Auros (auros) wrote,

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Opera weekend...

Friday night: Tannhäuser. Beautiful music, great performers (and Runnciles conducting, which is always good for Wagner). But the production was, uh, weird. The earthen-floor stage was an interesting idea, but it was barren. Venusberg, at the very least, should have some grass and some flowers. In general, the show didn't seem to match the vision of the story that was described in Director Gockley's pre-season CD, or in the articles selected for the program. The description in the program, in particular, focused on how the central conflict is Heinrich Tannhäuser's attempt to integrate the extremes of erotic-but-meaningless "love" (in Venus' realm) and the platonic courtly love of the Wartburg song circle. The pope told Tannhäuser that he could not be redeemed from the sin of joining the pagan revels of Venus, until the papal staff returned to life and grew leaves; Elizabeth died of heartbreak at not being able to be with him (and she makes clear that she wanted to be with him in the Venusian way, too, having talked in the second act about the desires his songs awakened in her before he left seeking Venus), became an angel, and interceded supernaturally to make the staff grow leaves -- which is a huge pagan fertility symbol. She became an angel, but not of quite the sort that the Wartburg folks expected. Virtually none of that actually got communicated in the production as staged. And the bit with Wolfram (the ultimate devout, pure, Catholic knight) providing a "mercy killing" instead of having Elizabeth just expire? Um. Right. Because we all know how enthusiastic the Church is about euthanasia. WAY out of character. And just tacky and unpleasant. On the bright side, some of the costumes were very interesting (particularly Elizabeth's), and the Venusberg ballet at the beginning was, in fact, fairly sexy, if odd at times. And the touch at the end, where the Venusberg dancers, due to Elizabeth's intercession to save Tannhäuser, literally sink into the ground? That was cool. I'd be really curious to see a diagram of how they made that work.

Saturday: Magic Flute. Very, very, very good. The set design centered on a giant pyramid that could be split apart and rearranged (by techs inside the two major pieces) to form each of the scene sets. The general look, designed by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe (who does everything from political satire, to Disney -- he designed the characters for their Hercules), was really nifty. Take some Egyptian tomb murals, toss in some Aztec-mural hyper-detailed decoration (lots of feathers), and filter through Brian Froud and Jim Henson. The Queen of the Night's costume in her first appearance was amazing. I have no idea what they made her crown out of, but damn that thing was sparkly. It could've been constructed entirely of filaments of starlight.

Sunday: Appomattox. If you can get tickets, go. This is one of the Great American Operas. And there aren't that many. I was kind of apprehensive when I heard about how in the second act, during the negotiation of the treaty, there are "flash forwards" to how reconstruction and race relations played out for the next century an a half; but it worked really well, and gave Glass a chance to experiment with different styles (including a wrenching, very non-minimalist orchestral meltdown under the aria of Edgar Ray Killen). It's not exactly a cheerful, uplifting story, but worth seeing, and all to relevant. The scene with the fall of Richmond plays out wordlessly, showing the horror (and the "shock and awe") of a city undergoing a physical and social implosion. This opera finds a human perspective on events that are too often frozen into an ideological tableau, for one purpose or another.

The show, incidentally, featured the fabulous tenor I wrote about in March, as a prominent black journalist from Philadelphia.

Amusing Sunday tidbit -- while I was sitting with my parents and Xta, chatting and reading the program, one of the techs wandered by and noticed that I was wearing a Motorola logo (on the nice-ish button-up shirt I'd grabbed; Sunday matinees are somewhat less formal) and stopped to ask whether I knew anything about Motorola's old video cameras or might be able to find somebody who did. This conversation eventually ended up with us getting taken on a 20-minute tour of the A/V department, saying hi to boyziggy, with a brief peek out onto the back side of the set (though we couldn't actually get a full look, both because they were too busy setting up, and because this particular set, is a mechanical beast with lots of heavy pieces of metal that go up and down and fold in different ways -- not safe for tourists).

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