here. Since Graham and Fleming's off-stage personae (and relationship) are so well known, I thought the device of having them act as hosts of their own salon evening, providing historical background (and naughty anecdotes!) concerning the works presented, was a clever and effective one. Historian that I am, I was delighted to learn more of Mary Garden and Sybil Sanderson, as well as charmed by the women who so ably sang the repertoire created for them (full program here.)
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Monday, January 28, 2013
|Silk and daydreams: La Rondine, Act I (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)|
Friday, January 18, 2013
Monday, January 14, 2013
A tragic history repeats itself as an irony-laced tragicomedy on the operatic stage: Rossini's 1817 La Gazza Ladra, although bookended with joyous choruses, contains fictions of potentially explosive power, set to music of often surprising complexity. A serving girl, Ninetta is unjustly accused of theft, libidinously desired by the local mayor, innocently charged with protecting her father from the consequences of deserting the army, and yearningly in love with the son of the family in whose household she works. With the aid of more than one deus ex machina, all of these intrigues have a satisfactory denouement, in striking contrast to the accusation and execution which inspired the opera. But there is more than a little Rossinian mockery at work, of social as well as operatic conventions. The drama hovers experimentally between genres. Melodramatic confessions and confrontations are misunderstood or interrupted, and conventions are gently satirized even as they are enacted. Although the soprano is decorously transferred from the embraces of a father to those of a husband, she is practically pushed into the latter's arms after she has asked to be reunited with the mezzo en travesti. The heroine's imprisonment is a mockery, the army is made to look absurd, and the local lord is spectacularly discomfited. After seeing Saturday's performance by the Bronx Opera, which emphasizes the piece's undeniable charm, I was left with two sources of surprise: that La Gazza Ladra isn't performed more often, and that Foucault never wrote an essay on it.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Incidental Music, Lydia Perović's debut novel, are concerned with all these things, and intertwine to create a satisfying and thought-provoking read. The histories of three women unfold amid the Georgian houses of Toronto and avenues of mid-century Budapest. Rather wonderfully, the events of the novel also take place in internet cafes and on broken pavements, in too-tidy rented rooms and dingy cubicles and academic offices. An abandoned factory can be redeemed by the first encounter of two lovers, an opulent bathhouse become a prison to a lover betrayed. Unusually, each of the three protagonists is in a different life stage. Petra we meet in youth, but after its first flush of optimism has died, leaving only the uncomfortable shards of idealism to spur her on in a city where she feels herself an outsider. The sophisticated Martha inhabits a middle age balanced uneasily between fulfillment and complacency, and is trying to discern the differences between success and stagnation. Romola, a retired operatic diva, is an amazingly charismatic figure, even in the ruin of an old age where a long and painful past insists on infiltrating an increasingly fragile present.
Monday, January 7, 2013
The Scarlet Pimpernel, and can be just as much fun, as a quasi-historical and hyper-romantic romp (I'd compare it to Scaramouche, a less famous novel which I loved even more than the Pimpernel when I was fourteen. But I digress.) Given its due, I believe that the score serves not only to move the melodramatic plot along with thrilling speed, but to make vivid the political and emotional tensions which are intertwined at its heart. I felt, however, that Sunday's performance by the Opera Orchestra of New York lacked romantic and revolutionary fire. Debuting the title role under the handicap of a cold, Roberto Alagna lacked much of his usual elan, and the conducting lacked finesse. Rosalind Elias' Madelon was a highlight, and George Petean was a great discovery as the fascinating Carlo Gerard, but the evening as a whole buckled (to borrow a phrase) more often than it swashed.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
|A tale of two queens: Van den Heever and DiDonato in Maria Stuarda|