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To music Castellucci adds a tangible, physical world — real and simulated. There is the technical world that manipulates and colors the physical world and finally there is an interactive, interpretive world of infinite emotional perspectives. The curtain rose in silence, a class of twenty-four 17 year-old girls studied silently in classroom made of reinforced concrete with period radiators and banks of neon lights. A bell rang, the girls sprang to life, noisily exited the class room and building.
Faint ambient noises dogs barking, cars, maybe sirens were perceived over the next few minutes.
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A janitor appeared, swept a bit, began pulling the tables into the adjacent corridor, over time his actions took on urgency, and finally he violently and sonically heaved the last chairs and tables onto the giant pile in the corridor. He bolted the classroom door, isolating himself in the empty space. She ripped the linoleum off the floor with its shrieking sound amplified, she tore out the planking and dug into the earth below. Joan of Arc is a speaking role, initially and through most of the piece her voice was electronically manipulated sometimes mixing it with the music, sometimes amplifying it to make clear and forceful words and sentences.
To be expected these final three scenes were riveting — Joan digging into the earth to find her sword, lifted into shining light, Joan dragging her dead horse, a very real horse, onto the stage and to the huge hole she had created, there followed the unforgettable imaged of Joan riding her horse. And then Joan, naked, covering herself with a white floury paste to make herself into the candle of her recalled nursery rhyme, and finally Joan, the stake itself, standing as the erect candle, an offering to the Virgin Mary. As part of this image of Joan at the stake there then appeared an aged, maybe naked, figure who was possibly Joan herself as well as the saints of her visions, Catherine and Marguerite, and perhaps even the Virgin Mary.
In turn these choruses offered Castellucci the means to orient the action and to explain and advance the theatrical process. Instead we participate in her suffering, a theatrical participation that leaves us outside any hope of mystical or emotional release. It is theater, nothing more and what more should there be and nothing less it is very fine, challenging theater.
The musical perspective is outside looking in. Opera Nouvel, Lyon, France, January 31, And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in and Florence in It is minimalist staging, the scenes traveling presentationally back and forth across downstage.
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It was a conducting tour de force , sparks still flying from the tip of his baton stick still in-hand at his stage bow. Add to these the bevy of Italian male buffo character roles that were plumbed to perfection in the inimitable Italian buffo tradition. Interestingly this was the second cast, singing two of the five performances, but you could not imagine or wish for more finished performances. Sir John Falstaff was of believable girth, of quick spirit and of powerful voice. You could, for moments from time to time, even believe that this Falstaff was an honest predator and not simply a caricature of delusion.
He quibbled with Ford as an equal, triggering Rodrigo Estives, a very smart-looking, too handsome farmer, to go-off-the-deep-end in forceful hyper-baritonal terms. Note that the Ford disguise was dark glasses and, wittily, a pillow stuffed under his jacket to add girth. Meg Page did what she always does — stayed out of the way except when needed. Quickly: Anastasia Boldyreva; Mrs. Meg Page: Manuela Custer. Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Carlo Felice. The Madama Butterfly of Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian may well become recognized as the Butterfly of our time, indeed one of the great Butterflies of all times.
It is a role she is just now assuming, thus it is fresh in her voice, mind and body. In she was miscast as Tosca in San Francisco, a fine singer but simply not the diva Tosca is and must be — in voice and persona. Haroutounian still does not exude the complexities of a diva and this brings the sheen of innocence to her Butterfly that makes it operatically true. The purity of voice that casts her as the unstained Verdi heroine, and the security of her vocal technique sustain the youth and stamina of the year-old Butterfly.
Haroutounian an ovation the size of which I have never before witnessed in the War Memorial Opera House. The production is simply a masterpiece. The contradiction of these polar opposite styles relies on a sympathetic rhythm of parallel emotional flows to unite the abstractions of sound with the abstractions of shape.
It was perfection in when the Nicola Luisotti fleetness of musical soul melded with the force of shape and delicacy of movement of the Jun Kaneko colors and images.
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Canadian conductor Yves Abel conducts nine of these ten performances. Evidently smitten by the emotional force of Mlle. While Mlle. Haroutounian could sail above this much of the rest of the cast could not.
Conductor Abel added dramatic pauses silences that were annoying, annoying long and confusing — even to the diva. The production having traveled throughout the U. Swackhamer much experience. In this edition Trouble remained on the stage for too much of the second act wrenching focus from Butterfly and Suzuki.
Otherwise her staging was without reproach. Evans possesses a voice of very great beauty he used with intelligence. He moved with a dramatic purpose that did not require the cane he was given, evidently to simulate age. Pinkerton was sung by young Italian tenor Vincenzo Costanzo who has few if any of the traits of the Italian tenor.
A lithe, handsome presence he delivered his few lines with elegance, confusing us by presenting a quite presentable, maybe preferable alternative to Pinkerton. Goro was sung by Korean born Julius Ahn who contributed a light weight verisimilitude to the role, gratuitous under the circumstance. The Bonze was professionally delivered by Raymond Aceto. Over the years this splendid production has been seen in many, many cities throughout the U. However, in addition to the questionable casting and conducting, the curved background scrim was not carefully stretched, further compromising the integrity of the Jun Kaneko production here in San Francisco.
No echoes at all of the big singers that have always been called upon to evoke the monumental atmospheres commemorating global transformation.
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Certainly not the San Francisco production starring Luciano Pavarotti, never-mind-the-name-of-the-opera [ Aida ]. Once we arrived at the entombment of Aida and Radames Mr. Conductor Nicola Luisotti carefully sculpted this protracted scene into one of profound operatic intimacy. It was memorable. Luisotti made this Verdi score all about atmospheres, pulling forth every possible musical nuance to be evoked by the flow of the Nile and the glow of the Egyptian night sky.
There was innocent playfulness in the Moorish dance, and even in the eruption of violence when Radames surrendered and Aida and her father fled Luisotti sustained measured strokes.
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More often for Luisotti these days it was a reflective reading of the score rather than a flow of dramatic points. The maestro made exquisite music of this warhorse. If high art emanated from the pit, low taste poured forth from the stage, and it was not unintended. Stage director Francesca Zambello has been turning out provocative productions of Aida over the decades.
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This edition adds the hieroglyphic inspired alphabet created by L. These symbols said to actually say something — but only to Retna covered the show curtain and the huge panels of the triumphal scene, and elsewhere.
You may recall his cover art for Justin Bieber's album "Purpose. A moment in the Triumphal Scene Zambello added as well eight dancing boys, and eight more boys who danced but were not trained dancers, two of whom were accomplished acrobats.
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When not dancing these groups of males sometimes marched across the back of the stage. Evidently the ritualized motions of these males were intended to illustrate religious statehood. Zambello used a related movement technique as well in her La vestale at ENO some years ago. The choreography was created by Jessica Lang, a well-known name in institutional dance.
She imagined complex, highly geometrical routines whenever possible but especially in the triumphal scene where there was no procession, instead a ballet in which the eight dancing boys chased and threw around a ballerina. It was tongue-in-cheek, camp and kitsch all at once.