White Shirt Monday: Cut To The Chaise

[Clearly, it is the autumn of chaises. And sopranos on chaises. Fate, what are trying to tell me? – Thank you, Deutsche Oper, for your Flickr slideshow of Meyerbeer’s “Les Huguenots”, starring Patrizia Ciofi (Marguerite) and Irene Roberts (Urbain), Berlin 2016 – Photo Credit: Bettina Stöß/Deutsche Oper Berlin]

As long as there are lady ‘stashes and pinstripes and classy Patrizia-Ciofi-lounging on chaises, I will not yet give up the world despite absurd current choices (absurd, not-classy-at-all choices).

Then again, faced with those choices and their outcome, perhaps the only appropriate on par is putting on our best evening gown and riding around the planet with an expression of royal judgment on a giant warhorse.

 

leshugue1_zpsvwkg6vfp.jpg

[Patrizia Ciofi (Marguerite) in Meyerbeer’s “Les Huguenots”, Berlin/Deutsch Oper 2016. – Photo Credit: Bettina Stöß/Deutsche Oper Berlin]

19 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Cut To The Chaise”

  1. 🙂 going to see this on Wednesday, I’ll report! The day after, I’m going to see the very infamous Entführung by Rodrigo Garcia which the critics got super annoyed about (from what I read they may have a point) but I’ll try to keep an open mind and you can always just close your eyes.

    Like

  2. Some quick impressions on yesterday evening, while I should really work on my presentation: First of all, the opera itself, which I hadn’t seen on-stage so far: Alden described it in an interview as the broadway musical of that time in the sense of perfectionized entertainment. With that in mind, the first two acts, which were dominated by a lighter, often comedian mood worked well for me and Patricia Ciofi was totally commanding the stage as eccentric queen Marguerite. At some points one could clearly sense the parodies of later times and Alden’s staging was nicely overdoing these features. The last two acts where the opera gets more serious, describing the events leading to the massacre and the main couple dying a martyr death, were more difficult for me to swallow, because I felt the production could not decide whether to seriously address the problematic issues involved, like the immense and appalling violence, but also the romanticizing of Valentines unnecessary death in deference of the religious beliefs of her lover. The last point was not addressed as problematic at all, regarding the violence, there was a scene where Valentines husband got tortured with the blood splashing out, still apart from this shocking element, I felt the overall mood remained that of bombastic entertainment. It seemed to work, the reactions of the mostly elderly audience were very positive. For me, the production was overall rather tame, nice to look at, but for me a feeling of the pieces not fully fitting together remained (but I admit that developing a concept must be very difficult here). The horses were very stylish though, there were several, and nicely displayed the hedonism and need for grandeur of the catholic rulers.
    The musical delivery was excellent, first of all Ciofi, who conquered all vocal demands of the role easily and excelled in characterization of her part. Her voice does have a slight breathiness but this was unimportant in the light of her great expressiveness. Florez sounded 100% as I knew him from Rossini recordings with this characteristic timbre, which was fine, especially in the first part, where he could also bring out his talent for comedy. In the second part, especially in the love duet, I felt his voice was sometimes not optimal suited, in the sense that he sometimes sounded a bit strained, e.g. compared to the recording of M. Spyres in that role. Olesya Gologvneva sounded beautifully as Valentine and delivered a touching portray acting-wise. Last but not least, the page Urbain was sung by Irene Roberts who was announced as a change of cast but had apparently taken over the role for the whole run and was very secure in acting and stage interactions. Her voice is huge, very powerful with a well-rounded timbre, she sang across the whole choir and orchestra easily, quite impressive, plus there were some nice fun scenes between her and Ciofi.
    For anyone who wants to listen in, this evening will be broadcast in two parts on 4th and 5th of February at Deutschlandradio Kultur. Also interesting: the next part of Deutsche Oper’s Meyerbeer project, Der Prophet, will be conducted by Olivier Py! (Good thing this is an annual conference). Now, I’m super curious about the Entführung, due to all the diverse and often furious reviews I’ve read and will report back on that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Thank you Thank you, Agathe!
      It is wonderful to get to read this and feel a bit as if having been there despite being somewhere else in the world.
      Glad to her Ciofi rocked the house 🙂 And I will keep my eyes open for Roberts. Your impressions on the staging approach are also very intriguing.
      Feb 4th & 5th are marked in my calendar!

