Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Home Again (Munich)

Back again--this time from Munich, with a side trip to Bregenz in Austria, this last for a taste of the Bregenzer Festspiele, hitherto unknown to me. That would comprise--let me count here--ah, yes, six--operas in about ten days which is perhaps almost too much for any taste, but at least enough to justify such a trip.  In sum: inevitably the performances varied somewhat in quality although happily. there really wasn't a clinker in the lot.

The array did include on bona fide premier--something called Tales from Vienna Woods, but no, not that one, another one, on a script by (it says here) "the Austro- Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth" (who?).  The program notes describe it as "a bitter satire about the mendacity and brutality of the petite-bourgeoisie," so no surprise that von Horváth tried to get a score out of Kurt Weill, he of The Threepenny Opera.  Evidently his efforts came to no avail and it lay dormant until this current production, with libretto by Michael Sturminger (who also directed) and music by HK Gruber. On that last you may well say "who?" again but evidently he has a certain celebrity in Austria (where he was born), both as a composer and as conductor of the BBC Philharmonic (local boy makes good). I hadn't done my homework and my German is zilch so the narrative was pretty much lost on me, but if you close your eyes (and stay awake) the music is listenable in its post-Schoenbergian BBC sort of way. Still, you'd better be warned: if you really want to hear it, you'd better hop on over to Bregenz right now, in time for the performance on August 3, its last in the current run, not likely to be repeated (I suspect) for a long while.

Far more memorable was the other Bregenz offering--The Magic Flute ,decked out as what may be the most expensive and dangerous opera performance I've ever seen (and yes, I did see Julie Taymor's giant puppet version (or giant-puppet version) at the Met back in 2006). Evidently Bregenz does this sort of thing: they've got am artificial island offshore but within earshot of an outdoor seating array; it just cries out for traditional spectacle crossbred with Cirque de Soleil.  At least one of my traveling companions thought Mozart would be offended by this travesty but I'm not so sure.  The music is glorious in any costume and the Masonic symbolism, if you care about that sort of thing, comes through just as well on the back of a giant plastic turtle as it does on Julie Taymor's massive jungle gym.  Now that I think of it, my first Magic Flute was the Ingemar Bergman's film version.  I saw that in Hartford, CN, around Christmas, 1975, where I was a little seasick-drunk on cheap sweet holiday sherry, and a script that could survive those limitations is surely ready for anything.

Back in Munich, perhaps a high point was that we got to here Anja Harteros twice--once in the title role of Tosca and later as Leonora in La Forza del Destino.  Here she is doing "Pace, Pace, Mio Dio," in the same staging and the same house a few months back:

I'll save a few more scattered thoughts about Munich and its opera for another day.

No comments: