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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Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC, Ulalume, WAGNER |

St. Valentine (from 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'

(2015 – ASO) After champagne and real Turkish delight, and the annual re-run of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it was time to head through Adelaide’s February furnace to the Festival Theatre, where Arvo Volmer conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s version of a concert, curiously and incongruously entitled “Passionate Tchaikovsky”.  We had the Russian composer’s Violin Concerto, with Ilya Gringolts sublime on lead violin, wearing a frock coat straight from Fiddler on the Roof.  Written in 1878 to console its creator for the unfortunate and instantly-regretted decision to marry the loopy and self-centred Antonina Milyukova, the piece was not played till…

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