Started by Cato, August 25, 2018, 12:47:42 PM
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Quote from: Tsaraslondon on January 04, 2020, 02:23:00 AMI read this yesterday. Osborne's singer friend makes some very good points. It makes for rather depressing reading though.
QuoteThe Manon Lescaut is a recent release from the St. Laurent Studio of the Metropolitan Opera performance of March 31, 1956. The romantic protagonists are sung by Licia Albanese and Jussi Björling, and the conductor is Dmitri Mitropoulos. This was a broadcast that acquired a legendary status among devotees, partly on its merits as one of those electric afternoons, partly for its presumed superiority to the RCA Victor studio recording starring the same protagonist pair, and partly as one of the relatively few complete opera broadcasts by Björling, who had dismayed us with frequent cancellations.
Quote"..."Louise" is true verismo, both in subject matter and musical style—the only French example of that genre to achieve a lasting success. Its composer, Gustave Charpentier, called it a "musical novel," and it does suggest both a Zola-esque naturalism and a Balzacian ambition,.... Here in New York, it is one of five operas that had been fairly regularly in the repertory of the Metropolitan through the 1940s but vanished abruptly as of 1950, never since to return. (The others: "Mignon, Lakmé, The Golden Cockerel"—but sung in French, as "Le Coq d'or"—and "L'Amore dei tre re".) All five were given some life support by the New York City Opera at one point or another, with "Louise" and "Golden Cockerel" (with the Sills/Treigle team) getting the best response, and the San Francisco Opera staged "Louise" for Renée Fleming as recently as 1999. But Louise is now no more than an antique curiosity for American opera-goers, and not much more than that even in France. Which is a shame..."
Quote"...One day in January (Mahler) told me (i.e. Alma Mahler) he had had a very remarkable opera sent him. "It doesn't inspire great confidence in the piano score, but the full score is brilliant and dramatic. Couldn't be otherwise. It was the hit of this year's opera season in Paris...."
Quote from: Cato on April 17, 2021, 04:26:29 PMConrad Osborne writes about the merits and neglect of Gustave Charpentier's Louise:e.g.See:https://conradlosborne.com/2021/04/16/mia-g-charpentiers-louise/6/Mahler knew Charpentier and conducted the opera:See:(Scroll down to #52)https://archive.org/stream/gustavmahlermemo00mahl/gustavmahlermemo00mahl_djvu.txt
Quote"...But those were works by white composers, incorporating jazz sounds into what were then modern-classical or music-theatre styles, and the jazz was that of The Jazz Age itself. Blanchard's is contemporary and prevailingly laid-back. At times it establishes mood effectively, but having set in place a sort of timbral bedding and putting in motion often repetitive rhythmic patterns, it seems content with itself. I almost never caught it in dramatic action, or heard it either generating gestures that might be followed through in the vocal writing on one hand, or adding accompanimental urgency on the other.With respect to the vocal writing, Blanchard has said that he's sought to make it sound as close as possible to everyday speech, repeating the lines to himself to discover their inflectional rise and fall. This effort to fashion a singing line from the "line readings" of the spoken language has an honorable pedigree, with Mussorgsky, Debussy, Janáček, and Berg the most commonly cited referents for it—though as soon as one starts to actually deal with their music, one discovers how unlike speech most of it (including the best of it) actually is, and how interlocked with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic happenings in the orchestra. Blanchard seems not to have much explored his line readings for their poetic or dramatic potential; they are pretty bare. In search of emotional emphasis, he takes the voices higher and into a more songlike mode, but without the build that would make that sound organic. "Destiny" and "Loneliness" are given passages of sustained singing, listenable but unmemorable.....Fire could be said to be constructed on a through-composed, accompanied-recitative-and-arioso model, but with the constituent parts of only moderate interest on their own, and insufficiently fused to develop any sustained musico-dramatic force......The cumulative effect (of the vocal writing, spoken sections. and the performances thereof) is that in an opera founded on word comprehension, and with principal singers doing their best to fulfill the "diction" mandate, one can't follow the plot in any moment-to-moment sense. (And the program synopsis, borrowed from the St. Louis materials, was the least helpful I have ever read.) In none of the many English-language operas I have encountered on first hearing in our auditoriums, including many far less speech-centered than this one, have I encountered equal difficulty with respect to basic comprehensibility....(Concerning why this opera was chosen by The Metropolitan Opera to be performed)...... It is patent on the face of it that nonartistic considerations influenced the first decision, and were determinant with the second. That was a disservice to the piece, which, if it had a viable future, would certainly have found it in a smaller venue, let us say the Rose Theater, where the Met could still have acted as presenter, but the auspices would have seemed less pretentious and the standing of the work vis-à-vis the canonical repertory would not have been on people's minds. (One friend suggested it belonged on Broadway, but it would not have thriven there—no good tunes.)...In an evening marked mostly by subdued, tentative applause at widely separated junctures, there were two genuine ovations. They were of a sort I associate with the annual high school musical, cheering on that quirky or sexy classmate doing his or her thing up there with heady bursts of "WOO!" over furious clapping, but they were ovations, nonetheless. One was on the appearance of the evening's conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a garment of many colors—"WOO!"—and the other at the conclusion of a step dance number in the hazing scene...
Quote...My last two visits to the Met of the 2021-2022 season—the new Lucia, the old Turandot, a week apart—left me feeling not merely disappointed or angry (though both of those), but despondent. Between them, they describe with painful exactitude the principal sources of our operatic agony: in production, a choice between a post-operatic Demolition Derby that gorges on the energy of cultural displacement, or a plainly exhausted, mechanical gesturing after "tradition"; in performance, a shocking diminution of vocal presence and quality and of the creative spark in interpretation, with an orchestral contribution to match; and with the two in tandem, the submergence of performance in production, of the aural in the visual. New direction at the Met could make some headway against these powerful crosswinds (especially with respect to production), but I think it would be in modest increments. Where, after all, would one go in search of directors and designers of creative imagination, strong operatic background, and technical mastery who are not the products of postmodern education and the autereuristic mentality? Where would one venture to discover some lost tribe of singers of power, grace, and expressive urgency? Or conductors of fiery and/or profound inspiration, and the means of evoking same in their players? And then, how might the Met, a mammoth institution embedded in a beleaguered social, economic, and political environment that is somehow sclerotic and disruptive at once, heave itself about toward a yet-to-be-discovered way of working toward a goal it has not defined? For the first time, I have found myself in serious conversations with devotees and professionals who are not among the merely disgruntled or rebellious, yet believe the Met should close up shop, should clear the deck for new efforts. And fervent believer as I am in the necessity for a large-scale institution of social continuity dedicated to the vivification of the great body of rich, deep, and uplifting works of our operatic repertory (to say nothing of my long personal attachment to this one), I have found myself in difficulty trying to disagree with them......The New York Times has a new chief music critic! The NYT is another central, once-vital institution that has lost track of itself ... and its engagement with classical music has been stripped of rank long since. Nevertheless, its influence—locally, nationally and even globally—is impossible to overestimate, and that is as true in the arts as anywhere else, given the virtual annihilation of daily journalism. The "new" critic... is not really new—Zachary Woolfe has been on the premises for a long time, both as critic and as editor. ... (He) appears to guarantee continuance of the Arts and Leisure section's standing apportionment of 90% Leisure to 10% Arts, with the former frequently mislabeled as the latter. Naturally, the Times' announcement warmly commends "Zack" to us, partly because he's good at "demystifying" classical music for us, but more importantly because he comes to grips with the "major issues confronting the field," which are said to be "The continuing obstacles female conductors face; the lack of diversity in major orchestras and on podiums; the ways classical music should change in an era of racial reckoning; and the field's complex, fraught relationship with Asian and Asian American musicians." In other words, the "major issues" of classical music and opera aren't artistic at all, or even economic/existential! They are instead the leading components of the social justice narrative that has come to define this hegemonic newspaper's identity (though remarkably, one of its key components, LGBTetc. inclusion, goes unmentioned), and if Zack knows what's good for him, he will continue to push them forward......he will not, I predict, slip the bonds of the paper's self-imposed "major issues" mandate, which is to view all artistic effort in the light of Diversity.It is this same mandate that, in a sort of Declaration of Dependence, has been proclaimed by the Met......My point is not that the Met should never mount contemporary operas, but that the openings for them among the canonical works, which collectively have established the standards, should be jealously guarded, and above all that they should be selected on the basis of artistic merit, not for their conformity to the demands of Diversity...Diversity has nothing to do with artistic merit. It is neither pro nor con, but irrelevant to it. I would call it artistically neutral...
Quote"...nothing wrong with the tempos, and nothing technically wrong with the playing, either, save that it lacked the essential quality of an operatic orchestra, that of suspenseful dramatic action, and therefore of meaningful engagement with the singers, under whose work there was not the web of thematic development and summoning of atmosphere needed to establish an interactive sonic environment. Then, two or three times, we got a great obliterative blast from the brass, far out of the proportions otherwise observed. At this point, we have heard enough of N-S to realize that this is his predilection, and that the longer he remains the shaper of the Met orchestra, choosing new players and grooming the lot, the more that predilection will prove determinative...."...(Christine Goerke as Elsa) ...in truth only the middle octave of her voice, at full volume, can now be counted on. The top continually frays, and at the bottom she has only a shallow cackle that might be employed for children's theatre witchery, but forecloses not only the completeness of tone needed for low notes, but the ability to mold and color her scornful pronouncements (e. g., "O Feiger!", just rammed out there) or to fill in the wonderfully suggestive ascending octave portamenti at, for examples, "dass meines Jammers trüber Schein" or "Ha! dieser Stolz"—basics of the Wagnerian vocal grammar...."...If Piotr Beczała was on guard against appearing too human, he need not have worried. On the other hand, if he wished to impress as "strange" or "almost like a god," that didn't happen, either. The production gave him plenty of cover in both respects, for no one dressed in fitted black pants and a white shirt with a long tail hanging out (a carryover from the Grail Knights get-up of the Girard Parsifal), and with no face or hair other than his own to show, stands any chance of conveying godliness; and no one asked to stand in an unfurnished space for the duration of the Bridal Chamber Scene, singing at his beloved across the bare expanse, can hope to convey his hunger for love..."
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