Sunday, May 22, 2011

Must-read for Opera Fans: Isherwood on the Met

Opera fans will not want to miss the fine wrap-up by Christopher Charles Isherwood in this morning's NYT about the Current State of Things at the Met (that "Spider-Man" lead in is only a distraction).  Nothing sensationally new here, but a sane, measured and generally sympathetic account  of life under Peter Gelb.  But the part that made me laugh aloud was a look back at the old days:

Directing for the opera house is a discipline with its own distinct demands, and the scale of the Metropolitan Opera’s stage adds another troublesome factor to the challenge. In the pre-Gelb era the grandiose literalism of Franco Zeffirelli was the house style at the Met, at least for the core of the repertory. His meticulous re-creations of period d├ęcor and his penchant for filling the stage with boisterous crowds and the occasional animal were pleasing to fans who enjoy opera as an escape into an eye-popping fantasyland of the past where even the greatest suffering took place in sumptuous surroundings. But Mr. Zeffirelli’s productions often had a way of diminishing the operas themselves; their emphasis on scale and spectacle could trivialize the musical dramas they were meant to showcase.
Also a fine throwaway on the challenge of performing under the close scrutiny of the HD camera:

Watching the telecast of  [Nicholas] Hytner’s production of “Don Carlo” on DVD, I noticed that the performers were often acting in different keys. Roberto Alagna, in the title role, a creature of the old-school European opera stage, hits the emotional notes squarely and with ample recourse to semaphoric posturing, while Simon Keenlyside, portraying his boon companion Rodrigo, employs a more inside-out acting style. He occasionally seems to be searching for an authentic human connection that Mr. Alagna’s more presentational style made impossible.
Almost impels me to betake myself to the Palookaville multiplex for five more hours of Wagner's "Ring."  Well, probably not.  


Dave Lull said...

I.e. Charles Isherwood.

Buce said...

Thanks, David, corrected. Bet this happens to him a lot.