Anja Harteros was meant to be singing Violetta in this production but cancelled at the last minute and relative unknown Maria Agresta, who had sung the role here earlier this season. No announcement was made at the beginning of the performance, and I only found out through twitter. Strange. Quite annoying too, as she was the main point for seeing this, but Keenleyside made up for this. I met up with the always charming Zerbinetta beforehand who reminded me that Keenleyside had just been singing Wozzeck with Waltraud Meier, and that I had missed this. Damn!
I couldn't believe the average age of the audience - maybe mid forties with plenty much younger, rather than late fifties, early sixties as is the norm in London. The next day I went to see Rosenkavalier (review pending), where the audience was much older. Is this a repertoire thing? Or do older people like Fleming and younger people like Harteros? Probably the repertoire thing... (ALSO! the younger audience were MUCH better behaved)
Anyway, I reviewed it for Bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-bayerische-staatsoper-traviata-agresta-vargas-keenlyside
I couldn't believe the average age of the audience - maybe mid forties with plenty much youngerReplyDelete
But why doesn't Pfitzner's Palestrina attract a similar crowd?
Haha, I have no idea! It's not exactly concerned with current "youth" issues is it... and sad to say it's not that popular with older people either...ReplyDelete
"and sad to say it's not that popular with older people either"ReplyDelete
It’s worse than that. The consensus in the opera world right now is that Palestrina should RIP. And many bloggers don't like it either. Zerbinetta has said.... ”You could not pay me to see Palestrina”. And Opera Cake refers to it as... "the major operatic yawniac"
Even many prominent critics dismiss it as... "hours of gentle tedium". As for its “inordinate length” what’s the problem? It’s exactly 3 hours and 20 minutes long, the same as Boris Godunov (Rimsky version)
Here is the general sentiment:
I suspect that much of the praise given to the piece results more from an uncritical acceptance of its philosophical underpinnings and seriousness of purpose than from enjoyment of its musical content. It is through-composed and largely declamatory, with no clearly marked arias and few extended melodic lines. The confrontation between the outside world of hustle and bustle (the confrontations of contending factions in the Council of Trent) and the inner world of the composer turns out to be fairly effective dramatically, and there are moments of beauty, notably the choruses of dead composers and angels toward the end of Act I. But the opera is long, long-winded, and (to me) for the most part boring
Well I have never questioned its greatness and as a 20th century work I find it even more worthy than say, Lulu or Peter Grimes. Sure it has its musically weak / unmemorable sections (the first 20 minutes in Act 1 after the prelude - Silla and Ighino) but it does quickly improve. I love it to pieces.
It looks like it will remain (along with Hindemith's Mathis der Maler) a connoisseur’s opera.
I think you're probably right. I do think it's a very noble effort, and also that it contains much wonderful music, but there are problems dramatically, and its clear that the sobriety of the music doesn't excite everyone.ReplyDelete
"but there are problems dramatically"ReplyDelete
For some reason the detractors always focus on the Second Act (Council of Trent) and claim that its scherzo-like character, its wordiness and its protracted length throw the rest of the opera out of kilter. By the time we reach the final act we’ve almost forgotten who Palestrina is.
This is definitely a fair criticism but to be honest it never bothered me because I simply adore all 70 minutes of the music and its cast of characters (Severolus, Novagerio, Cardinal Madruscht, Graf Luna et al). And of course it’s not all “scherzo-like”. It also contains noble passages, wonderful writing for woodwinds, as well as a very beautiful orchestral interlude right in the middle. It has many other qualities.
Here is one prominent critic who feels differently:
"Act 2 lasts more than an hour; it is marred by the absence of female voices (which necessitates a certain timbral monotony) and it succeeds in conveying ugly emptiness rather too well for the health of the complete work"
Oh dear! On the contrary, I love the fact that this Act is completely dominated by basses, baritones and tenors. I personally can’t get enough of those rich bass voices (i.e. Karl Ridderbusch, Gustav Niedlinger) and the more grouped they are the better.. :-)
Again, an opera for very special tastes. I just hope that the forthcoming book - A History of Opera - will devote some juicy paragraphs to Palestrina
I wouldn't care too much what "prominent" critics say - remember that we all have our tastes and predilections, and not every art work can move us all equally, especially one as singular and unusual as Palestrina. I have to say that it's women's voices that do it more for me, so this is an issue for me to, but not a massive one, as I do very much admire the music.ReplyDelete
"I have to say that it's women's voices that do it more for me"ReplyDelete
The other day I came across this on Parterre:
"While Parterrians love to wax on about the productions, opera will be alive as long as we get good sopranos with some glamour to sing Traviata and Tosca, stentorian tenors for their repertoire, and barhihunks for the rest. I know I left out bassos. No one goes to the opera for the basso. It’s just the way it is"
This utterly astounds me. And that comment didn't elicit a single response.
In my book there is nothing more addictive and beautiful than the deepest, darkest and heaviest bass voice. Give me Karl Ridderbusch, Marti Talvela, Gottlob Frick or Zoltan Kelemen at the end of the day over the finest soprano, mezzo, tenor, et... But again I keep forgetting that Parterre is full of "opera queens" who have a strong predilection for female voices.
In your experience with other operagoers are basses in general regarded with less affection compared to all other voice types?
In your experience with other operagoers are basses in general regarded with less affection compared to all other voice types?ReplyDelete