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Showing posts from December, 2013

Timely Intensity: Glass' Satyagraha at the English National Opera

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Though I am familiar with Philip Glass' musical style and his immense impact on the world of opera and classical music at large, I have never viewed or attended a performance of one of his operas and was quite excited to do so. This production is shared by several opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, and is quite excellent. While I thought some of the typical Glass musical elements could have been pushed even a bit further here, the performance was quite good and, of course, mesmeric. This performance was given the day after the death of Nelson Mandela. Someone took the stage before the performance began and lead a one minute (really two minutes) standing period moment of silence. The trifecta of Gandhi on stage singing, Martin Luther King on stage acting, and Mandela in our minds was reflectively poignant. 
General information & synopsis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha_(opera)

Satyagraha | Philip Glass

Credits:
Director | Phelim McDermott
Associate Directo…

Simple Comedy: Mozart's Die Zauberflöte at the English National Opera

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I often go into a performance of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte somewhat reluctantly, feeling that it's hard to get beyond the lighthearted music and the bizarre storyline to something with any meaning. There is nothing wrong with just having fun, of course, but it often feels to me that the strange mix of morality, unusual atmosphere, and conflict undermines the comedy of Flute while the comedy undermines its seriousness. It offers many opportunities for imaginative productions, and of those I've seen this one manages most effectively to create an atmosphere of lighthearted fun, making it enjoyable while eschewing attempts to make a point or interpret the opera's deep bizarreness.
General information & synopsis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Flute

Satyagraha | Philip Glass

Credits:
Director | Simon McBurney
Associate Director | Max Webster
Set Designer | Michael Levine
Costume Designer | Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting Designer | Jean Kalman
Choreographer | Josie Daxt…

Musical Mastery: Wagner's Parsifal at the Royal Opera House

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Besides, of course, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal likely stands as Wagner's most monumental work. Having seen the full Ring and Tannhäuser in Vienna, I was excited to keep checking things off the very top of the list of Wagnerian operas. The conceptualization of this production was mixed. I have often debated at length how productions that set an opera in a different time period or are abstract (like this one) must not only not distract from the opera, but must do more than just provide an acceptable veneer for an alternate setting. They must truly add something beyond what the production offers in its traditional setting. The concept of this production definitely attempted to do so but lacked the artistic unity to fully succeed. The performances, however, were simply rock-solid and perfectly in the vein demanded by Wagnerian roles. 
General information & synopsis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsifal

Parsifal | Richard Wagner

Credits:
Director | Stephen Langridge
Set &…

Ravishing Visual Beauty: Puccini's Madama Butterfly at the English National Opera

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Puccini's Madama Butterfly or Madame Butterfly is, unquestionably, one of opera's most beloved tales. In many ways it seems fairly straightforward to produce. The snags come, however, in the way the emotional content must be communicated. The first act culminating in "Vogliatemi, bene," and the opening "Un bel dí vedremo" of the second act must create enough passionate, romantic tension to hold through the entirety of the second act (with the important exception, perhaps, of the revelation of her son) and most of the third act to the point of Pinkerton's return and ultimate betrayal. Most of the actual time of the opera is spent waiting, and unless the anticipation sets up an electric feeling of suspense, that waiting can be very boring.

This review will run in somewhat reverse order - focusing on major characters, then comprimarios, and finally on the production itself.

General information & synopsis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madama_Butterfly

M…