethe Institute about conducting Wagner. This was the first Wagner Society event I’d attended since becoming a member (the membership rate for persons under 28 is ridiculously cheap, by the way!) and the first time I’d been in close contact with the society members.
In addition to the Wagner Society members and board members (and anyone else who managed to book a free ticket in time), it was attended by Washington Post opera critic Anne Midgette and Stefanie Irànyi, a German mezzo-soprano with whom Fisch will be performing a concert of Mahler songs at the University of Maryland tonight (Asher Fisch will be playing piano). Continue reading →
The Met HD Ring Cycle has come and gone, and what a lackluster finale.
The peripheral characters were all quite good – Hans-Peter König was a smooth and insidious Hagen (and as the only performer who appears in all four operas, it was fascinating to watch him through the cycle). Iain Paterson’s Gunther was very natural and human. Wendy Bryn Harmer’s Gutrune started out pretty interesting – ambitious and a little sly, but that characterization was never resolved within the actions of the opera, which is a shame. I don’t think it would have been difficult to round out that take on the character. I wish Eric Owens’s Alberich had been a little more warped and cruel; this is a man (dwarf) who spent his entire life and beyond being eaten away by hate and greed. It didn’t help that his clothes and hair were totally plain in this opera. Very strange – like he’d been domesticated. I liked the Rhine maidens’ costume change, and Erin Morley contributed a lovely bright sound to the trio. And, as we all know, Waltraud Meier was brilliant, and her interview during the intermission was as articulate, incisive, and intelligent as her performance. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Norns, but my guess is that a lot of time was spent in rehearsal trying to choreograph the ropes and less attention was paid to the women holding them.
In case you haven’t already read it, there’s a new piece of news about the Lepage Ring on Parterre. Apparently, Monsieur Lepage will be re-staging parts of the Ring Cycle for the 2012-2013 season. Probably a good move. If only Gelb and Lepage could have responded to criticism of the new Ring Cycle with a level explanation that live theatre is always a work in progress and one of the benefits and exciting features of repertory theatre is that directors have the opportunity to improve their work for subsequent performances; that they understand our concerns and hope that we consider attending future performances to see how the piece evolves to more fully realize Lepage’s vision.
This is also a good argument for why a week or two of previews might not be a bad thing for high-stakes opera productions like this. Just a thought.
I must say, I feel a little bit better about this production after seeing Siegfried.
In “Wagner’s Dream” (and please do read those as air-quotes), Lepage said that in preparation he went back to the source of the Ring mythology; that is to say, he went to Iceland. He did see an old manuscript of the Icelandic Eddas – they flash a picture or two from the Prose Edda, blah blah blah. I’m really not sure why they bothered when the Eddas are a mere fraction of Wagner’s source material for the Ring, and frankly a concept based around the Icelandic landscape is pretty interesting in it’s own right. From Teutonic to tectonic! Oh ho ho! (I’m sorry, it had to be done…) Too bad he couldn’t have taken that idea further – beyond the plank set and traditional Icelandic action-figure costuming.
I’ve never actually sat down and done the Ring Cycle properly. I’ve listened to all of them, I’ve seen at least parts of all of them and all of some of them, I’m familiar with various productions, and I know what happens; but I’ve never made a concentrated effort to sit down and watch them all in succession. The first time I tried it was immediately after getting my wisdom teeth removed, and the lingering anesthesia and 600mg of ibuprofen and percocet I’d been prescribed made me pass out before Alberich could run off with the Rheingold.