Riccardo Muti and concert versions

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parsifal
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Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by parsifal » Tue May 17, 2016 2:58 am

Riccardo Muti is now in Stockholm conducting a concert performance of Verdi´s Macbeth (1865). That he chooses concert performance is a statement. As sick and tired of what modern opera directors bring about he has now decided to conduct operas in concert versions only. His Stockholm concert was a tremendous success. Perhaps other conductors too will react against those directors who don´t pay attention to what the composer intended with his score.

Kjell Nilsson.

John F
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Tue May 17, 2016 5:09 am

Has Muti said this himself? If so, it's welcome.

There are other reasons for him to conduct operas in concert; he no longer has an opera company of his own, having left La Scala and the Rome Opera in acrimony, and concert performances allow him to pursue his kind of musical perfectionism without having to share his singers' time with stage directors, costume fittings, and the rest of it. Also, the performances are over in a week or 10 days instead of dragging on for a month or more. Possibly for one or more of these or other reasons, leading opera conductors have also led concert performances, Abbado and Barenboim and and Levine among them, while also remaining active in opera houses.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Wed May 18, 2016 9:57 am

The BPO has performed 'The Magic Flute' and other operas in concert with some minimal staging. IMO, it is preferred. First of all, the orchestra is of a higher calibre than what you normally find in the pit of Glyndebourne and the like. Second, theatre stagings often do not come across on the screen. Third, many of today's stagings are awful, although there are exceptions. With a solid dramatic reading, good vocal performances and a sterling orchestra the imagination can project the rest. OTOH, a cheesy or tawdry staging introduces a yecch factor that no amount of imagination or performance ability can overcome.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Wed May 18, 2016 10:12 am

John F wrote:Has Muti said this himself? If so, it's welcome.
parsifal tells me that Muti did indeed say it, in an interview. That doesn't exclude other reasons he might have - I suggested what some of them might be - but it's good to have such a prominent conductor of operas speak out when few others have.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Wed May 18, 2016 10:19 am

slofstra wrote:The BPO has performed 'The Magic Flute' and other operas in concert with some minimal staging. IMO, it is preferred. First of all, the orchestra is of a higher calibre than what you normally find in the pit of Glyndebourne and the like. Second, theatre stagings often do not come across on the screen. Third, many of today's stagings are awful, although there are exceptions.
First of all, pit orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera's are pretty decent bands; what's more, they already know the music well, which the Berliners must learn from scratch, and are responsive to the singers as no symphony orchestra can be. (As for the Glyndebourne Festival, it has always hired a major London orchestra to play its seasons, currently the London Philharmonic.) Second, what "comes across on the screen" is irrelevant to any generalization about how operas should be performed. Third, operas are composed for performance in theatres, fully staged, for a live and present audience, and the fact that some or many productions are unworthy, calls for reform of the productions, not abandoning production altogether.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Wed May 18, 2016 11:40 am

John F wrote:
slofstra wrote:The BPO has performed 'The Magic Flute' and other operas in concert with some minimal staging. IMO, it is preferred. First of all, the orchestra is of a higher calibre than what you normally find in the pit of Glyndebourne and the like. Second, theatre stagings often do not come across on the screen. Third, many of today's stagings are awful, although there are exceptions.
First of all, pit orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera's are pretty decent bands; what's more, they already know the music well, which the Berliners must learn from scratch, and are responsive to the singers as no symphony orchestra can be. (As for the Glyndebourne Festival, it has always hired a major London orchestra to play its seasons, currently the London Philharmonic.) Second, what "comes across on the screen" is irrelevant to any generalization about how operas should be performed. Third, operas are composed for performance in theatres, fully staged, for a live and present audience, and the fact that some or many productions are unworthy, calls for reform of the productions, not abandoning production altogether.
On the dozen or two opera videos I own, the only orchestra that comes close to the quality of the BPO is the Met. The remainder always sound a bit thin. What comes across on the screen is very relevant since 10x as many people see a given opera that way compared to live performance. But I'm not suggesting that live production should be abandoned by any means. What I am saying is that recording a live opera production for reconsumption on a recording or simulcast is a medium in its own right with its own evaluation criteria. And in that medium I greatly prefer a simple performance staging to one that may work well in live theatre but is hampered on the screen. There are stagings that are designed for the screen, and that is another thing entirely. Here is an example, of a La Boheme filmed on a stageset purpose built for the screen. It comes off very well.
I can cite some examples of poor staging as well, but will need to be at home.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by parsifal » Thu May 19, 2016 1:41 am

