Homecoming Queen: Jacobs with Monteverdi’s “Il ritorno di Ulisse” at Theater an der Wien


An ample decade ago, in its first season as Das Neue Opernhaus, I first traveled to Theater an der Wien to catch Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” conducted by René Jacobs, which indrectly inspired the creation of this blog. So it is – for a variety of reasons – always a special occasion to go back to TADW for more Jacobs.

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“Qui d’amor, nel mio linguaggio”: Don’t plagiarize it.


Nice review. If you want to know why it feels familiar, you know where to go (or, my recent English Concert “Ariodante” review has found stunning similarities (minus the fangirling, and really, that’s taking all the fun out of it) in the one posted on OperaToday, and I’m not amused by it).

Tonight, we’ll be doing an impromptu session on structural plagiarism, which, for some of my students, is a concept that is hard to grasp.

Structural plagiarism is if you don’t cut-and-paste directly, but just steal thoughts and structures, specific details or catchphrases from something and use them, deliberately refashioned here and there, as your own work. My students are usually baffled that this can be recognized and called out, but let me give you a perfect example:

Her timbre is incredibly rich and beautiful, though it is never just about beauty. Her voice is a Mahler’d ray of sunshine, bronzen and burnished and deep, joyful in a way of won through anguish. There is that rhapsodic slant that always, and more than in any other singer, reminds me of Fassbaender, not only in tone, but in how she approaches tone as a narration. […] her voice struck me as the serene and the lamenting in perfect balance. She still has that edge of bold recklessness in there, but also so much more gentle nuance.

These are the first lines I wrote on Alice Coote’s singing in my “Ariodante” review. Note the cluster of adjectives (in bold). And now have a look at this:


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Rock, Swagger, Whispers: “Ariodante” at Theater an der Wien

Ariodante 2.jpg

Last night, the Grand Ariodante Tour of The English Concert started the European leg of their tour at TADW Vienna.

Short version: It was wonderful. Alice Coote’s sound bottled would make the best Scotch ever, Sonia Prina is actually Joan Jett, Christiane Karg should be cast if Todd Haynes ever directs a 1950s opera, I want to know where David Portillo buys his shoes, and the English Concert were British in the very best sense: precise, dedicated and witty with an incredibly rich vocabulary.

Of course, there is a long version.

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Tragic Valentines: Hasse’s “Piramo e Tisbe” at Theater an der Wien


It’s been a while since this concert, but I still have a few thoughts collected on Hasse’s “Piramo e Tisbe” under the baton of Fabio Biondi, starring Vivica Genaux and Desirée Rancatore in the leads.

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Wrestling Rousseau: “Ariodante” in Stuttgart


To get this out of the way: no, this evening is not like “Alcina” (nothing will ever be like that formative “Alcina”), but if the legendary “Alcina” is one Baroque bookend of Wieler’s Stuttgart years, then this “Ariodante”, staged by Wieler and Morabito. may well be the other.

The concept looks at the intersection of class and enlightenment thought, juxtaposing baroque affect against classicist emotion and the question of identity warred between them. Literally: in a boxing/wrestling arena.

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Egklecticism, well-framed: “Peer Gynt” at Theater an der Wien


Usually, neither Peer Gynt (#ExtensiveWhiteAble-BodiedManpain) nor Werner Egk – whose behavior during the NS regime had a decidedly brown tinge  – would make me want to go to the opera, but the staging in this is case is by Peter Konwitschny, and has Bo Skovhus and Maria Bengtsson in the leads. It also features Natascha Petrinsky, who left a lasting impression on me as Amneris in the Konwitschny staging of “Aida” back in 2008 – enough, in fact, to have me mark this production in my calendar as soon as it was announced. (#WillShowUpForTheMezzos)

“Peer Gynt” – not that removed from Faust in that regard – asks the core question of what life’s purpose can be, especially if a person defies convention, and how to find absolution when all intents have failed. In both cases, the answer is in finding purpose: having something left to do, recognizing something as fruitful (nevermind the predominantly female body count racked up on the side).

Konwitschny manages to turn the question into something timeless and more universal in his trademark, alert personenregie and his keen eye for the intersection of individual and overarching narratives. There is a serene mastery to this evening that creates moments both gutting and fun, and never needs to show off or rely on smoke and mirrors.
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