|Order vs. the artist: Werther, Act I|
Photo © Oper Frankfurt/Wolfgang Runkel
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Monday, January 20, 2014
Getting to hear Alban Berg's Wozzeck is always a treat, and on Saturday I had the opportunity to hear it paired with Manfred Gurlitt's Wozzeck, composed almost at the same time, and, in contrast to Berg's, almost never performed. Both works use the text of Georg Büchner's "dramatic fragment"; the composers selected and ordered the scenes differently, but a great deal of the material is shared by both operas. The bicentennial of Büchner, who lived in Darmstadt, provided the impetus for the city's opera house to present the works together, with a shared director and creative team. Berg was famously inspired by attending the belated stage premiere of Büchner's play in 1913; Gurlitt was in charge of the stage music for those Münich performances. Berg's opera had its sensational premiere at the Berliner Staatsoper in December of 1925; when Gurlitt's Wozzeck was first performed in Bremen the following April, under the composer's baton, newspaper headlines spoke of it as the "other" or the "second" Wozzeck. Although Gurlitt's opera may stand inevitably in the shadow of Berg's masterpiece, the Darmstadt presentation made a good case for it deserving better than oblivion.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
|The dark side of diva worship: Mikneviciute and ensemble, Act I (Photo © Martina Pipprich)|
Friday, January 10, 2014
|Leonora and the force of patriarchal structures. Photo © Bayrische Staatsoper|
La Forza del Destino is much more often described as containing some of Verdi's finest music than it is described as being one of his finest operas. Martin Kusej's production, which I saw last Sunday, has the great virtue of bringing a clear and coherently developed concept to an opera (in)famous for being episodic. The opera can be presented as a sprawling epic, but the musical characterization of the principals is too fine for them ever to be lost to the audience in the turmoil. Kusej keeps the focus of the production on these principals--the anguished Leonora, the rabidly principled Don Carlo, and Alvaro, who, hunted by ill-fortune, turns too easily to violence. I think the production can function on several levels, but it is primarily shaped by the perspective of Leonora, who is attempting to escape, mentally at least, from a world defined by order. She is literally as well as figuratively stifled, longing for air; but as her heart-torn aria makes clear, she cares deeply about her place in this order and about the others in it.
Monday, January 6, 2014
|Oedipus and the Thebans Photo © Oper Frankfurt/Monika Rittershaus|
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
|Silvester fireworks in Mainz|