Tag Archives: Opera

M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): LA FINTA SEMPLICE, LO SPOSO DELUSO & LA OCA DEL CAIRO

This review is part of a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music.

Director Joachim Schlomer undertook what may have been the most ambitious project of the entire M22 Salzburg Mozart Festival in 2006.  Over the course of three evenings, Schlomer presented Odysseys (Irrfahrten).  Schlomer begins the first evening of his odyssey with an early Mozart opera, La finta semplice. This is the starting point of a challenging journey with the composer, as filtered through Schlomer’s vision.

In 1769 the twelve year old Mozart composed his three-act opera buffa La finta semplice (The Pretend Simpleton) to a libretto by poet Marco Coltellini, which was in turn based off of Carlo Goldoni’s comedy.  It is one of the most appetizing of Mozart’s early operas.

Captain Fracasso and his sergeant Simone are stationed at the home of two wealthy, foolhardy brothers: Don Cassandro and Don Polidoro. Cassandro and Polidoro have a sister, Giacinta, with whom Fracasso is smitten.  Simone is chasing after the maid, Ninetta. Cassandro, a notorious misogynist, is continually at odds with his womanizing brother.  Fracasso’s sister, Rosina, arrives to help her brother and, with Ninetta’s Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): LA FINTA SEMPLICE, LO SPOSO DELUSO & LA OCA DEL CAIRO

M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): IL SOGNO DI SCIPIONE & ASCANIO IN ALBA

* This review is part of a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music.

Here are two operas composed by a fifteen- year- old Mozart. He composed the first, the dramatic serenade Il sogno di Scipione (The Dream of Scipione), for his patron the Archbishop Colloredo (with whom he later had a famous falling out with).  The music is set to Pietro Metastasio’s allegorical libretto.  The Roman commander Scopione must choose between Fortune (the goddess of earthly pleasure) and Constancy (the goddess of moral virtue).  Unable to make up his mind, Scipione presses questions in a series of existential passages.  He discovers he is in the temple of heaven.  He moves from the Elysian Fields to Elysium, where he meets the spirits of his father, Aemillius, and grandfather, Pubilius.  They advise him that duty is above all and diligence will be rewarded with beautiful dwellings.  Skeptical of mere luck, Scipione chooses the virtue of Constancy and invokes Fortune’s wrath, manifested in a great storm.  Scopione endures the elements but awakens to find the test was a dream.  Licenza praises Scopione for his steadfastness.

Still from M22: Il Sogno di Scipione (2006)Director Michael Sturminger, Blagoj Nacoski as Scipione, Louise Friba as Constancy and Bernarda Bobro as Fortune flesh out the composer’s conflicting priorities in a Buñuel-esque reverie. With Mozart’s later Giovanni, familiarity breeds contempt.  Scipione is Giovanni’s alter ego.  He finds refuge and passion within Constancy’s joy in repetition.  Constancy, coming off, at first, as a June Cleaver type, even has children here, yet she, like Buñuel’s suburban Severine, is also erotically unhinged.
Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): IL SOGNO DI SCIPIONE & ASCANIO IN ALBA

M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): ZAIDE. ADAMA

This review is part of a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music

Mozart’s unfinished Zaide is considered a slightly older, less memorable brother to the composer’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail [The Abduction from the Seraglio.].  Zaide is a rescue opera, with a plot based on Voltaire’s “Zaire.”  The exiled Christian Gomatz is visited by the Muslim harem slave Zaide, the sultan’s favorite concubine.  Zaide falls in love with the enslaved Gomatz, rescues him, and together they flee with the aid of the overseer, Allazim.  Zaide chooses spirited freedom over financial security, and invokes the Sultan’s wrath.  Zaide and Gomatz are recaptured, imprisoned, and sentenced to death.  Awaiting execution in the dungeon, Zaide remains defiant, and the opera abruptly stops with an emotional quartet in which the principals express their anxieties, hopes, and fears.  Entfuhrung/Seraglio ended on an optimistic note.  Had it been completed, it is doubtful Zaide would have followed suit; Voltaire’s original play ended tragically.  Zaide ends with the Sutlan’s decision to kill Zaide and Gomatz.   The unhappy ending may have been the reason for Mozart’s eventual abandonment of the project.

Still from Zaide/Adama (2006)For his Salzburg production, Claus Guth’s intertwines Mozart’s neglected, unfinished work with Adama (Earth in Hebrew), by 21st century Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin, commissioned especially for this project.  During Mozart’s brief lifetime, he worked with traditional forms and then, especially later in his career, defied those forms.  It is one of the great tragedies of music that Mozart did not live another ten to twenty years.  His late works (such as the Symphony in G Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): ZAIDE. ADAMA

M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): DON GIOVANNI

* This review is part of a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music

Don Giovianni, Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte’s 1787 dramma giosco,” became a favorite of the Romantics and it has been in the repertoire ever since.  The Don Juan narrative serves as as Mozartian self-portrait, for the composer knew of what he wrote.

Servant Leporello is waiting outside of Donna Annna’s house.  Anna is the daughter of the Commendatore.  Leporello’s masked master, Don Giovanni, has broken into the house to seduce Donna Anna.  However, Giovanni’s attempt is cut short when he’s confronted by the Commendatore.  A duel between the two men ends in the elder’s death. Anna does not know who the masked intruder was, but she makes Don Ottavio, her fiancee, swear revenge for the murder of the Commendatore.  Leporello and Giovanni move on to other conquests, namely Donna Elvira, who turns out to be one of Giovanni’s forgotten previous mistresses.  Still from Don Giovanni (M22) (2006)Barely evading the woman scorned (Elvira), Leporello and Giovanni move on to Zerlina.  Zerlina is engaged to Masetto, and Leporello is instructed to lure Masetto away.  Elvira, however, returns to level numerous accusations against Giovanni.  All of this is witnessed by Donna Anna, who now recognizes Giovanni as the voice of her father’s murderer.  Again, Anna passionately pleads with Ottavio to avenge her father.  At a masked ball, Giovanni attempts to rape Zerlina, but he is interrupted by the masked trio of Donna Elvira, Donna Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): DON GIOVANNI

M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): LE NOZZE DE FIGARO

* This is the first in a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music.

