Let me say first of all, as editor and publisher of New York Arts, how fortunate I consider myself that I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with Jefe Anglesdottir, the renowned Danish architect, familiar to anyone who has so much as glanced through Metropolis or The New York Times’s T Magazine for his malls, museum car parks, and the cutting-edge houses of worship he has designed for what he calls “oddball sects,” for example the Positivist Temple in Częstochowa and the South Beach Rosicrucian Center. In recent years his restless creativity has led him into other art forms, most recently opera production. His first effort in the field is ambitious, nothing less than Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen for the Launceston Opera in Tasmania. For this interview I flew to Abu Dhabi, where I met with Mr. Anglesdottir in the Al Dar Lounge, said to be the most luxurious VIP lounge in the world.
For Bostonians, getting to hear a live performance of Wagner’s ambitious third opera, Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (“Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes”) was surely a once in a lifetime experience, which is what Odyssey Opera, Boston’s newest opera company, must surely have been counting on. Too bad that even in Wagner’s bicentennial year, and for the landmark inauguration of a new company, only some 600 of Jordan Hall’s 1013 seats were filled (the top ticket price was $200) for Rienzi’s Boston premiere, in a complete concert version. But those present certainly got their money’s worth (and probably so did the local restaurants, which filled up during the two-hour dinner break in between the two parts of the five-hour opera).
Nicolai’s Merry Wives at the Boston Midsummer Opera and Tanglewood Tales: Jurowski and Koenigs Tell the Whole Story
It was James Levine’s many cancelations that most directly led to his (perhaps forced) resignation as the Boston Symphony Orchestra music director in the spring of 2011. But Levine has no monopoly on health problems and accidents. The glow of the two superlative concerts I attended at Tanglewood (July 19 and 20) was clouded over by the startling announcement that Levine’s young and healthy replacement, 34-year-old Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, was unable to conduct the July 27 Verdi Requiem, his first scheduled concert since his appointment, because he had suffered a “severe concussion” after being “struck in the head by a door that unexpectedly swung open at his residence in Bayreuth, Germany.”
L’Opéra national de Paris, like most of the major opera houses around the world, with the notable exception of Bayreuth, have been building their new production of the Ring work by work over several years. I attended their Rheingold in 2010 and reviewed it in the Berkshire Review. Although I found the proleptic reference to Albert Speer’s Germania questionable, I rather liked Günther Krämer’s production at the time (The current French approach to Wagner favors native Germans both on the stage and behind it.); I was pleased with the cast; and I was deeply impressed with Philippe Jordan’s conducting. The son of the renowned Swiss Wagner conductor Armin Jordan, he has an individual and thoroughly grounded vision of Wagner, which he can only have developed on his father’s knee. Now three years later, on the eve of the Opéra’s complete performances of the Ring in June, I saw and heard the same intelligences and imaginations take on Siegfried, often considered the most difficult of the music dramas as far as audience involvement is concerned, for reasons that are both obvious and bemusing.
There haven’t been many Wagner productions in Boston—mostly the forces called for are too big for Boston’s smaller operatic venues (its Opera House was torn down in 1958). But marking the Wagner bicentennial this year is a new production of…
Parsifal Richard Wagner, libretto and music Metropolitan Opera Production – François Girard Set Designer – Michael Levine Costume Designer – Thibault Vancraenenbroeck Lighting Designer – David Finn Video Designer – Peter Flaherty Choreographer – Carolyn Choa Dramaturg – Serge Lamothe…
Le but principal de cet article et de louer jusqu’au cieux une représentation tout à fait remarquable—inoubliable, dirais-je—du premier oeuvre canonique de Wagner, mais c’est bien une mise-en-scène contemporaine—une mise-en-scène laquelle rend justice aussi bien à la problématique sociale de 1840 qu’a celle de nos jours—surtout à propos de la rôle des femmes dans la famille, le mariage, les moeurs bourgeois, et l’argent. Dans ce contexte le problème qui me frappe d’abord est celui de la mort de Senta, parce qu’il semble que les metteurs en scène de nos jours se sentent fort mal à leur aise avec sa mort telle que Wagner l’avait conçue, où elle se jette dans les flots tourbillants nordiques. S’agit-il de la vraisemblance, du goût, ou bien des frais toujours montants de l’assurance qui découragent la saute d’une soprano importante même d’une distance de deux mètres? Voyons.
Rienzi was totally new to me, although Eve Queler’s interview on New York Arts gave me some idea of what to expect. Still I was really surprised to hear music that seemed to come straight out of Bellini and reminded me even of some Verdi at times. This is most definitely not the Wagner we know from Tristan and Parsifal, and Wagner most certainly didn’t want us to know him by it. Although Rienzi was a great success at its premiere, made him famous, and continued to be popular through his lifetime and beyond, he repudiated the opera, once he hit his stride in Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin, and supported performances only as far back as the Holländer, his next work, which he actually began before he finished Rienzi. He worked on Rienzi from the summer of 1837 to through October 1840. During this time he took up a post at the opera house in Riga, where he stayed until he was dismissed in 1839. He had to leave the country in secret to escape his creditors, setting out for Paris, where he struggled to survive, as he tried unsuccessfully to interest the Paris Opera in Rienzi.