I know that the idea of opera is to see it staged. But isn´t the musical satisfaction greater when you attend a fine concert performance than to see an awful staging of an opera which you have paid a fortune to see. Your anger diminishes the enjoyment of the genial music of Mozart or whoever. Some operas are more apt to present as concert performances than others. More concert performances
might also be some sort of protest against those directors who are so fond of updates and garble of the works we love. :twisted:

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Thu May 19, 2016 3:36 am

Johannes Brahms once declined an invitation to see "Don Giovanni" at the opera, saying he could get a better performance by reading the score at home. That, I suppose, would be the purest musical satisfaction. But of course it's available to very few, and it has nothing to do with the nature of opera. No doubt purely musical satisfaction by ear, in a concert performance or a recording, is possible for many of us, it's not for everyone. One of our members here doesn't go to concert operas, only to staged or at least semi-staged performances; the music alone, however well performed, evidently is not enough to satisfy him.

Mozart himself made do with a private concert performance of "Idomeneo" in Vienna when the opera company would not put it on the stage. He even revised the music for that performance, rewriting the role of Idamante for a tenor because a castrato wasn't available for this amateur performance, and adding some new music. But this was not what he wanted or hoped for, it was merely better than nothing.

A concert performance, or a recording or radio broadcast, may indeed be better than nothing, for those of us able to appreciate the music in its own right. And a ruinous production may be worse than nothing. But purely musical satisfaction is not a full experience of an opera, indeed it goes against the nature of opera itself, and as such can't be completely satisfactory - at least not to me. A comparison would be watching a basketball game for purely visual satisfaction, the movements of the players and the ball, as if it were a kind of ballet, but not seeing it as a dramatic competition between two teams in which points are scored and one team wins the game.
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parsifal
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by parsifal » Thu May 19, 2016 6:57 am

An opera could be divided into two parts, the musical part and what we see from the stage. But if I must prefer one of the elements I prefer the music. It is fully possible to attend a great concert performance of - say - Il Trovatore, but barely a staged performance without Verdi´s music. When I leave the opera house after a performance of Die Walküre, it is first of all a musical experience I got.
So a good recording or broadcast or a concert performance, where I of course am familiar with the plot, is widely to prefer to a bad or a mediocre opera performance. At least it works that way for me.

Kjell Nilsson.

John F
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Thu May 19, 2016 7:35 am

Chacun a son gout.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Thu May 19, 2016 8:03 am

[quote="John F"] One of our members here doesn't go to concert operas, only to staged or at least semi-staged performances; the music alone, however well performed, evidently is not enough to satisfy him.<

I fit in that category-take Roberto Devereux-I've listened to that opera many many times and love the music-the final aria with Gencer singing on my recording blows me away everytime! Still what a tremendous reward to go to the Met and see it live for the first time-opportunities like that don't come along as much as I would like! Regards, Len

An Olympian Achievement
The Met’s breathtaking production of Roberto Devereux
Heather Mac Donald
May 10, 2016 Arts and Culture


If Peter Gelb does nothing else of note during the remainder of his tenure as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, he will have contributed to world culture with this season’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s hauntingly beautiful tragedy Roberto Devereux, never before heard at the Met. At the production’s core was soprano Sondra Radvanovsky’s wrenching portrayal of an aging Queen Elizabeth I—a performance of shattering emotional intensity that bodied forth all of humanity’s frailty and evanescence. Radvanovsky was supported by a dream cast—Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecien. Opera-goers fortunate enough to have nabbed tickets to the sold-out house will remember their experience for decades.

That Donizetti would compose a work of such pathos in 1837 is not surprising, given the Job-like losses he sustained that year. Within a few months, his three children, wife, and parents all died. Nevertheless, Donizetti’s relentless work ethic—he was then Italy’s leading opera composer—propelled him forward, resulting in not just one but two operas in 1837, and another two in 1838.

The story of Roberto Devereux blends fact and romantic legend. It is true that Queen Elizabeth sent her favored courtier, Robert Devereux, the earl of Essex, to Ireland in 1599 to quell a simmering rebellion. It is also true that Essex was beheaded in 1601, the victim of palace intrigue and his own impetuous behavior. It is almost certainly not true that Elizabeth had earlier given Essex a ring with the promise that if he were ever to fall out of favor, he need merely present it, and he would regain his standing in her eyes. According to the legend, adopted as historical fact even by David Hume in his History of England, Essex tried to send Elizabeth the ring after her privy council issued his death sentence—but his emissary, the countess of Nottingham, failed to deliver it under pressure from her husband, Essex’s enemy, thereby ensuring Essex’s death.