In 1786, Le nozze di Figaro, the first of Mozart’s operas with librettist Fr. Lorenzo Da Ponte, premiered in Vienna. Contrary to legend, the opera was a considerable success, with a libretto pre-approved by emperor Joseph II.  Arguably, it is the greatest of Mozart’s operas, although some musicologists give that honorary title to Don Giovanni (also written with Da Ponte). Still, the overall consensus is that Figaro is not only Mozart’s greatest opera, but it may very well be the greatest opera to date by any composer of any time, period.

The opera was based off of Pierre Beaumarchais’ play (one of three Figaro plays), which had a well-earned reputation as subversive and revolutionary (Beaumarchais was also Voltaire’s publisher).  That Joseph II approved Da Ponte’s libretto was a little short of miraculous.  While the heavier political implications were removed from the text, the defiant, satirical tone ridiculing the aristocracy was, of course, the meat of the plot (the servants eventually best their autocratic master).  The opera, like the play, resonated with the masses. With that in mind, a non-revolutionary Figaro seems an oxymoron.

Still from Le Nozze de Figaro (M22) (2006)Over two hundred years later, The Marriage of Figaro remains an extraordinarily three dimensional work, which does not flinch from portraying deeply flawed characters. Numerous filmed versions of the opera have been released on DVD, but the 2006 Salzburg entry may be the most uncompromising to date.  There is, of course, Peter Sellars’ mid-nineties version (which, aptly, takes place in Trump Tower), but the line-up of the 2006 Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): LE NOZZE DE FIGARO

CAPSULE: REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Darren Lynn Bousman

FEATURING: Anthony Head, Paul Sorvino, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, , Paris Hilton

PLOT: A worldwide epidemic leaves humanity on the brink, but a biotechnology

Still from Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

company saves everyone…for a price.  Anyone unwilling or unable to pay becomes the prey of a killing machine known as the Repo Man, who repossesses organs after he kills deadbeats!

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Musicals, by their very nature, are weird, pseudo-realities that insist that in some situations, you just HAVE to sing.  And dance. And harmonize with other people who also sing.  And dance.  And while it is difficult to say how that is not weird, Repo! The Genetic Opera manages to be oh-so pedestrian.  Despite a plot that is a very distinct hybrid of Parts: The Clonus Horror, any random season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and Tommy, there is no real imagination here, no sense of true creative force or even the vaguest idea how to be artistically subversive.  It’s just throwaway horror movie culture pap that would have been forgotten already if it weren’t so damn awful.

COMMENTS:  Every now and then a movie comes along that is so strikingly different and weird, people just have to stand up and take notice.  Such a movie can become a cult film overnight, igniting passionate statements online like “[Repo!] is such an amazing and very cool artistically rich and collaboratively ingenious of characters with rich metal Gothic and opera soul.”  But then again, sometimes a movie can seem original at first glance yet really be quite plain when one takes a closer look.  Such is the case with Repo! The Genetic Opera.  It is a collection of ideas from the bowels of the Joss Whedon fan-club message boards that is not so much weird as it is totally silly.  To the casual observer, this might look like something that hasn’t been done before, but all it is at closer inspection is a series of things that have been done before, Continue reading CAPSULE: REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008)

AVANT OPERA ON FILM, PART TWO

Daniel Barenboim and Harry Kupfer followed their acclaimed “Ring” cycle (discussed in last week’s column) with Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal, which, if anything, was even more successful.   Alas, the film of this version has been long unavailable.

Scene from Syberberg's Parsifal (1982)
Scene from Syberberg’s Parsifal (1982)

Comparing their geometric, sparse Parsifal to that of Neues Kino director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s controversial 1982 multi-layered collage film would be a pointless task.  Syberberg’s famous film is a case of a director with so much to say, that it literally becomes a truly rare kitchen sink moment in which repeated viewings reap priceless rewards.

Syberberg’s Jungian references abound with fascist symbolism, Nietzsche, Christian mythology, Post World War II Euro culture in a narcotic texture unlike anything before or since.  Entire books could be written about this one of a kind film.

In 1993, long before TitusFrida, or her most recent (and amazing) work, Across the Universe, Julie Taymor was known to modern opera buffs as the director of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. Taymor filtered Stravinsky’s opera through her own undeniably powerful, highly individualistic voice.

Undoubtedly, Stravinsky (who, like Picasso, went through numerous phases, from neo-classicism to post Webern serialism and yet made everything  he touched sound like his own) would have approved of Taymor’s kindred aesthetic spirit.

When Taymor’s production first became available on the video market, word spread quickly, with many proclaiming it to be one of the very best, if not the best, opera yet filmed.

The sets (by George Tsypin), masks, sculptures, puppets, costumes ( Ei Wade), make-up (Reiko Kruk), Japanese dance and narration (the libretto by Jean Cocteau, originally in Latin, allowed for translation to the native language), Ozawa’s incisive conducting, add up to one of the most extraordinarily stylized and emotionally draining operatic Continue reading AVANT OPERA ON FILM, PART TWO