Béla Bartok

March 25, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera |
Bartok_tablo

Béla Bartok (25 March 1881 – 26 September 1945) only wrote one opera (as did Beethoven) but it was a beaut.  Bluebeard’s Castle (1918) was based on the grim fairy tale by Perrault about the Duke with skeletons in the cupboard (literally). It’s a timeless theme of wiles, deceit and blood-letting that has attracted our interest as a trope previously. In this operetta however, there’s no bloody chamber but a lot of nasty foreboding, atmospherics created almost solely by Bartok’s spiky music.  Instead of being a killer, he’s a collector.  His (apparently complicit) former wives have, according to Bluebeard, “gathered all my riches….

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Wagner by Michael Tanner

WagTanner3

Science has proved that books on Wagner’s life and works would more than fill the Grand Canyon.  It is therefore necessary to be discriminating (in a good way) as to what reading matter on the Maestro you choose to buy, beg, borrow or steal.  Michael Tanner is a perceptive opera critic of good standing, an unapologetic Wagnerite, and his little book on the subject of Wagner’s work is a lucid and concise presentation of his views on Wagner’s raison d’être and the dimensions of his achievement. Despite tending to present difficult concepts in convoluted, laborious language (the hallmark of the professional philosopher,…

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Götterdämmerung

December 8, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |
There's nothing like wrapping-up a series with a wedding (even if it's a double-wedding from Hell)

There's nothing like wrapping-up a series with a wedding (even if it's a double-wedding from Hell)

(Opera Australia, Melbourne, December 7, 2016) (Dir. Neil Armfield) With Götterdämmerung, Wagner closes his monumental circle, and not in a particularly happy way. Or does he?  Why, after their interminable love play concluding Siegfried, does Brünnhilde send her lover off to do good deeds, a la Lucy and Ricky?  Why are the Norns just catching-up with the imminent fall of Valhalla, which Wotan and Erda would have told them about already?  Why, after drinking a Brangäne-inspired potion that moves him to marry Gutrune and kidnap Brünnhilde for Gunther’s convenience (an infamous act that he compounds by slapping her around and stealing…

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Siegfried

December 6, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |
Sieg2

(Opera Australia, Melbourne, 5 December 2016) (Dir. Neil Armfield) In this third spoke of the cycle, the plot becomes simple, but radical; in a sense, confined, more a matter of fairy-tale than myth.  Siegfried goes from boy to man; with the newly forged hand-me-down sword, ‘Nothung’ he slays the gold-hoarding dragon, and when he sees that his guardian, Mime, has played him for a sucker, he deals with him too.  Then, with newly-acquired powers of comprehension, he heads up the mountain to find the sleeping Brünnhilde. During that ascent, he confronts on old fella (who turns out to be his…

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Die Walküre

December 3, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |
"Step off, or I'll put you with the stuffed animals!"

"Step off, or I'll put you with the stuffed animals!"

(Opera Australia, Melbourne, December 2, 2016) (Dir. Neil Armfield) We have spoken of The Valkyries before in terms of Wagner’s dazzlingly great achievement, but before turning to this wonderful version of it, can we bang on a bit more about what the Maestro was up to here? Die Walküre shows Wagner blossoming as musician and dramatist.  In the words of Ernest Newman, “he abandoned himself luxuriously to the sheer joy of music-making, both enlarging the scale of his design for each episode and delighting in fine filigree work from bar to bar; at the same time he has acquired a…

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