Author Topic: A Stage on the Lake  (Read 2586 times)

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A Stage on the Lake
« on: August 16, 2007, 07:14:51 PM »
The opera performed on this stage on Lake Constance at Bregenz, Germany is Il Trovatore!.

I have seen numerous performances of this great Verdi work and didn't think I needed yet another one, but I have heard so much about the Bregenzer Festspiele I wanted to see what it's all about. The pure technical aspects of building a stage on a lake and construct gigantic sets as this one, seemed insurmountable. Thats why there is a 12 minute Extra Feature attached to the Opus Arte DVD, an interview with the stage director Robert Carsen and the set designer Paul Steinberg. A ‘stage’ the size of two football fields holds the fantasy replica of an oil refinery, but also retaining the vague shape of a Spanish castle, two towers and connecting bridges and lots of stairs moving the actors constantly over this gigantic construction. The set is not empty, there is always somebody some place, and in the most dramatic moment, the end, Conte Luna appears on the very top platform of his domain: the oil refinery. e.g. oil industry, a very powerful man indeed with an army of bodyguards and soldiers. You get the picture now of how this immense set was successfully populated with the Moscow Chamber Choir and the Bregenzer Festspielchor. The set also accommodated the entrance of Leonora in a silver limousine – sorry, I am not good at identifying automobile makes; it was not a VW! – The location on the water of Lake Constance also made it possible for Manrico to snatch Leonora from Luna by helping her into a waiting speedboat. Speedy it was, leaving a lovely rooster tail in it’s wake.

Il Trovatore is the opera with and about fire. The director did not let us down, there are fires erupting from chimneys and openings in the polluted beach at the foot of the structure. Fires for Azucena, Marianne Cornetti, to warm her hands on and fires of the petrochemical industry. Carsen counted over a hundred references to fire in the libretto and his set designer obliged him with lots of apertures to spout fire. It is a stunning set indeed, keeping the eye busy taking it all in, with the actors acting as guide over all the levels.

The actors were kept busy – what a total contrast to any Robert Wilson directed opera! – climbing those metal stairs while singing and singing very well too. Carl Tanner is Manrico and Željko Lucic his adversary Conte di Luna both very good singers and dramatic actors; Tanner a typical Verdian tenor, and of course he managed easily the High C in the famous call to arms. Iano Tamar as Leonora did produce her share of flat notes and unfortunately missed many moments of coordination with the orchestra, mostly hanging on to one of her good notes as long as possible.

Now this brings me to the most interesting section of the entire opera. I was looking for the orchestra! No entrance of the conductor, no place to be seen neither he nor his musicians. Did they do a Bayreuth Festspielhaus trick? I did notice a singer now and then searching a space above the audience for a monitor, at least I assumed it was a TV monitor he was looking for. Forgot to mention that all singers wore mikes, at first a bit distracting to see them fastened to the left ear and protruding over the cheek, but I got used to it. It was during the interview with the director I finally learned how the entire musical aspect was arranged. The Wiener Philharmoniker under the baton of Thomas Rösner were playing in the opera house in the town of Bregenz, video recorded and projected onto many monitors situated above the audience and – Miracle! – those two segments, singers and musicians were directed and controlled by a sound engineer sitting on a high tower above the audience!

A fascinating Il Trovatore as no other I have ever seen. It might not be the most desired DVD for a senior Verdi fan but it sure is entertaining and very interesting!

Some photos:

« Last Edit: August 16, 2007, 10:06:57 PM by uffeviking »


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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2007, 10:10:32 PM »
A good 'Andante' review:

It's written about a performance with a different cast, three alternating casts are needed for the daily performance of the same opera throughout the festival.


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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2007, 01:26:17 AM »
Boy! This sounds interesting!

(At first I thought it was La Donna del Largo!)


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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2007, 05:41:28 AM »
It is, believe me, Paul. I am learning more interesting things about this production. For instance: It will cost  €250.000 to dismantle the set! That's $338.000!  ::)

I got the DVD from MDT; if you have problems, whistle!  ;)
« Last Edit: August 17, 2007, 05:43:37 AM by uffeviking »

Offline Brewski

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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2007, 07:59:23 AM »
Wow, Lis, what a fascinating production.  (And what cool photos!)  I'm a big fan of Robert Carsen, who did the stark but extraordinarily effective Eugene Onegin at the Met.  But this, with all its technical challenges, sounds in another league entirely. 

Many thanks for posting this!  Makes me want to get it right away...

“I set down a beautiful chord on paper—and suddenly it rusts.”

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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2007, 05:41:38 PM »
Amazon advertises it but with the remark it is not available yet. What they don't tell you, - and I didn't either - it's on PAL format! The one from MDT is PAL; maybe the one amazon will get is NTSC.

See, told you all long time ago: when  you spent money on a DVD player, you should have chosen the one with dual format capabilities; not much more expensive than the other one!  ::)

Offline knight66

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Re: A Stage on the Lake
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2007, 12:01:27 AM »
This all looks both interesting and exciting. On video I suppose it is easy to home in on the action, but the scale of the set looks like it would dominate any performance to the extent that the singers will be lost in it and peep about to find themselves dishonourable graves.

But this is Arena-Opera and perhaps the rules are different. Again in a recording the fact of the Orchestra being in a town miles away does not matter, also, that it would probably have been amplified had it been by the lake is just another oddity of the artform. But I do prefer my sound when live; to come straight to me rather than through a mixing desk and it seems only one step removed from recording the orchestra and singing to a soundtrack.

But I suppose if the end results are good it might not matter much.

DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.