perjantai, 20. huhtikuu 2018

A Gap in Education Filled

I had looked forward to filling a gap in my education this year - at last a chance to see Il Trovatore! But then the reviews started appearing, and I became apprehensive. They were less than enthusiastic about this co-production by Gran Teatre de Liceu of Barcelona and Teatro Campoamor of Oviedo from last year, and to start it with a gratuitous rape scene seemed less than appropriate these days. But it wasn't too bad at all, not The Disasters of War by Goya projected on the walls, or even the Goya character himself wandering about and observing, with candles on the rim of his hat. Elena Stikhina was a very good Leonora, otherwise the singers were competent enough.

It occurs to me that this opera was selected for this spring season just for it's civil war setting as in Finland we are just looking back on our own civil war of 1918.

In any case, one gap in my education has been patched up, and another one, even more incredible, will be next autumn.

perjantai, 2. maaliskuu 2018

Giselle!

I saw my third Giselle yesterday. The first one was in the old opera house in the 1980s, the second one in this one twenty years ago. Mostly my memories of them consist of an intense boredom.

Since last spring I've anticipated this Giselle with the attitude that nobody should be inflicted with it three times; it can be seen once for education, but anything more is too much. However, this production rented from the Oslo Ballet was delightful, even the music sounded better than I had remembered.

It was in every respect very traditional from the choreography to the sets and costumes, for which one must be grateful to David Walker. The backdrop was painted with a romantic scenery in brownish hues, there were cottages with doors and windows, the men's costumes were in renaissance style, ladies' more reminiscent of renaissance revival, just right. There was nothing that the opening-night audience in 1841 would have found strange, except maybe the apparently solid curtain that melted away - a commonplace today. Yet it was all fresh.

The painted backdrop produced, however, a bit of unintentional comedy in the second act in the form of a strange astronomical phenomenon: the full moon stood round and still in the same place through all the night till the sunrise!

I went home happy with the real full moon shining bright in the sky.

perjantai, 9. helmikuu 2018

Poor Stupid Butterfly

This winter season starts with an early example of Western self-flagellation (a form of inverted racism, I think), Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini (c. 1904), a co-production of Finnish National Opera and Gothenburg Opera.This was the third version I've seen, and probably the best. The director Yoshi Oida does his best with the material available, the costumes are delightful, and the sets just as I like: they do much with very little, nor was there anything wrong with the music or the performance. But from a Japanese perspective the opera is hideous.

I won't list things that are wrong (everything), nor things that are not absolutely fallacious (some) which would be far easier. I don't know if we have John Luther Long or Pierre Loti to thank for the ignorance, or the writer of the play which Puccini saw, or Puccini himself, or the librettists... But a geisha of late Meiji era, even if she was just fifteen, can't have been as naive as Cio-Cio-San (sung by Hyeseoung Kwon) unless she was seriously mentally deficient - which could be why her okiya was so eager to be rid or her. Nor can I believe an American wife would have been willing to adopt her husband's mixed-race bastard, but what wouldn't a composer do to wring a few tears from a conceited and sentimental audience...

Fortunately the second act (with Un bel dì vedremo) is better than the first one which happens in a kind of Mikado-land, so that one leaves in a good mood.

perjantai, 6. lokakuu 2017

Opera?

Yesterday was the last performance of Höstsonaten - Autumn Sonata, composed by Sebastian Fagerlund, based on the film by Ingmar Bergman. The reviews had been good, but my expectations were not high. I'm not a particular fan of Bergman's, and I remember starting to watch the film on TV long ago and quitting soon overwhelmed by boredom. Fortunately I was proven wrong. It is certainly among the best new Finnish operas, easily on the same level as Kaija Saariaho, although very different.

But was it opera? It seemed to me more like an orchestra piece with drama, singers, and staging. A Finnish music blogger, whom I know to be a fairly recent opera enthusiast, was disturbed byt the expressiveness of the music and wished it had left more space for the psychological unfolding of the characters. As for me, I listened to the whole storm of sound with voices often melting completely with instruments, but when I wondered if it had been better without the staging and other parafernalia, the answer was no. It was good just the way it was.

As for the performers, the women were not only in more prominent roles, but also sang better, although Anne Sofie von Otter (as Charlotte Andergast), although obviously good, wasn't quite worth the hype - that's how it usually is. But maybe she just made a masterly performance of a tired artist?

Anyhow, it is a pity I can't recommend this. Just eight performances, it must have been expensive.

perjantai, 15. syyskuu 2017

An Evening with Lady of the Camellias

Here we go again: it's autumn, and yesterday I saw Val Caniparoli's Lady of the Camellias to Frédéric Chopin's music, originally made for Florida Ballet in 1994. However, this performance was based on the Boston Ballet version of 2004.

It was drizzling and a rainbow arched over the Opera House when I came. A promising start.

The main bar had been moved to a new place, which at first seemed an improvement. During the first intermission it seemed less successful. There were two self-service buffet tables with cakes and coffee, etc. The actual bar with alcoholic beverages behind them had one very long queu. In the end it worked well, and people seemed to get whatever they wanted quicker than before. But for someone like me who only decides what to take while queuing it was a bit frustrating. Anyhow, I went to the booze queu, but standing there I noticed in the buffet, now devoid of customers, orange juice, and moved over to get a glass of it. All's well that ends well, but the old system suited me better.

As for the ballet, it was difficult to follow the plot, as familiar as it is. It took me half the first act to find out who was Marguerite (Linda Haakana in this performance) and Armand (Michal Krčmář): Marguerite was the one with a broad stripe in her dress, and Armand was the man with her. In the second act with new dresses it was repeated, and in the third...

The programme booklet wrote about great emotions, but I wonder if one would have been aware of them if one didn't know the story in advance. It was all very pretty and nice, but great emotions? The end did move me, though. But the best for me was Melancholie sung in the second act by Aki Alamikkotervo and in the third by Anna-Kristiina Kaappola. Actually, I could think of watching it a second time, but I doubt if I'll remember it in five years.

When it was time to leave it was pouring with rain, and I had optimistacally pumps and no umbrella. But walking fast I didn't get too wet.