Sunday, August 17, 2014

Inadvertent Theseus: Ariadne @ Glimmerglass, part 3


After all the discussions about women on the podium that have cropped up in the last few years, props to Glimmerglass for putting Kathleen Kelly at the wheel. Even working a reduced score with scaled-down orchestra (this theater’s pit being only so big), it’s a monster piece of noise-making that must be tricky for that size a house. Apart from a couple of points where the balance skewed a bit, Kelly kept the orchestra’s sound in shape, surfed the score’s nuances, and let the singers be heard. More big conducting gigs for her, please. 

Finally, in keeping with director Francesca Zambello's chosen setting, and presumably also as a way of heightening the divide between "high" art and "low" as represented in the work, everything is performed in English except for the Ariadne opera seria. As with last year's King for a Day (and next year's Magic Flute), the job of translating Hofmannsthal's not uncomplicated libretto fell to Kelley Rourke, Glimmerglass's dramaturg and supertitles ninja. Rourke manages to write singable verse, adhere to the intentions of the libretto and of the score without being slavish, and make it come out both musical and funny (when it needs to be), and contemporary as the production’s premise requires. (“It is quite obvious to me / that you’ve gone off your meds,” sings the Wigmaster at the Tenor in the Prologue.) At times the German/English juxtapositions play off each other, as in “Too many nights alone can really take a toll!”/”Toll, aber weise….” Clever. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inadvertent Theseus: Ariadne @ Glimmerglass, part 2

Christine Goerke, who was a Glimmerglass Young Artist once upon a time, and who is also wicked funny, by now has the Diva moves down. (It probably helped that the audience gave her big hand just for showing up on stage.) But she also managed the nuance of an artist going from not expecting much to finding herself drawn in to the Composer’s art. (The Prima Donna seems a little stunned at the huge applause she gets for Es gibt ein Reich, and looks over at the Composer with a combination of surprise, admiration, and gratitude.) At this point, coming off a tremendous success in Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Met, Goerke has a voice that can more than fill Glimmerglass’s 800 seat Alice Busch Theater. It was fairly clear that she was reining in the volume at times, but we like an Ariadne with power to spare.


Seriously, if she sang it like the performance before, no problem there.

Rachele Gilmore has pretty quickly become one of the go-to sopranos for the role of Zerbinetta, and with good reason. She had one of those insane Halo jump short-notice Met debuts subbing in the role of Olympia for Kathleen Kim. So it was no surprise she tossed off Zerbinetta’s coloratura without a hitch. Zerbinetta being something of a Strauss/Hofmannsthal combo of Despina and Don Giovanni, she works her way through the guys’ applications, has a brief thing with Harlequin, but it’s the Composer who turns her head. As the opera progresses, you can see her thinking maaaaaybe she’s done with the old gods.


Catherine Martin has a lush, muscular voice, and she captured the Composer’s comic lows and poignant highs in a way that makes me hope we won’t have long to wait for her Octavian.


Likewise the three nymphs, Naiad, Dryad, and Echo, seem to be a gateway to bigger things, although most of what they do in this opera is sing cosmic harmonies. Jeni Houser, Beth Lytwynec, and Jacqueline Echols were nicely aethereal together, and we’ll look forward to hearing them again individually (in Echols’s case, next year as Pamina).


On the mundane side, what the four clowns – Carlton Ford’s Harlequin, Brian Yeakley’s Brighella, Gerard Michael D’Emilio’s Truffaldino, and Andrew Penning’s Scaramuccio -- may lack in otherworldliness they made up for with Eric Sean Fogel’s fairly intricate choreography.


Strauss’s evident hatred of tenors notwithstanding, Corey Bix, oar in hand, made it across the high seas of Bacchus intact. No mean feat.


Actor Wynn Harmon was appropriately officious and dismissive as the Major Domo (“I leave it to you to work out the specifics” is probably his mantra) and Matthew Scollin’s Farmhand looked as perplexed by it all as my Montgomery County farm-owning boss when I try to explain to him that I’m blowing off work for an opera out beyond where even he lives.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Inadvertent Theseus: Ariadne in Naxos @ Glimmerglass, part 1

Francesca Zambello’s new production of Ariadne at Glimmerglass draws on two key features of upstate New York: first, that at some point early in its history, the people responsible for naming municipalities in the state of New York went on a Classics binge, which is how Syracuse got associated with college basketball and Ithaca with granola progressivism, Attica with prison riots and Utica with whatever Utica is associated with. The second is that, much of upstate having been since the Gilded Age a summer getaway land for wealthy, art-appreciating New York City people, a lot of art gets done in the hinterlands, not least an opera festival way out in Otsego County, in a little semi-gentrified farming town surrounded by more semi-gentrified farming towns.

So the conceit for this production is the entirely plausible idea that a wealthy estate owner has decided to have a summer entertainment put on in his barn, and to accomplish this has imported the talent to the sticks somewhere NNW of New Paltz. The barn has a fairly unreliable map of New York State painted onto it, and head shots of the principles in the scheduled opera seria pinned up next to the doors, which slide open to reveal a vintage tractor and a piano amid the hay bales. Also there are goats and a chicken. Later there will be a stage.

The Diva arrives, as we know somewhat disconcerted by what it turns out she’s being asked to do, more so in this production by where she’s being asked to do it.

Christine Goerke as Prima Donna in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of
Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.


Then Zerbinetta’s troupe arrives, looking a bit like a Brooklyn punk cabaret act lured up the Thruway from the Bard Festival’s Spiegeltent.

L to R: Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D'Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.


Chaos ensues, you know the spiel.

In keeping with the general drift of women being in control of the creative process in this production within a production (the Prima Donna, the Comedienne, the Director, and the Conductor), Zambello has tossed out the Composer as trouser role and just made the Composer a woman in trousers.

Catherine Martin as Composer in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of
Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos."
Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.


SPOILER: The Composer gets the girl, and so does Zerbinetta.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

lessons from Section 18

What you learn from the rear-shed jumbotrons at Tanglewood during the Mahler 2nd:

 1) Choristers' friends and family sit back there so they can shoot phone pix of their peeps on-screen during their close-ups.

 2) The BSO violins really like playing that pizzicato section of the Ländler, and you can see them collectively dreaming about forming a ukulele orchestra.

 3) The audience is every bit as fidgety during the slow bits with the action in their face as when our sad lack of multi-media technology left us solely at the mercy of our ears.

And yes, dude sitting next to me, yes! the horns of Judgement are blowing in the distance! now is the time to crack your knuckles!

curtain calls as more of a sports bar experience

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

unconfirmed report

I had to bail on the curtain calls of today's Proms Rosenkavalier broadcast, so I asked the Special Envoy, who was listening on the far coast, about audience reaction:

"The announcer did state that the stage was covered in a thick layer of underthings, and that the audience were in various states of undress."

This may or may not be true.