March 5, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera |

"Pres des remparts!"

(State Opera SA, 10 November 2011) Carmen is golden, deathless and a remarkable example of the great weird paradox; in life as in art, beautiful women who entrance deficient men get shredded.  Perhaps the overt expression of this theme, or an excess of absinthe, caused its stunning, hostile Paris reception on debut in 1875.  Brahms, who knew a thing or two about great music, saw it 20 times.  Why the French turned on Bizet, one of their own, and rejected one of ‘the greatest creations for the musical stage’ is a mystery. Never mind – Carmen survives and flourishes, even…

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Madama Butterfly

March 5, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera |

Geraldine Farrar as Cio-Cio-San at the Met, 1907

(State Opera SA, 7/9/2006) In many ways, this piece is ridiculous, but Puccini patched up its failings, including the poverty of the libretto, and triumphed over both the odds and the hostility of Milan, where it premiered in 1904.  With some of his loveliest music connecting a few inky dots and a prescient theme of American domination (and carelessness), Butterfly’s desolation still moves us and in this production, her simple sorry plight was not badly sung by Kirsti Harris, amid some stark but satisfyingly depressing scenery.  Pinkerton’s Stars and Stripes motif never fails to startle!  It was conducted by Aldo…

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Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg

March 1, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, Opera, WAGNER |

Stage Design by Helmut Jurgens, Munich 1949

(Richard Wagner) (Met, N.Y., Dec. 2014) Whilst perhaps a German might find an opera of over 6 hours duration a droll concept, only Richard Wagner would turn that concept into reality.  Yet in mirific fashion, he succeeds with his most human and entertaining work, a wonderful mix of romance and comedy that does not equate, thanks god, to a ‘romantic comedy’.  From the Magisterial overture to the polyphonous redux of the Masters’ motto, we are enthralled and can even look past the score-settling with critics like Eduard Hanslick (the libretto originally had Beckmesser as ‘Hanslich’), with Jews such as Meyerbeer,…

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Eugene Onegin

February 16, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera, Ulalume |

Painting by Ilya Repin, 1899

Tchaikovsky’s great opera (1879), with a libretto largely lifted from Pushkin’s epic poem, is a snow-filled but overheated saga of frustrated amour.  TVC has never seen a live performance and has no plans to visit Russia in order to do so.  The 1988 Decca DVD, directed by Peter Weigl with Sir Georg Solti conducting the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, reveals one of the enduring problems with opera as film as opposed to the Opera House.  It sounds good and it looks good but, alas, not at the same time. The film treatment, while a little static, soars above the…

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The Flying Dutchman

February 16, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |

Charles Temple

(Wagner) (1843) Not the Master’s best, by any means, but still streets ahead of most: strong, muscular, melodious, dramatic, Wagnerian, and able to be staged in most civilizations (Bass x 2, Soprano, Contralto, a couple of tenors).  A Mary Celeste story with some soft porn thrown in, it was apparently inspired by both a stormy sea-crossing and Richard’s contempt for Parisians. (TVC team are francophiles but still: Yay!). Add to the inspiration the ghost ship source material that abounded in Wagner’s youth, such as by Marryat and Heine and you can enjoy an immature piece that is still tempestuous, eerie…

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