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*+-Should Art be merely an escape or refuge from the realities of our difficult times? In the 1940s, the debate heated and divided artists, musicians and scholars. In Wallace Stevens’s essay “The Noble Rider and The Sound of Words,” the twain are resolved in the idea that art, even “abstract” art can assume the role of social commentary only through innate and ineffable transformations of reality rather than by any explicit agenda dogmatically imposed by the creator. Great art could not be manhandled ideologically. How this solution might apply to opera of the past becomes the task of the director and musicians in balancing the surprisingly diverse elements of the music’s intent, the libretto’s intent, the historical context, and, yes, the composer’s objectives, if any. It is not surprising that Stevens regarded that an artistic creation had its own life apart from the creator’s wishes. Thus, we have the license for interpretation and deconstruction that has become the hallmark of Regietheater in our times.
*+-Yesterday – would you believe it? – I heard Bizet’s masterpiece for the twentieth time. Once more I attended with the same gentle reverence; once again, I did not run away. This triumph over my impatience surprises me. How such a work completes one! Through it one almost becomes a “masterpiece” oneself – And, as a matter of fact, each time I heard Carmen it seemed to me that I was more of a philosopher, a better philosopher than at other times. I became so forbearing, so happy, so Indian, so settled….Bizet’s music seems to me perfect. It comes forward lightly, gracefully, stylishly. It is lovable. It does not sweat.
Friedrich Nietzsche – The Case of Wagner, (Leipzig, 1888).
Nietzsche was, of course, ironically extolling Carmen at the expense of his erstwhile mentor-idol-friend, Richard Wagner. Even though Wagner had been dead for five years, Nietzsche had great fun zinging Wagner’s family, followers, and the entire Bayreuth phenomenon. Yet, his comment that “it does not sweat” ultimately lingers in one’s judgment of Bizet’s masterpiece. Nietzsche would have had little to comment on the subject matter of this opera, nor on the moral turpitude to which the opera’s male hero falls. Nietzsche might have even identified with Don José in his own affair with the free thinking and flamboyant psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salomé. With the philosopher’s mother and sister holding him in check, he never had the opportunity to be so lustily ruined by his own Carmen.
*+-A Season Prélude, Millbrook, New York, April 10, 2011 Songs by Georges Bizet and Irving Berlin Lauren Snouffer, Soprano Eric Schnobrick, Piano Francesca Zambello’s first season as Artistic Director of Glimmerglass will unfold very soon. Indeed, much in Cooperstown will be transformed by her vision, if not her brand of exciting and eclectic taste. At […]
*+-Four New Productions, Including a World Premiere and Professional Premiere, Headline the 37th Festival. Festival Artists Include Anne Bogart, Rod Gilfry, Nathan Gunn, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally,John Musto, David Pittsinger, Jeanine Tesori and Deborah Voigt Carmen (music by Georges Bizet, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy) Directed by Anne Bogart Conducted by […]