Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

EuroArts 2058178
21 Sep 2011

Willy Decker’s staging of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

As a rule the celebrated incomplete operas of the repertory eluded completion due to the untimely death of the composer.

Arnold Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

Moses: Dale Duesing; Aron: Andreas Conrad; Ein junges Mädchen: Ilse Eerens; Eine Kranke: Karolina Gumos; Ein junger Mann: Finnur Bjarnason; Der nackter Jüngling: Michael Smallwood; Ein anderer Mann / Ephraimit: Boris Grappe; Ein Priester: Renatus Mészár. ChorWerk Ruhr. Bochumer Symphoniker. Michael Boder, conductor. Willy Decker, stage director. Wolfgang Gussmann, stage and costume design. Susana Mendoza, costume design. Andreas Grüter, lighting design. Recorded live at Jahrhunderthalle Bochum during the Ruhrtriennale 2009.

EuroArts 2058178 [DVD]

$29.99  Click to buy

Think Turandot or Lulu. Arnold Schoenberg lived on for many years with two acts of Moses und Aron finished, but the third act he had planned never became a reality. He did not allow for performances of his incomplete opera, and so it was only shortly before his death that Moses und Aron was first performed. In the decades since then, this harsh but fascinating work has made it to the stage of most of the world’s great opera houses…and festivals.

The Ruhrtriennale is an arts festival in Germany, and Willy Decker has led it since 2009. His staging of Moses und Aron was filmed in 2009, and the DVD preserves a scintillating performance, well outside the bounds of standard operatic performance. The only criticism of the DVD package is that there is no bonus feature on the production, and that is a keen disappointment not just because such features have become ubiquitous. Generally they are only modestly enlightening, if even that, but after viewing this production, many a viewer is likely to want to hear more - from the director, musicians and performers - as to the experience just seen. At least the modest booklet offers the director’s thoughts (translated into English by Stewart Spencer). Decker basically provides a detailed synopsis that probes the psychological reality of the libretto’s action. Then in his last paragraph, Decker finds in the unfinished state of the opera a metaphor for the work’s themes: “Schoenberg…equated his own inevitable failure with the tragic failure of his eponymous hero Moses…”

The performing area is unorthodox. The audience sits in two bleacher-like sections, facing each other, and the orchestra is off to one side. At key moments the bleachers pull apart to create a performing space. Sometimes a scrim-walled box descends from the rafters. At other times, one side of the theater, opposite the orchestra, opens for entrances and exits. The contemporary costumes of Wolfgang Gussmann and Susana Mendoza come in shades of gray and black. Instead of suggesting a specific time, however, they help to create a sense of timelessness, which makes the action both metaphorically consistent with the libretto’s narrative and evocative of its universal themes.

Decker has always been a master of theatrical movement, a very real rarity in the world of opera. Anyone who has seen Decker’s Salzburg Traviata should know that. His work here with the chorus, let along the leads, is phenomenal. The sense of a lost people, torn in their allegiance, prey to the more ferocious impulses of human weakness, makes for a stage orgy that is not risible - a notable achievement in itself.

Dale Duesing as Moses and Andreas Conrad as Aron live every moment, some of which must have been physically arduous. Their vocalism is unimpaired, thanks to being projected through small microphones. Michael Boder leads the Bochumer Symphoniker in a reading that makes the sheer aggression of the score an adrenaline rush, a bravura demonstration of orchestral power. No, no one will leave humming any tunes, but Schoenberg’s sound world leaves its own impression, one of force and honesty.

At around 100 minutes, the sheer intensity of the performance almost becomes exhausting. Perhaps with a completed third act, Moses und Aron would simply be too brutal an experience. Someone may yet attempt a completion, as was done for Berg’s Lulu. But even if successful, a completed version won’t eclipse the achievement of Willy Decker and company in this remarkable DVD.

Chris Mullins


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):