Friday 30 November 2007

Opera Madlibs

The 1735 season for Venezia Grand Opera promises an eclectic mix of rotund and bouyant works, as well as a gala emphasism featuring the heightened personality E.T.A. Hoffman as special tonality.

The exquisite classic, Purcell's "La miraculoso di Brandenburg" boasts a new production directed by Antonio Vivaldi, with costumes by Hans Holbein. This retrograde staging updates the action to Schwanstein in the early part of the 16th century. Soprano Geraldine Farrar stars as Bratislava, a virginal pun(!) who for most of the opera is disguised as a mysterious hound. Geraldine Farrar is perhaps best known from Meet the Munsters where she sang the lilting melody La Bella Sposa di Diavolo.

The neglected masterpiece "Der Unterschätzt LedigGeweih" will be revived for only nineteen performances. You probably already know the famous "pandemic Chorus" which was used on the soundtrack of the Academy Award winning film Nosferatu. Due to the length of this work, all performances will begin at ten minutes to noon.

Finally, the company will present the Salisbury Cathedral premiere of the opera "The Life and Times of Max Beerbohm" in a co-production with La Scala and the Bayreuth Festspiele. The libretto is by Alexander Pope, based on the play Friendship in Fashion, and the music is adapted from the works of Giovanni Battista Lulli by maestro Claudio Abbado. Exciting newcomer Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes her operatic debut as the unscrupulous heroine, and the men in her life are portrayed by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Ben Johnson and The Man of La Mancha.

Generous support for Venezia Grand Opera`s admiration was provided by the Johannes Kepler Foundation and the National Endowment for the ignorance.

If you have read this far, you probably guessed I was induced into this mayhem at the provocation of one Osprey Therian, whose mischief-making in operatic circles had audiences stampeding for the exits when she opened her *ahem* long-winded "WZDĘTY KIEŁBASIANY" in Gdansk with its embarrassingly shortened "Mortified Mortadella" solo. Opera lovers hold their noses high for a good reason.

Of course, it goes without saying these are operas I would certainly pay dearly to see performed!

Thursday 29 November 2007

Don Giovanni

I have not even begun to describe the numerous performances, of variable quality, that I attended while in Shanghai and Beijing, some ambitious (a 70,000 seat arena star-filled presentation of Dream of Red Chambers, in a cold wind), some delightful (a small circus production called ERA), some predictable (another star-filled arena variety show of classical music, aria, ballet, modern dance, choral and orchestral performers raising funds for the 2010 World Expo), and some simply awful (a strange fantasy with an on-stage waterfall near an amusement park in the suburbs of Beijing), plus many others.
Yet none were as enjoyable as last night's production of Don Giovanni at the Los Angeles Opera. True to Mozart's intention to present the incorrigible libertine as a dramma giocoso - a funny drama - Erwin Schrott was a charismatic and riveting Don Juan, while Kyle Ketelsen's Leporello, the Don's comic and unwilling manservant, stole all the rest of the scenes.
I first saw this bold production, played out in a minimalist black box, fully expecting to hate it, at its debut in 2003, but the outrageousness of the costume design, the commedia frivolity of the staging, and the designer-brand spareness of the set suits the subject perfectly, and seeing it again four years later reminded me how even a tired story (for I saw Thomas Shadwell's 1675 summer production of the The Libertine, itself based on earlier Spanish plays) can be made fresh by an unrestrained designer and a lusty cast.
I have not said how well they sang, but that is because I could never hold a tune myself, and do not present myself as any judge of others. To my deafened ear it resonated magnificent, but all music is just dressing for what I see on stage.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Versailles encore

Young, Os, Enj
But, the comfort was, that all the company at the grand hotel of the Monseigneur were perfectly dressed. If the Day of Judgment had only been ascertained to be a dress day, everybody there would have been eternally correct. Such frizzling and powdering and sticking up of hair, such delicate complexions artificially preserved and mended, such gallant swords to look at, and such delicate honour to the sense of smell, would surely keep anything going, for ever and ever. Dress was the one unfailing talisman and charm used for keeping all things in their places. Everybody was dressed for a Fancy Ball that was never to leave off.
Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
And I forced to leave before the party had barely started! Apologies to my abandoned friends, whose enjoyments, it seems, accelerated after leaving Versailles.

Friday 23 November 2007


click for panorama
Endless city, commerce and industry without bound, twenty million lives squeezed into hundreds of thousands of buildings, expressways choked with automobiles, happiness and rage, fashion and aspiration jumbled with concrete and asphalt, a roaring clamor continuing around the clock, pounding energy and optimism and pride. A river plain transformed into vertical cliffs and canyons. A city created out of nothing in fifteen years. I first came here twenty years ago, when a modern building was a soviet palace. Now there is no limit to the chrome and glass and steel and money spent on raising higher, narrower, stranger buildings. Exhilarating. Exhausting.

Revisiting with Enjah

How wonderful to travel! How nice to return to friends.

The Far Away and Relic

Drowsing in Chakryn Forest

Windlight. At last.

Thursday 22 November 2007

Home Again

Twenty-one days: Shanghai, Macau, Shanghai, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Hong Kong. The itinerary of a wayward droplette. I do have pictures, but ye shall have to allow me to sleep for a bit before I can sort out who was where and when. My dreams are full of steaming crabs and teeming streets and rickety taxis and endless meetings in Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese.