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Munich’s Dialogues des Carmélites

Dialogues des Carmélites is a magnificently anti-operatic opera.

Les Troyens by La Fura dels Baus

When the opera opens, a chorus of Trojan is rejoicing that the Greeks have abandoned the war and gone home.

Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd

Hermann Melville wrote a poem called “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century”:

Benvenuto Cellini

Philipp Stölzl’s production of Benvenuto Cellini, from the 2007 Salzburg Festival, is weird almost beyond belief.

Machover, Death and the Powers

This is an opera written with a cannon and a feather. There is sensory overload—an overload of sensory overload: lights that shine into your face in the manner of an ophthalmologist scanning your retina; eerie, too-loud sounds that invade you from every direction; dancing patterns of light that may resolve into huge words or huge faces; a great chandelier-harp that sometimes descends to be played, a strumming like the sounds of the sirens in Plato’s parable of the concentric crystalline spheres.

Der zerbrochene Krug / Der Zwerg

Der zerbrochene Krug is a very short opera by Viktor Ullmann, based on a comedy by Kleist, concerning the fall of man.

Mark Adamo, Little Women

Mark Adamo’s opera, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott, contains one extraordinary scene, a model of how to adapt fiction into opera.

David McVicar’s Salome

This high-concept Salome takes place in Nazi Germany.The set has two levels: on top, Herod revels with the banqueters; below, we see a dingy basement, full of kitchen workers, relaxed soldiers, and the prostitutes who help them relax.

Lulu at Covent Garden

One of the leading lights of Berg’s Vienna was the architect Adolf Loos, the great crusader against ornament.

Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth 2009

As the prelude plays, we see circles of fluorescent light moving slowly in uncertain black space. Are we seeing flights of flying saucers, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Dialogues des Carmélites from Hamburg

Poulenc’s only full-length opera is widely admired and not infrequently performed, but its claustral nature makes it tricky to stage.

The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne on Blu-Ray

This Glyndebourne production is, as far as I know, the first recording of any semi-opera that manages to impart a strong sense of what this peculiar, and peculiarly British, genre is like.

Parsifal on Blu-Ray

In 1881 Wagner and his wife were discussing the myth of Eros and Anteros, and Wagner remarked, “Anteros is Parsifal.” Wagner considered Parsifal a figure opposed to sexual love, Eros’s opposite.

Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) on Blu-Ray

Much of the fascination of the new DVD of Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) lies in the Richard Jones’s updating: the action takes place in 1946.

Otello (Salzburg Festival 2008) on Blu-Ray

There are two reasons why you need to see the new Otello DVD (Salzburg Festival 2008).

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Five years after the première of Pelléas et Mélisande, Wilhelm Worringer published the twentieth century’s first great treatise on abstraction in art:

Verdi's Macbeth — The Critical Edition

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a weighty play, and Verdi’s Macbeth seems to be a weighty opera: the three volumes of this edition (two of the full score, plus a smaller Critical Commentary containing the critical notes and a description of the sources) weigh 16.6 pounds. It is remarkable to think that this is the first full score of either the 1847 original or the 1865 revised Macbeth ever published.

ALBRIGHT: Berlioz's Semi-Operas

This book examines two of the more interesting musical pieces of the Romantic movement: Romeo et Juliette (1839) and La damnation de Faust (1846). Both were composed by Hector Berlioz (1803-69), and were very much constructed in a Gesamtkunstwerk mode where literature, music, and the other arts are fused together in a hybrid style that defies genre and categorization.

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