Monday, March 9, 2009

shostakovich's nose

The Nose
When I first saw that Opera Boston would be putting on a production of The Nose, my immediate thought was "Well, I must see that. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" When the Metropolitan Opera announced that they too would be staging The Nose next season, I was relieved that I would get the chance to see it in Boston and not have to feel the pressure to travel down to New York to see it. After all, there are at least a dozen can't possibly miss productions being put on by the Met next season (inevitably, half of which I will miss) and any opportunity to get my fix locally saves me time and money and no small amount of psychological well-being (for example, my compensation for not getting to see Renee and Stephanie in the Rusalka which had its season premiere tonight in New York, is seeing it later this month at the Boston Lyric).

Minor miscalculation. My immediate thought upon leaving the opera house last Tuesday after seeing The Nose was "I simply must see it at the Met next year. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" Especially in two different productions within a year's time.

It was an absolutely delightful evening at the opera. The slight criticism of Opera Boston that I had the first time I attended one of their productions (Der Freischütz earlier this season)--the cheapness of the sets and the slightly campy/vulgar acting--absolutely works for The Nose. The music was interesting. Let me just say right off the bat that I am not a fan of new music: by new music I don't mean modern music, but music I haven't heard before. I generally enjoy an opera after I get to know the music first. Even such gorgeously lyrical operas like Madama Butterfly and Le nozze di Figaro sounded ugly to me the first time I heard them. The first time I ever attended a Lucia, I generally had a miserable experience (I also wasn't feeling good that day), but now I will go to every Lucia I have the opportunity to go to because I love it so much now. The same goes for nearly every favorite of mine: Eugene Onegin, Salome, the list goes on.

I did not have this problem with The Nose. The music just worked for me from the beginning. I don't think that I will be jamming down the freeway with this music blaring through my car stereo any time soon or even ever. It's just too non-tonal and non-lyrical I think to be enjoyed in that way, but as a part of the complete theatrical experience, it is brilliant and witty (I'm pretty sure I heard fart noises coming from the orchestra pit!).

One snag: no more than ten minutes into the opera, the music suddenly stopped and a voice came from the orchestra pit (it took me half a second to realise this was not part of the opera, it was in English). "We apologize for stopping the opera, folks, but all the lights just went out in the orchestra pit!" The only character on-stage at this time was the Barber (Vladimir Matorin) who kind of hammed it up a bit to the delight of the audience, and no more than two minutes later, the opera resumed.

A note on the players: Stephen Salters starred as Kovalyov and was quite effective. But I think that the audience favorites, in addition to Matorin, were Frank Kelley who played the Police Inspector brilliantly and with great humor, and Yeghishe Manucharyan as Ivan the Lackey, also very funny. Some of the loudest applause (and the only one to also get some loud whoops from a certain section of the Mezzanine) was Sol Kim Bentley who played the pretzel seller with enough sexiness to win over some lusty fans (especially from a certain section of the Mezzanine). A nice touch near the end of ACT III in which a "prominant citizen" or "celebrity" (that seems to be how they translated it) appears on stage and turns out to be none other than the young Shostakovich himself.

All in all, a successful evening. I very much now want to know how the Met will approach this work. I doubt if they will be this campy, but it would be interesting to see how another production team interprets it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

blo announces 2009-2010 season

Not to be outdone by Opera Boston, the Boston Lyric Opera yesterday announced their new season, which is now expanded to four operas rather than their usual three.

The seasons begins flatly with a new production of Carmen in November 2009. This does not actually excite me, but the rest of the season does. March 2010 will see the "North American premiere of [a] Welsh National Opera production" of Ariadne auf Naxos. This opera is a particular favorite of mine, and I am happy to see it in Boston. The Met will do an Ariadne as well next season. In April-May 2010, BLO will be staging a new production of Idomeneo. These three operas comprise the BLO's standard run at the Schubert Theatre. But wait, there's more...

In what they are calling their Opera Annex, the BLO will be presenting an additional opera at an as-yet undisclosed location, but not the Schubert. And the great pleasure is that the opera in question is Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, which I certainly would not mind seeing. This is scheduled to occur in February 2010.

And, as an extra bonus, they are throwing in a one-hour, English language version of Barber of Seville aimed at the young folks. And that is that.

for those of you in boston this week...

The touring company--Teatro Lirico D'Europa--will be at the Cutler Majestic Theatre (home of Opera Boston) this weekend. They will be presenting the venerable double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci March 6-8.

As mentioned a few posts ago, New England Chamber Opera has Ralph Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea in Cambridge. Admission is free.

Coming up on Wednesday, March 11, Opera Boston Underground will be at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge with Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. No advance ticket sales, just a $10 cover at the door.

for those of you in new york city this week...

It seems that a young new company, The Opera Manhattan Repertory Theatre, will be staging an English version of Die Fledermaus March 5-8.

Also, this weekend and next, Regina Opera in Brooklyn will be presenting Gianni Schicchi.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

opera boston 2009-2010

The Opera Boston 2009-2010 season was announced a week or so ago, and it is exciting. From the letter by Chairman of the Board Winnie Gray in the program I received last night:

Next season, we take our mission to a whole new level with our first commission, the world premiere of Madame White Snake by Zhou Long and Cerise Lim Jacobs. This dramatic and epic work, with two choruses, Chinese instruments, and a world-class cast and artistic team, led by the acclaimed director Robert Woodruff, will be a fitting introduction of this classic Chinese fable to western audiences.

A world premiere for this relatively small company: a very nice coup for them! I can't wait. It would be my first premiere.

The excitement continues when we welcome two of the world's greatest opera singers who will make their Boston staged-opera debuts with us next season: Ewa Podleś in the title role of Rossini's Tancredi and Stephanie Blythe in the title role of Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein.

One of the productions I really really really wanted to attend this year was Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met. Sadly, I couldn't make it happen. By all accounts, Stephanie Blythe was amazing and it will be nice to have the chance of seeing her in Boston (as well as in Il Trittico at the Met next season).

I also missed the vaunted return of Ewa Podleś to the Met in La Gioconda at the start of the season, and this will be a rare and wonderful opportunity to hear her.

The BLO must be so envious...

Monday, March 2, 2009

la sonnambula

I listened to the the live broadcast and participated in the live chat tonight, courtesy of La Cieca. Needless to say, I wasn't as disappointed as the majority of listeners seemed to be.

I enjoy an opera largely on the basis of its music; giving more credit to the composer than anyone else. I love Bellini and I love La sonnambula, so I had a good time. Yes, Pido, was a bit plodding and and slow, but at times, that worked. I just love Natalie Dessay and, if at times she missed a few notes, I forgave her for it. Juan Diego Flórez, was absolutely amazing tonight and was a pleasure to hear. Pertusi may have been a bit thin, but the beauty of the music carried the day. How could it not?

The audience, I will agree, was tepid. Although largely undemonstrative, they did resoundingly boo the production team--lead by Mary Zimmerman--when they were called onto the curtain call by Dessay at the end. Fair enough. I don't come for the production (and I couldn't see it anyway!). I enjoyed myself tonight, and that's the only thing that really matters in the end.