AN OPERATIC ADVENTURE

Font-de-Gaume

On October 12 my wife and I went to a small city in France’s Dordogne region called Montignac, which is in close proximity to the Lascaux and other ancient caves. One of the most interesting is the Font de Gaume, to which tickets must be bought, usually before 8 AM for that day as it is very popular and allows only less than a hundred people to visit in a whole day. Of the three caves we visited … [Read more...]

BIRGIT NILSSON’S LEGACY

Birgit

  No artist I have ever known had more professional dedication than the great Swedish dramatic soprano, Birgit Nilsson. I had the good fortune to hear her prior to her Metropolitan Opera debut as both Isolde and the Walküre Brünnhilde. The Tristan performance in the summer of 1959 at the Bayreuth Festival influenced my whole life. I had never heard anything like her voice or her commitment … [Read more...]

INVESTIGATING WEIMAR

Weimar and its environs illuminate the complex history of Germany. I went last weekend with my wife and some friends to Weimar, the home of the great German artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, his contemporary, Friedrich Schiller, and for many years the domain of Franz Liszt. When we first arrived, we left the city, full of remarkable eighteenth and nineteenth century houses and buildings, and … [Read more...]

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?

nilsson brunhilde traditional 1

 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

14_Consul_eb__285 rev

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...]