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Tag: opera

Monteverdi at 450

Saturday, 12 August, 2017 0 Comments

L’incoronazione di Poppea (“The Coronation of Poppaea”) is an opera by Claudio Monteverdi, who was born 450 years ago this year. First performed at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice during the 1643 carnival season, it describes how Poppaea, a courtesan in the service of the emperor Nero, achieves her ambition to be crowned empress. The coronation scene concludes with the Pur ti miro duet performed here by the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and the Spanish soprano Núria Rial.


Mr. Castorf’s monster crocodile were busily copulating in Bayreuth

Thursday, 8 August, 2013 0 Comments

“Mr. Castorf’s deeper fault, it seems, was cynically to undercut the musical drama during some of the most romantic, poignant and heroic scenes. My earnest attempt to be open-minded about this baffling ‘Ring’ almost foundered for good near the end of ‘Siegfried’ when (you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.”

Anthony Tommasini’s New York Times review of the current production of the Wagner Ring Cycle at Bayreuth by the German avant-garde director, Frank Castorf, is priceless. From “At Bayreuth, Boos and Dropped Jaws,” a snippet:

“This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semiautomatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music, the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.

Looking hungry after sex, the squiggling reptiles, their jaws flapping, headed toward Siegfried and Brünnhilde, who were singing away.”

The “semiautomatic rifle” there is, typical of the old left who pine for Che, Mao and DDR/USSR days, an AK47. The unimaginative Castorf can do no better. Because his review is so good, let’s leave the final word to Anthony Tommasini:

“As the reptiles crawled closer, the Forest Bird, presented here as an alluring young woman (the soprano Mirella Hagen), burst upon the stage to save the day. Of course, the Forest Bird was not supposed to be in this scene, but who cares what Wagner wrote? This fetching Forest Bird bravely fought off one crocodile by jabbing a pole down its throat. But the other one opened wide and swallowed her whole. Throughout, Siegfried and Brünnhilde seemed only mildly concerned. But then, in Mr. Castorf’s staging, they also seemed only mildly concerned with each other, a much bigger problem.”

When Frank Castorf appeared on the Bayreuth stage at the end of this farce, he was treated to a ten-minute outburst of booing. He stood there, indifferent and perhaps satisfied. One of the joys of being avant garde in Germany is that one can insult the bourgeoisie who pay for the pleasure of being treated with such contempt.

Castorf's croc


Wagner at 200

Wednesday, 22 May, 2013 0 Comments

The prodigiously talented and deeply unpleasant Richard Wagner will be celebrated today, the 200th anniversary of his birth, around the musical world and especially in his native Germany, with a torrent of tributes. Along with his legendary operas, Wagner wrote a hate-filled treatise called Das Judenthum in der Musik in which he held that Jewish speech had the character of an “intolerably jumbled blabber” incapable of expressing true passion. This, he claimed, prevented Jews from creating song or music.

“The Ride of the Valkyries” marks the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four Wagner operas that comprise his epic Der Ring des Nibelungen. The theme was used memorably in Apocalypse Now, where the US 1/9 Air Cavalry regiment plays the music on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during its assault on a Vietnamese village.