      Like

      1. Wow, I have already envied you for that one the last days and looking forward to your Report!
        I’m still on Mozart high, I guess all the Chrystal Meth that was brewed on stage tonight is pretty weak stuff in comparison 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. After slowly coming down from Mozart heaven again, here’s my report from Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Deutsche Oper in the staging by Rodrigo Garcia: Reading the reviews a few days ago I nearly regretted having bought my ticket already. There was hardly anything the staging was not accused of. The conservative reviews mostly claimed that the director, who comes from a theatre background did not understand Mozart, was turning the “seriousness” of the work into a farce, and worst of all, was making fun of the audience (or so they felt). Not to mention critics hated the displays of nudity and sex and two articles openly complained about the protagonists not being clear about their sexual orientation (“as if it didn’t matter!”). Apparently there was lots of booing at the staging on the premiere night and it seems the audience was infuriated by dialogues being spoken in English and the original dialogues having been replaced by Garcia’s own dialogues in line with his staging idea. One review on a web blog even compared the audience’s reaction to racist insults against African American Mezzo Vera Little in the 1950s; still while being critical about this point, the reviewer hated the current production nevertheless. So believing all these articles you would have expected to see Mozart’s opera in a senseless display of obscenities, and sharing this experience with a racist, homophobic Berlin audience. I did find two rather positive reviews who liked the comedy aspects of the staging and the interview with the director himself made it clear that he did respect and love the music, while being very interested in the individual characters, so, there were signs of hope (The interview with Garcia was actually cited by some reviews, often citing his statements out of context or even changing the actual wording slightly, which made him seem arrogant and uninformed in the reviews).
            Before I go on and may get you interested in this production, beware of the trailer, I think it does not do the production justice. For all the nudity shown, it was not as senseless as it seems in the trailer, although at some points maybe a bit unnecessary. The story told is as follows (there were very clear references to “Breaking Bad”): Belmonte and friends work as Crystal meth cookers. Konstanze, Blonde and Pedrillo have been abducted by an Ufo and brought to Bassa Selim’s “world” which is located somewhere in the desert of Western USA. Belmonte drives there in his Monster truck to get them back (accompanied by two girls he had sex with in Konstanze’s absence and now feels guilty about it). Bassa Selim is a female drug mogul and pop-star basketball player, who is admired by all her staff (she did make an impressive entrance with Mozart’s fun music). Bassa Selim loves Konstance and Konstanze is torn between her and her fiancé. Blonde is meanwhile very happily adapting to the pleasant life at Bassa Selim’s. Konstanze expresses her conflict by accusing Bassa Selim of being responsible for all the naked girls lying around drugged in the Crystal meth lab (at least that’s my reading of the scene with Konstanze giving them sugar cotton to eat while ogling Bassa Selim accusingly, or was she making her jealous?, more than one layer, certainly). Whatever the exact reading of the scene, the following “Marter aller Arten” did have immense tension between the two and credits to Olga Peretyatko, who, as I read in the opera newspaper, was not so happy about some aspects of the staging (and demanded a change of her costume) but did pull it off acting-wise here (not to mention the sublime singing). As in many scenes, a video in the background was showing what was actually on her mind, in this case, a pool scene with Bassa Selim. Meanwhile, Belmonte and Pedrillo, who have been hired to cook their specialty of blue Crystal for the Bassa are drawn more and more into this world, while fearing the boredom and their aging selves of their old lives (this was actually explained by the Bassa at one point). It ends with all driving away in the truck (although Bassa Selim assumes they will be back) but before, all characters’ ambiguities were very nicely displayed in the last scenes. Yes, there was some (mild) making out between people in changing constellations, which I read as phantasies. This was during the Quartet on the question of Konstanze and Blonde having stayed faithful to their partners (which in itself I find very problematic in the original setting given that Bassa Selim and Osmin would have been in the position to just force the women). Yet, the scene here could be a bit problematic in view of the average audience’s reception, in the sense of displaying queer people as naturally promiscuous, while I’m sure that was not intended by the staging. In the last duet of Konstanze and Belmonte it seemed the death-threat they indulged in gave a new kick to their relationship? (they did not run away when given the chance, one more layer). The lesbian relationship lost in the end, still Bassa Selim was displayed as the most intelligent and attractive of all characters, despite the questionable way of earning money, but that was the same for all characters, so I don’t think the staging can be read as homophobic or racist (Bassa Selim was played by a black actress) as suggested by one reviewer.
            I can understand that this whole setting may seem strange for many, especially older generations. I personally had immense fun with the setting, but it did not just stay at the funny surface, offering very interesting insights into the characters’ inner conflicts. The director explained in the interview that the crazy setting was also meant to offer a space not associated and burdened by any actual political or social conflict, in my view a good way to get around the racist aspects of the opera.
            Musically this was a truly wonderful evening, with very good singers, who apart from Peretyatko, all came from the ensemble. I especially liked Matthew Newlin as Belmonte, who has a beautiful Mozart voice, which was made all the more interesting by the ambivalent character in this staging. The orchestra under Arthur Fagan did keep it light enough for the voices to get through in a balanced sound and the acoustics from where I sat were very good. I’m not good in analyzing conducting takes, but this one certainly worked for me, sigh…, and so addictive.
            About the audience: No, I did not have the feeling to sit among a racist, homophobic mob. The house was only half full, and maybe many conservative viewers may have been put off by the bad critics already? In any case, while, as always, you catch up the occasional annoying break conversation, my overall feeling was that the performance was well received, with people sniggering at the funny points and lots of applause in the end.
            This evening will certainly stay in my memory as a wonderful, funny and moving experience, while the “review experience” is actually a bit depressing overall and a good lesson to not let myself influence too much. Just found another review which seriously argued Konstanze being interested in women was illogical because she could have long tried that with Blonde in the past (!?). One last word to the self-proclaimed defenders of the original and true Mozart (although they will most certainly never read this): from all that we know about Mozart it seems hard to imagine he would have been offended at the word “fuck” uttered in a performance as many of the reviewers obviously were. Sorry for this having turned out so long, it feels good to share all this with you, a bit like a review-detox, before being able to concentrate on the tasks of the day again.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. You should probably have your own blog and this should be a post! Thank you for the review/analysis – will try to look up material and comment more then. The story outset sounds crazy, but if it can create moments of truth and connection, why not?

