Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten [Photo courtesy of official web site]
06 Jul 2011

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

I recently got the chance to see Juan, the Kaspar Holten film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

By Barbara Miller

Above: Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten [Photo courtesy of official web site]

 

It is indeed an English adaptation, presented here in the US with English subtitles, updated to a modern European city (filmed in Denmark and Hungary). “Juan” lives in a loft, from which he carries on ‘The Woman project’, which is essentially his effort to seduce a zillion women, with his Russian sidekick “Lep” taking clandestine video and stills of the assignations (his famous Catalogue Aria is sung to Elvira with a Macintosh laptop in his hands, the folders of which contain the visual records of the seductions). The film opens at a performance of “Don Giovanni”, where Ottavio introduces Anna to his friend Juan, and the vibes between them lead her to part from her police chief father and fiancé Ottavio after the performance in order to meet Juan in a café. We see a tryst at her house, which is interrupted by the return of the father, who goes after Juan with a gun, which goes off in the struggle, mortally wounding him. The Anna-Ottavio duet is sung as they load the father into the ambulance and ride to the hospital. This is the first of many instances in which characters’ motivations, which are left ambiguous in the opera, are clearly spelt out (people like to argue about whether Anna has been seduced or raped—in our day people assume the former, given the nature of the Don Giovanni archetype, but the 19th century saw it differently).

Lovers of the opera will be disappointed at the many musical cuts. In the first act, I counted the following omitted arias: Masetto’s “Ho, capito”, Elvira’s “Fuggi il traditor”, Anna’s “Or sai chi l’onore” (although the recit is left in, with flashbacks to a passionate lovemaking with Juan all the while she’s telling this story of a rape to the police), Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace” (also “Il mio Tesoro” in the second act—he essentially sings the two ensembles in the first act and some recitative) . In the second act there are more cuts—none of the scene between Leporello and Elvira, none of the ensemble in which the characters confront Leporello, nothing of the beating of Masetto (and Zerlina’s “Vedrai carino” is cut). Interestingly, and somewhat annoyingly to me as a woman, it’s always very clear that the three women are completely under Juan’s spell: “La ci darem” takes place in a cab going back to Juan’s loft, and continues in the loft as they take their clothes off and start to have sex, only interrupted by the fact that Elvira has gotten there first; Anna’s retelling of her meeting with Juan speaks to the masculine fear of a woman crying rape after sex that he considered to be consensual; Elvira is as obsessed with him as she is in the opera, becoming a tragic rather than comic character as she drowns herself after singing about half of “Mi tradi”. On the other hand, both Ottavio and Masetto walk when they find out they’ve been deceived by the women: Masetto is clearly sexually drawn to Zerlina while she sings “Batti batti, but he keeps turning away from her, and says “It’s over” to her at the end of it; Ottavio takes Anna’s returned engagement ring and walks out between the recitative and aria sections of “Non mi dir”. It’s not pleasant to see the men portrayed as somehow stronger than the women when it comes to resisting the temptation to be drawn by sex into something that’s going to hurt them. I suppose the director’s argument would be that no human woman has the sexual power that the larger-than-life masculine force of Don Giovanni has.

The supernatural elements are essentially removed: instead of a stone statue coming to life, there is a shadowy hooded figure that Juan keeps seeing at crucial points when he’s behaving exceptionally badly (the killing of Anna’s father, the party at his loft where the first act finale takes place, etc.). There is a sequence where Juan and Lep encounter a street shrine with a photo of the dead police chief—Juan is seeing the shadow figure while he’s making Lep invite the police chief’s picture to dinner. The final trio takes place in a hijacked car in a high speed chase by the police, with an encounter in Juan’s mind between himself and this shadowy figure (who is singing the Commendatore’s part)—the figure turning out to be Juan himself. Needless to say, there’s no final envoi with the characters coming out to say what will happen to them next (The two other couples have broken up, and Elvira’s dead).

The overall rather grainy look of the movie includes many visual statements about what’s going on. The consensus of the people who saw the film with me is that it works well as a movie; captures the “Don Juan” archetype and its impact very well. I would not say that it’s a particularly good introduction to the opera; too many cuts, essentially the director using the opera to tell the story, rather than Mozart doing it through the music. Recitatives are partly sung, partly spoken, and carry much more of the drama than they would in the opera. Maltman acts well and sings well enough (One person heard some intonation problems, but I felt he acquitted himself well, and he certainly looks the part: he is most naked singing “Fin ch’ha dal vino” in the shower, although the sex scenes are quite explicit. There are many closeups of his frequently unshaven face. Elizabeth Futral as Elvira did a nice job with the arias that were left to her (the opening one, which is interrupted by Don Giovanni, and the duet in which he convinces her to go to an assignation elsewhere—in the opera she unknowingly has this tryst with Leporello, in the movie no one ever shows up, leading her to sing the recitative and part of “Mi trade” as she walks down into the river). Mikhail Petrenko as “Lep” was fine, both acting and singing; in some ways I think his character was the most successful and amusing of the updates. Maria Bengtsson as Anna acted well (as did everyone) but her performance of the fiendishly difficult “Non mi dir” didn’t do the music justice, I think. Peter Lodahl as Ottavio and Ludwig Bengtson Lindström as Masetto acted well but didn’t really have enough to sing to judge. Katijya Dragojevic as Zerlina got more to sing than they did, and she did her music justice—it was also absolutely clear that Juan was not seducing a virgin here.

Barbara Miller

Click here for trailer.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):