FEEBLE-MINDED OPERA

th.gifThroughout more than sixty years of opera-going, opera recordings-collecting, opera-singing, opera-directing, and opera-producing this listener has been blessed to see and hear some wonderful productions and been subjected as well to quite a number of feeble-minded, ego-driven directorial dribble.

I speak not only of The Curse of Regietheater first imported to the US by a number of European regisseurs to then be picked up and aped by American directors and funded by clueless donors. I also include in my diatribe the products of several homegrown directors who have found fertile ground for their sorry experiments on the stages of several opera houses in America, a few of which are led by men and women who have legitimately earned their stripes as arts administrators.

So, what were they thinking?

Criteria regarding what artistic proposals to approve and which to reject leave much to be desired in today’s world of concept staging.

Thus, the widely maligned 20 Million + MET Ring, with its malfunctioning Machine and its Science Fiction costuming limps on until that day far into the future when the ill-fated exercise in staging nonsense finally pays for itself.

I recall with dread the Aida when the poor tenor playing Radames got water-boarded at the end of Act IV.

And then there’s the Traviata we all remember and most of us loathed – the one, you know, with the entire chorus – sopranos and altos included – dressed as male fans of Violetta in tuxes… You know… the one with all the clocks…

Or how about the Tosca they pulled off the rep in a hurry… You now the company and you know about the fallout after chunks of the audience walked out at the sight of the baritone playing Scarpia having a threesome with some ladies of the night after masturbating in the middle of Santa Maria dell Croce…

Davanti alla Madonna!

Why there was even a local production of Bernstein’s Candide set in a janitor’s room that climaxed (I’m not making this up) with a fight with rolls of toilet paper tossed by the cast at each other just in time for Make Our Garden Grow.

Anyone out there remember the MET’s Jack-in-the-Box Peter Grimes?

You name it we’ve all been there and lived through it.

And that’s just here in the States. Good luck if you can snag a pair of tickets to any Bayreuth or Salzburg production between now and the end of time and even more good luck to you if you do, because there’s no telling what kind of experience you will get in today’s world in which real Brunhilde’s and Siegfried’s and Wotan’s and even Don Giovanni’s are as rare as hen teeth while egotistical directors are a pfennig a dozen.

So, should we then be content to settle into our favorite recliner at home and put on the Victoria de los Angeles/Henri Legay Manon and close our eyes and visualize our own staging in 18th century costumes in the Paris of Prévost’s time?

I, for one, prefer my opera live and seen and heard, so I will wait with hope in my heart for the next MET HD of La traviata.

I hear the singing is really good.

Rafael de Acha

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