              >

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I don’t know, this was not even meant as a review, more about telling friends of my experiences.
              Yesterday’s Un ballo in mascera, which I saw on short decision after a work dinner activity was cancelled, in total wasn’t really interesting enough to want to write a lot about anyway, but there was again very good singing, especially by Tamara Wilson. And Oskar could be another nice trouser role for PP?
              See you tonight but I may be in danger of falling asleep after the unconfortable hotel nights.

              Like

            3. Still, it is exactly the thing I like to read – with context, with examples to imagine detail, and with an informed, open-minded take on it.
              The concept sounded so crazy upon reading, but it is true that it takes out the whole racist othering of the oriental.
              And the thing with different dialog texts has been done before – I thunk it can work, always depends on the texts because the original text is highly problematic and I think doing it today without addressing that is not the socially most conscious option.
              Addressing the subtexts reminds me of the Neuenfels take with the doubled lovers and I still think that’s genius.

              Like

            4. Oh yes, the Stuttgart production seem very interesting with the separation of actress/singer, there’s an extract on YT. Seeing the Bassa’a entrance here makes me think that this „overdoing racism“approach probably would not be shown by any house today in the current climate. I’m not sure if like/understand it but it’s difficult to judge when seen out of the production’s context, still the fact that Neuenfels could do it shows how things have changed.
              About the Deutsche Oper setting, I realized that it probably makes quite a difference if one has seen „Breaking Bad“ or not, I had seen it and thus the setting did not seem so crazy after all (but I guess at least 90% of audience don’t know it, so maybe Garcia should have considered that). To give you a better picture about the setting, there is this „Making of“ clip but, as in the trailer, I still think some scenes only work in the context (by the way, there was lots of working out in Bassa Selim’s world by both men and women).

              Like

            5. Good morning Agathe, we missed you last night! Thank you for the link. I have not seen Breaking Bad, but I still see the point of trying to remove it from the entire oriental context as radically as possible (Working out never hurts…)

              >

              Like

            6. PP probably doesn’t have the size to cut through the Verdi orchestra? Not sure. But she would ACE the part otherwise. Of course.
              (commiserating on the hotel bed. I spent the whole week on the guest cot (one of the valkyries is out with a fever and gained my spot in the big bed *sigh*) and my back is not 25 any longer)

              Like

            7. Ouch, ear pain – I hope it is better today!

              Over here, we are slowly improving – fever down, but still weak. (boys, btw. I just don’t advertise it much, for anonymity’s sake)

              Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s