Salvadore Cammarano, Donizetti’s preferred librettist, made the ring conceit central to his libretto for Roberto Devereux, spicing the story up further with conflicting love interests, as first imagined in an 1827 French play, Elisabeth d’Angleterre, by diplomat-dramatist Jacques-Arsène-Polycarpe-François Ancelot. Cammarano’s libretto is tauter than Ancelot’s play, and tauter as well than Cammarano’s most well-known libretto—Il Trovatore—which is encumbered by a mystifying back-story and action-stopping exposition. Roberto Devereux, by contrast, moves efficiently and brings a Shakespearean irony to the tragic asymmetries of knowledge that divide the characters.

Elizabeth would have been 67 in 1601, the year in which the opera is set. Sondra Radvanovsky portrays the elderly sovereign as a mixture of haughty grandeur and heart-breaking vulnerability. She first sweeps on stage lit from behind by a stark white light, head held high and chin jutting forward, her hand trembling slightly on a red cane. Her long rectangular face is powdered stark white, effacing her eyebrows and eyelashes; her wide lips are painted deep red, like a bloody gash. Orange-red curls pile atop a bald forehead and tumble down her chest in two improbable pigtails. Regally eyeing down her courtiers, Elizabeth is soon pitifully confessing to her trusted lady-in-waiting, Sara, the duchess of Nottingham (Garanča), that she fears that she has an unknown rival for Devereux’s affections. In one of the plot’s many painful ironies, Sara is in fact that rival.

Elizabeth’s first aria is an emotional and melodic roller-coaster, and it immediately revealed Radvanovsky’s mesmerizing dramatic power. Radvanovsky’s large soprano is not conventionally pretty. It has a metallic quality in its middle range, satisfyingly raspy like the burr of a cat’s tongue, recalling another great singing actress—Maria Callas. Her voice is capable of blasting out a high shriek of vengeance, then dropping precipitously into a dark, cavernous growl, but also of spinning out ravishing pianissimo lines that change color and shape as they float gently downward.

This musical control is just the start of Radvanovsky’s hypnotic stage presence. When Elizabeth discloses her suspicions that Devereux no longer loves her, Radvanovsky’s eyes show the terror of aging and the resulting loss of control. Her hands are as expressive as her face—slapping a table in rage, plaintively reaching out to touch Essex’s cheek (sung by Polenzani) in the hope of recalling his affections. Early on, as Elizabeth awaits Essex’s arrival from Ireland, she gives in to amorous hopes in a slinky, flirtatiously syncopated aria, “Ah! Ritorna qual ti spero (May you return as I hope you to be)”; Radvanovsky fondles the face of a boy-toy courtier crouched at her feet, then impetuously pushes him away with two long fingers, savoring her remaining feminine power. In her final encounter with Essex, as she signs his death warrant, her eyes never leave him, silently imploring him to relent, while her body convulses in sobs.

It was in the last scene of the opera that Radvanovsky plumbed the ultimate pathos of the human condition through almost unbearable self-exposure. Elizabeth’s wrath against Essex for his betrayal is spent; now she only hopes that he will send her the ring so that she can recall the warrant. Radvanovsky hobbles over to a mannequin bearing her magnificent white satin court dress, picks up the hem, then throws it down in revulsion as if it were a poisoned serpent. She imagines Essex walking to the block and rips off her wig in despair, revealing a white scalp crowned with wisps of fuzz. She studies her ravaged features in a mirror, touching her skull with quavering fingers, as she renounces her claim on Essex in a long silken cry of suffering. Sara rushes in with the ring, which Essex had earlier given her, and Elizabeth realizes that Sara is her rival. Overcoming her shock, she begs her courtiers to save him, grabbing at their clothes like a discarded old woman. It’s too late: a cannon explodes, signaling that the axe has dropped. Out of a stunned silence, the strings jitter nervously, then the orchestra breaks out into a majestic funeral march with an obsessive pulse, and Elizabeth, imagining Essex’s headless ghost running through the palace, renounces her throne. Radvanovsky’s voice in her final aria is ecstatically rich and full, leaping to the rafters before falling like a cataract into the depths, even as she is bent over and palsied with grief.

Elizabeth’s vision of a bloody specter is a variant on the bel canto mad scene, but without the maudlin sentimentality that usually characterizes such moments, including Donizetti and Cammarano’s famous scene from Lucia di Lammermoor. The climax in this production was instead as close as any modern-day audience is going to get to the catharsis that Aristotle attributed to the Greek tragedies, leaving the viewer shaken to his core.


Radvanovsky could not have created such an emotional cataclysm if her fellow singers had not shared her dramatic intensity. Polish baritone Kwiecien brought nobility and raging hurt to the duke of Nottingham, Sara’s husband, conveyed through singing of supple warmth and gorgeous tone. Kwiecien’s fury is feral when the duke finally discovers that his wife, whom he adores selflessly, loves his cherished friend. Fangs bared, his chest heaving, he confronts Garanča’s Sara in an electrifying scene of barely contained violence, as he curses the loving trust he put in both of them.

