Friday, February 5, 2016

sundry items

Vivaldi's Catone in Utica, with Ann Hallenberg, Roberta Invernizzi, and Anett Fritsch (soprano Caesar, yo) is here tomorrow (Feb 6) on Radio 4 Netherlands at the, for some of us, somewhat ungodly hour of 6am ET, but possibly archived here for a week. h/t Dr T for the headsup.

The operacentric trend in literature continues with Alexander Chee's new novel The Queen of the Night. You can read the first chapter here, and then pick it up from somewhere other than Amazon, if you feel so moved and if such a thing is still possible by the time you read this.

Rokia Traoré has a new album out and you can stream the whole thing for a limited time courtesy of NPR First Listen

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

single item

Last spring's Boston Baroque Agrippina, with Susanna Phillips, David Hansen, Amanda Forsythe, et al., will be broadcast (audio only) on WCRB this Sunday, Feb 7, at 7pm ET.

Monday, January 4, 2016

and a bit with a dog: Jane Eyre, NTLive encore

If you’re familiar with the novel, Bristol Old Vic’s stage adaptation of Jane Eyre, in its planed-down, single-night National Theatre version, is a fairly effective representation as representations go. Director Sally Cookson’s staging makes excellent use of minimal resources: a unit set with ramp, platform, and ladders; sundry props; a small cast who mostly rotate characters (all except Jane and Bertha); and a smaller band (piano, percussion, double bass, miscellaneous other things) that supplies a beautifully atmospheric soundscape for events to unfold against.

And it’s an impressive job, given that much of it emerged from the actors improvising on a framework of scenes, anchored by Charlotte Brontë’s written dialogue for key moments. So we get most of the really iconic exchanges intact, along with a few deft shortcuts. (We also get a few extras, among them Rochester, having been thrown from his horse, employing the language most of us would use nowadays under similar circumstances.)

Perhaps the most effective addition is an expanded role for Bertha Mason (Melanie Marshall, voice of gold), an almost continual presence in the form of a woman in a red dress, singing a vocal line that weaves in and out of the action, through trad song, popular song (an anachronistic but fitting Mad About the Boy), and elsewhere, as she drifts through the scenes of other people’s lives and occasionally lights a match. Because she is always there, and because of what she sings, it draws a heavier line of relationship between her and Jane than the book affords.

Also of note: Jane’s portable psychological chorus, which coalesces from the cast at Jane’s moments of uncertainty, agree or disagree with her and each other, and pay attention to things she can’t be seen to be paying attention to.

Also, evil Mr. Brocklehurst (Craig Edwards) reincarnating as Pilot the dog is a bit of inspired leveling-up.

Now for the quibbling. C’mon, you knew there would be some.

Madeleine Worrall’s Jane and Felix Hayes’s Rochester are good but ultimately a bit samey. Worrall in particular, whose character has the longest distance to travel both mentally and physically, plays a Jane who exists on a knife edge, the same at Gateshead and Lowood as at Thornfield, and it shows in her face all the time, like she’s ready to explode any second. But the character that Brontë wrote, by the time she gets to Thornfield, has mastered inscrutability, the end result of years of abuse and privation and endurance being a dense carapace of equanimity. It may be she’s ready to explode at any second, but we shouldn’t be able to tell, and neither, necessarily, should she.

Likewise Felix Hayes’s Rochester is all bluster, which makes him a bit predictable after a while, in a shouty monolithic kind of way. It’s the kind of Rochester that equates physically dangerous with interesting, when what should be interesting (and dangerous) about him is his unpredictability.

Not surprisingly, it’s the Moor House episode that suffers the most from cuts. For one thing, we lose a Rivers sister. The result of this is we get one sister, Diana (Simone Saunders, also Bessie and Blanche Ingram), devoid of background and thus existing only to be cardboard cheerleader to brother St John (Laura Elphinstone, also Helen Burns, Grace Poole, and Adele), rather than two sisters working in the governess trade, spending vacation back at the old homestead, and reading scurrilous German literature to each other when St Bro is not at home. (I know that few people on Planet Anglo get why this is funny, or the point Brontë was ostensibly trying to make with it, but it’s the undercurrent that keeps us out of the shallows, people.)

Beyond that, enough additional material is cut – what St John is giving up to go to India, for instance -- that we don’t really get much sense of why Jane would entertain St John’s proposal for more than a split nanosecond, or (disembodied voices notwithstanding) how the heat of those personal crises would propel her back to Thornfield.

Once she is back there, amid the broken wooden frames and with black ash falling all around, things get very thumbnail, to the point where I’m not sure anyone unfamiliar with the story would quite understand what had happened. But at the end of three and a half hours, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to finish things off with a few broad brush strokes, and they do it, ending where they began, with a certain calligraphic elegance.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kurt Masur 1927 - 2015

Okay today you have try to ignore the Jessye and just listen to the orchestra. (Then go out and get a good turntable and find the lp, because really...)

NYT obituary here.

Addendum: And Alex Ross has the key bit over here...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

not Messiah

If you've burned out on Messiah season but are still jonesing for some Handel oratorio action, for a small and modest fee (5 euros) has Saul on demand from this past summer's Glyndebourne run, directed by Barry Kosky, with Christopher Purves, Iestyn Davies, Lucy Crowe, Sophie Bevan, and Paul Appleby.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

From Vermont New York sometimes looks like Mordor (photo by the Special Envoy)