Saturday, July 23, 2016

sundry items

So the usual absurd amounts of stuff are going on, because July. If it's insanely hot where you're at (90's all this week round these parts) and you're cooling your heels in the air-conditioned splendor of your subterranean bunker, here are some things to pass the time.

Bayreuth opens this Monday with Parsifal, and this year you can watch it courtesy of BR-Klassik right here, assuming they don't geoblock it. (Judging by the archive, which is also worth checking out btw, I'm guessing they won't, but who knows.) Oh yes, and if you're on Eastern Time, things get going about 9:45am, and the intermissions are long, and it's Parsifal, so that's basically your day.

Live Bayreuth audiocasts for the rest of the opening week are available from a bunch of European radio stations, and you can find those details on the ever-useful Operacast Bayreuth 2016 page.

There's a Barber with Tara Erraught over on The Opera Platform that looks like fun, in a Generalissimo Francisco Franco is not yet dead kinda way.

Glyndebourne has scaled back its once ambitious plans for live-streaming, but you can still catch the Laurent Pelly production of Beatrice & Benedict, with Stephanie d'Oustrac and Paul Appleby, live on August 9th and probably for a week thereafter.

More things as we stumble across them.

UPDATE: Regie or Not Regie has the details on tomorrow's BayStaats Les Indes Galantes webcast.

UPDATE: Bryn Terfel's Boris Prom

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Ugly Week here in the Shining City On A Hill, so to offset a bit the dollar store fascism spewing forth from every orifice channel, here are some illegal aliens:


Friday, July 8, 2016

the whole depth of a tale: R&J at the Millionplex

If you hang around the Republic long enough you might guess I'm not a huge Kenneth Branagh fan by the lengthy and detailed disquisition (Jeremiad?) you might be a party to should the topic arise. He's sort of the Puccini opera of Shakespeare actors - he's got a limited bag of tricks, and you're going to see every one of them, in everything he does.

As a director he has his moments (I was pretty much meh on his Hamlet film but I will say it's the only time I've ever bought the Hamlet/Ophelia backstory). But again, a bag of tricks. He likes to mess with setting. He likes to make visual reference to old movies. He likes to cast against type. He likes to cast Derek Jacobi.

So, his Romeo & Juliet: Setting messed with? Check. Visual reference to old movies? Check. Casting against type? Check. Derek Jacobi? Bingo!

The fair Verona where he lays his scene is a slightly post-WWII Italy -- some recovery has taken place, there's food to be eaten, champagne to be drunk, parties to crash, but the old stone walls of Christopher Oram's set are pocked with bullet holes. The attempt at a post-war feminine lightness - dresses, hairstyles, manners -- speaks of hard times past and better days in the offing. But we're stuck in a world (In a world...) being drawn in different directions at once, somewhere between Fellini, Godfather-esque verismo, and film noir.

This last is perhaps more driven home in the cinemacast than it was in the theater, as they elected to film it all in black & white. It makes a point, but I'm not sure technically you can have it both ways -- it's wearing on the eyes after awhile, which a black & white film (a good one) should never be.

Lily James is good as Juliet -- a Juliet who's been around the block a bit more than most Juliets, but war is like that. She manages to make the verse conversational, and she's convincing, although Branagh doesn't give her much of a character arc to work with. She ends pretty much where she began, except dead. Richard Madden as Romeo does a really great Young Branagh imitation -- he delivers the lines exactly as the boss would have done. He does it really well. One wishes he wouldn't.

The two of them are nice to look at. Can't say I was all that sorry at the end. Mission accomplished left somewhat undone.

However...

Regular readers of this blog also know that when a casting choice in a standard rep work plants a signpost pointing off in some other direction, I get a little less slumpy in my chair. So the evening begins with an over-long Branagh voiceover telling some lengthy anecdote about Oscar Wilde in his last days in Paris being a jumping-off point for casting Derek Jacobi in the role of Mercutio. Usually a kind of hyper, sometimes fairly annoying, but young character, prone to poetic overdrive, here he's an old aesthete who likes to hang out with the boys. And they with him, critically. He's prone to poetic overdrive, yes, but Jacobi, whose Shakespearean acting style is nowadays slightly tipping over into Old Skool, brings exactly the right amount of heightening to heightened speech. His Mercutio isn't having a series of verbal seizures so much as he's picking out finely detailed fancies to distract himself, and everyone else, from the misery they've all recently lived through. It's clearly a technique that's kept him alive all these years. Only when he comes to speak of love, it isn't with the simple disdain of a footloose young man. Instead it's the cover for a whole life lived with those types -- Romeo's types -- of earnest declarations just out of reach. Or if in reach, impossibly dangerous to the touch. This Mercutio's flights of fancy and humor have a bright sheen of desperation and despair.

So it's when black-shirted Tybalt comes around, sword drawn and on the hunt for Romeo, that Mercutio, after a lifetime of blood dealings with blackshirts, and remembering in his bones all the old grievances and the long buried friends and lovers, picks up a sword for the last time.

Branagh likes to drive a truck through things. If you were going to floor it, this would be the place. He didn't, though, not quite. But the signpost alone was worth the somewhat unsatisfying rest of it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Columbia sez: This script isn't going to write itself, you know. Rise up, you slackers, and finish Act 2!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dr Ralph Stanley 1927 - 2016

From the O Brother Where Art Thou year at the Grammys, hear him serenade a room full of rock stars and record label execs with O Death at 1:34: