THEATER IN BERLIN

Crazy Blood

Intensity, imagination, and brilliant acting characterized a new German-Turkish play and a version of Hamlet that I attended in Berlin in the last two weeks. Shermin Langhoff, the General Director of the Maxim Gorki Theater and Turkish by birth, has made her name engaging Turkish actors and presenting significant dramas involving the German-Turkish relationship (The Turkish community in Berlin … [Read more...]

OPERA IN A SMALL HOUSE

Carlos Moreno Pelizari

Americans on the constant search in Europe not to see other Americans need only go to Detmold, a city of around 70,000 in upper northern Germany about an hour from Hannover and three hours from Berlin. As the major city in a small pre-World War I principality, it is a charming German city, never bombed as it was not strategically important and little changed from times gone by. Traffic is light, … [Read more...]

HOW HAS OPERA CHANGED?

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 As recently as 1986, when I had been General Director of Seattle Opera for three years, a soprano brought her costume with her and planned to do “her” interpretation of the role. Of course in the performances she used our costume and performed  the director’s vision of her part, but the idea of a star using one’s own costume—and doing one’s own thing dramatically--characterized many opera … [Read more...]

WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF STAGE DIRECTION?

Munich Boris

 Two very erudite, sophisticated South American opera lover friends of mine have recently defended to me the work of Calixto Bieito, a Spanish director who not only brings opera into the present but frequently uses graphic images of sex and violence. The immediate subject was a Boris Godunov, described to me, in which allegedly Boris could have been Joseph Stalin at his cruelest. This despite the … [Read more...]

IN MEMORIAM: JULIUS RUDEL

I first heard Julius Rudel conduct on two consecutive nights in the fall of 1957, my first year as a graduate student in New York: Turandot with Frances Yeend and Susannah with Phyllis Curtin and Norman Treigle. I had never heard either opera, and his dynamic leadership as the conductor made a huge impression on me. He had joined the New York City Opera in 1943 even before the company started … [Read more...]

ON THE STATE OF OPERA

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Photo credit: Elise Bakketun; Marcy Stonikas, Sarah Larsen; Seattle Opera's Consul A lot of ink has recently been spilled about the demise of opera. Audiences are supposed to be drifting away; the number of subscribers is dwindling; people generally are not interested in our art form; all is gloomy, and opera has been described as being pushed off a precipice by public disdain and … [Read more...]

Der Rosenkavalier Controversy

Ludwig

When the noted and thoughtful critic of the Washington Post, Anne Midgette, wrote a piece criticizing British critics for dismissing Tara Erraught’s Octavian in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier because she was overweight, she was dead to rights. Ms. Erraught is maybe slightly heavier than ideal, but opera is not the movies, not now and I hope not ever. I attended this Rosenkavalier in Glyndebourne on … [Read more...]

Ben Heppner

94 Lohengrin gs 002 (3)

The announcement of Ben Heppner's retirement took me back more than twenty-five years to June of 1988 when a tenor I had never heard auditioned for me. We were planning a new production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg, and he, described as an heroic tenor, had just been named a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera's National Auditions. When I heard his "Am stillen Herd"---even in a … [Read more...]

BIRGIT NILSSON

I am honored to be a member of the artistic panel making the selection for the Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2014. Ms. Nilsson set aside a great amount of money to make this largest single award in classical music significant and designated that it be given to an active artist or organization that was fulfilling the kind of dedication to the highest standards of opera and/or concert to which she had … [Read more...]

MONEY TALKS

Talk to almost any European in the opera business, and he or she will make some comment about the wicked control American donors have over the productions for which they give the funds. They usually bemoan the fact that art is sacrificed to the conservative will. No matter how many times I say that no donor to Seattle Opera has ever even suggested that he or she have anything to do with the look, … [Read more...]