Posts Tagged ‘HD cinema screening’

Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera live relay from New York, October 2011

30 October, 2011

For Don Giovanni lovers it doesn’t get much better than this.

Leporello and the Don, all photos MetOpera/ Marty Sohl

The Met’s new music director Fabio Luisi gave a sparkling account of the overture, and the performance never looked back. Mariusz Kwiecien combined noble aplomb with demi-world charm as the Don, and Luca Pisaroni was the perfect foil as his sidekick Leporello. Their early dialogue was superbly done, and Barbara Frittoli as the Don’s erstwhile lover Donna Elvira showed huge vulnerability in her portrayal. Later in Act I when Donna Anna suddenly realises Giovanni was the man who seduced her and killed her father she recalls going outside to stop him and her disingenuous, arditamente il seguo … remains curiously unquestioned by her would-be husband Don Ottavio. Marina Rebeka as Anna makes it sound as if she really is lying about her feelings, but Ramón Vargas continues to sing in loving adoration and concern, and his voice and breath control are remarkable.

Ottavio, Anna and her father

The peasant dancing at the party that Giovanni puts on for the wedding couple Zerlina and Masetto, was delightfully done, so far as one could see from the cinema screen, and Mojca Erdmann’s lyrical Zerlina was prettily flirtatious with the Don, and cleverly seductive with her husband-to-be. With Joshua Bloom as a red-blooded and anxious Masetto they made a superb couple, and her vedrai, carino … in Act II, after he has been beaten up, was beautifully delivered.

Wedding dancing at the Don's

As the Commendatore, Štefan Kocán gave a fine performance before his death in Act I, and then made a dramatic entrance at the end, with his bluish make-up helped by Paule Constable’s lighting. The flames are real and Kwiecien’s insouciant Don goes down like the captain of his ship, bowing to no-one, not even the powers of the afterworld. It’s always difficult to tell on the cinema screen, but this production by Michael Grandage looks very good indeed, and with Fabio Luisi keeping everything on track musically it was a wonderful Giovanni.

Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera live relay, October 2010

10 October, 2010

Building a glorious monument with borrowed money is a dangerous business, as many of our politicians have now realised. It’s a lesson they could have learned from Wagner’s Rheingold whose consequences lead to three more operas in the Ring cycle. When the two brothers get their payment for the elaborate folly of Valhalla one kills the other to take the powerful ring, reminding me of recent events in British politics. The brother giants get their payment in treasure stolen from Alberich by Wotan, but Alberich in turn stole it from the Rheinmaidens who were guarding it in the river Rhein. There’s word play in German between Rhein and rein (pure), and although one might regard the Rheinmaidens as pure they are not unsullied by very human failings, and it’s their teasing rejection of Alberich that causes him to forswear love, a necessary precondition for creating the ring from the gold.


Giants and Gods, all photos by Ken Howard


One cannot help feeling sympathy with Alberich as he cries out, “O Schmerz!” (What pain!), and Eric Owens sang and acted the role brilliantly. His dark, rich voice expressed his anguish and determination, and my only quibble — a really minor one — is that he looked such a nice guy! Truly he was the star of the show, along with Bryn Terfel as Wotan, who managed to look ruthless and show fierce determination to retain the ring after stealing it, until Patricia Bardon as Erda warned him off such nonsense. She was terrific in that small role, looking and singing like a goddess.


In Niebelheim, Alberich transformed as a dragon


As that other goddess, Wotan’s wife Fricka, Stephanie Blythe sang strongly and gave a warmly human portrayal. Loge, whose schemes let Wotan off the hook he’s made for himself, was well sung by Richard Croft, and I liked the costume and the lighting for him. In fact the whole production, by Robert Lepage, was very well lit by Etienne Boucher with good costume designs by Francois St-Aubin, including those for the giants who were made to look large without using stilts or artificial heads. Franz-Josef Selig and Hans-Peter König as Fasolt and Fafner both gave fine portrayals of these giants, and I loved the way Fasolt turned his head sympathetically as Fricka sang of a woman’s value, Weibes Wonne und Wert.  Fafner was thoroughly menacing, and we shall presumably hear him again in his transformation as the dragon in Siegfried.  Carl Fillion’s set design, with multiple strips of wood that could tilt at various angles was certainly clever, and I liked the placing of the giants at a higher level, and loved the rainbow bridge at the end. This high-tech production sets a standard that will be hard for other opera houses to beat, and I look forward to the broadcast of Walküre next May.


Gods ascend the rainbow bridge


As to the conducting, it was wonderful to have James Levine back in the pit, and the orchestra played beautifully under his direction.

Tosca, Metropolitan Opera live relay, New York, October 2009

11 October, 2009


This was a new production by Luc Bondy, with Karita Mattila as Tosca, Marcelo Alvarez as Cavaradossi, and George Gagnidze as Scarpia. All three sang and acted their parts with complete conviction, which made for a moving experience. Karita Mattila was a very jealous and emotional Tosca, even destroying her lover’s painting in Act I. Marcelo Alvarez was in glorious voice as Cavaradossi, showing passion and restraint. And George Gagnidze, whom I’ve not seen before, was riveting as Scarpia — his eyeballs at times being completely surrounded by the whites of his eyes — looking and acting like a controlling demon. Paul Plishka as the Sacristan in Act I performed like a weak little man fearful of anyone stronger.

A small difference from the usual staging was in Act II when Tosca kills Scarpia — she had secreted a knife by her side while lying on the couch awaiting his attentions, and thrust it into his groin, so the murder was not merely a spur of the moment decision. Another small difference was right at the end when she flees up the steps to the battlements — instead of throwing herself off, away from the audience, she threw herself forward from the tower, and the lights immediately shut off. It is difficult to know how effective this would be in the theatre — it might look a bit contrived since there had to be a harness to hold her back as the lights went out. But overall — and it really is the overall effect that counts — I thought the production was eerily dramatic.

The boldly stark designs by Richard Peduzzi were effective, and I very much liked the costumes by Milena Canonero. In Act I, Scarpia looked like an outsized beetle in the church, but why not, and later in Act II he was accompanied by three pretty whores, showing that this beetle had at least a strong libido. He is not simply a sadistic chief of police, and his desire for Tosca is more than a desire for sex — he wants to conquer her. The lighting by Max Keller was dark in Act I and very dark in Act III, never lightening up towards dawn, as far as I could see. Of course it is difficult to judge from a cinema screen, and it may have been the fault of camera work on a zoom lens, but the procession in the church in Act I appeared unnatural and looked as if it was almost on top of Scarpia. Such quibbles aside, I find it surprising that the production team was booed on the first night.

The music was well paced by Joseph Colaneri, replacing James Levine who is injured but had already conducted the first night.