One of the things that struck me about Così fan tutte last night (see the review) is how timeless the libretto is. We had Dorabella and Fiordiligi texting each other pictures of their beloveds, and Despina drawing up the marriage contract on her laptop, but none of the dialogue seemed remotely anachronistic.
Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, of which the Royal Opera have just premiered a great production (see the review) has a reputation of having a totally impenetrable and silly plot. Actually, I didn't find it so when seeing the show live, and I agree with Jonas Kaufmann's statement in his Sunday Times interview that the plot is "considerably less crappy than other operas that are performed regularly" (I paraphrase, but you get the idea).
Having been to a lot of operas this year, I find myself thinking that although there are many different types of production, they tend to fall into a number of set categories. It’s interesting to muse upon what those categories are, and then to consider why things are done that way.
Anyone who knows me well (or who reads this blog) will know that I'm something of a Rigoletto geek. Here are a few random musings that I didn't feel I could include in my review of Saturday's Covent Garden performance for fear of excessive length and sheer obscurity - but here they are, for anyone interested in the quirks.
Opera shows up in some improbable places. Being a lover of classic movies, I watched Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, a 1982 German film about a would-be rubber baron (played with wonderful verve by Klaus Kinski) who undertakes an epic river voyage on the upper tributaries of the Amazon near the Peruvian city of Iquitos. It’s a marvellously quirky movie, if somewhat on the long side at 158 minutes: beautifully filmed, splendidly acted and representing a series of events so bizarre that - yes, it’s based on a true story. You couldn’t dream this stuff up.
A load of events have just gone into our database for the Komische Oper Berlin, or "Berlin Comic Opera", as you might think to translate it.
Except that you'd be wrong.
Having just been to the ENO's wonderful production of Janáček's The Makropulos Case, I did a bit of background reading about it. I was struck by the genre of the story being very close to science fiction, based on a play by a Czech writer, Karel Čapek (1890-1938), of whom I had never heard and who turns out to have been a highly influential author of science fiction works and the inventor of the term "robot". Another Janáček opera, The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century, has an explicitly science fiction plot based on books written in 1888 and 1889 by the Czech author Svatopluk Čech.
Over the week-end, the Italian TV network RAI broadcast Verdi's Rigoletto, performed live from Mantua and set in the locations which most closely match the action in the opera. The hunchbacked jester was performed by Plácido Domingo, his second major outing as a baritone, and a follow-up to his 1992 performance as Cavaradossi in the acclaimed film of Tosca made at the Castel Sant'Angelo and other original locations in Rome. I watched the first act - if you're in the UK: that and the next two are up on iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ts068.
Last night was at Opera Holland Park's great production of Verdi's La Forza del Destino (see the review). Extra spice was added to our evening by the fact that we were in the second row, about three feet away from the trombone section and eyeball to eyeball with them, since the setup at Opera Holland Park doesn't have an orchestra pit.
Classical music has been credited with many wondrous properties, whether it's relieving depression or improving the intelligence of your baby in the womb. Apparently, it's now contributing to the well-being of the sleep-deprived. In an, er, "innovative" piece of branding, hotel chain Travelodge has hosted a "Sleep Concert", in which guests were invited to a small concert hall to attend a performance of music specifically chosen to help them to nod off for a lunchtime catnap. Travelodge point to Sleep Concerts as being a roaring, if that's the right word, success in Japan.
Yesterday evening saw us at a rather posh corporate hospitality bash at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. It's my first time at the Summer Exhibition, and I was well impressed. Like most modern art, there's only about 20% of it that I like - but out of that 20%, there was some really fantastic stuff that appealed to me enormously, not least the life-size King Kong made entirely out of wire coat hangers. I suspect it's the same with everyone, but most probably with a different 20%.