Tenor Polenzani as the earl of Essex is tortured from the moment he first strides into the royal courtroom and falls to his knees before Elizabeth; his black military doublet, elaborately embroidered in silver, replicates a contemporary portrait of Essex. Polenzani shaped his two final bittersweet arias, sung while awaiting his fate in the Tower, with exquisite delicacy and precision, confirming his status as one of the most musically sensitive tenors of our day. Whispered notes were suspended in the orchestral silence, grew in volume, then fell back into a sigh. Unlike the traditional tenor who lunges at high Cs at wince-making volume, Polenzani often alights upon the summit of a line as delicately as a butterfly; the classic heroic-tenor ringing tone emerges organically as the line evolves.

Latvian mezzo soprano Garanča can burn up a stage with erotic tension, as she did in the Met’s otherwise dreary Richard Eyre production of Carmen, but Sara is more of a stoic sufferer than a fiery protagonist. Garanča plays her with poignant dignity. In an opera of thrilling ensembles, Sara’s renunciation duet in waltz-time with Essex, “Da che tornasti (Since you returned),” stands out for its time-stopping, weightless loveliness, recalling the hypnotic final trio, “A la faveur de cette nuit obscure (Thanks to this dark night),” from Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. A French horn languorously encircles Sara’s opening melody, and she then pairs with the horn to answer Essex’s line, all rendered flawlessly in Garanča’s dark, plummy legato. Garanča’s ornamentation, like the rest of the cast’s, was tasteful, unlike the self-indulgent eruptions of an older generation of singers. Particularly striking was a variation Garanča introduced during Sara’s confrontation duet with Nottingham. Traditionally, the melody repeats four high Fs at the line “Tu, Dio clemente, tu, Dio l’accerta (You, merciful God, you can prove)”; Garanča instead alternated between the high F and the F in the octave below, creating an effect of even greater emotional distress.

Conductor Maurizio Benini should be in the running to replace the outgoing James Levine as music director based on his achievement here. Donizetti’s score breathed with subtle expansions and contractions of tempo; the coordination between the stage and pit was absolute. Tempi were dynamic and moving. The orchestra is the handmaiden to the voice in bel canto opera; Benini enveloped the singers in expectant silences and the usual purling arpeggios, here given unusual interest due to the attention that went into their pacing. The marvelously protean overture was windswept, shifting between a gossamer Midsummer Night’s Dream-like fugue, a wistful rendition of “God Save the Queen” in flute solo and chorale, Beethovenian thematic development, and the inevitable bel canto canter. Even the incongruous musical juxtapositions characteristic of bel canto tragedies, in which matters of devastating import may be presented through the jauntiest of tunes, seemed natural, arguably representing a philosophical stance toward tragedy itself. (When a menacing Nottingham asks Sara if she knows that betrayed husbands have a vengeful God in heaven, for example [“Non sai che un nume vindice”], a dire Commendatore-like warning in the French horns may precede his threat [one of several Don Giovanni echoes in the score], but the instrumental parts soon devolve into what can only be described as a ditty with the strings fluttering around the vocal line like putti.)

One might have thought that Roberto Devereux would resist the modern-day compulsion to update opera plots, since it is lodged in such familiar and specific historical terrain. This assumption overlooks Germany, whose opera intendants have never seen an opera that they are content to leave as the composer and librettist intended. The Bavarian State Opera has staged a soulless Roberto Devereux with a shrill Margaret Thatcher as the queen and Essex a sullen British bureaucrat—never mind that British cabinet ministers do not call for their swords when they want revenge, or that Britain no longer beheads unfavored functionaries.

It was clear from the start of the overture that the Met’s production was going to be an aesthetic experience of an entirely different order. The chorus, clad in ravishing black Renaissance costumes, quietly walks onto the stunning black-paneled Tudor set and, at a cymbal clap, turn defiantly to face the audience, striking poses of courtly hauteur like Golden Age Dutch grandees, their movements embodying a deep understanding of aristocratic semiotics. The present scourge of staging distracting dumb-shows during opera overtures should ordinarily be resisted: the most egregious recent example of this trend is the crude morning-after sexual caper that Richard Eyre has the gall to mount during perhaps the greatest opera overture ever written—Le Nozze di Figaro—in the Met’s current production. Director David McVicar’s understated use of the chorus, by contrast, was musically astute and theatrically compelling. McVicar’s deployment of the tired “play within the play” conceit was, predictably, less persuasive, but it was easily ignored. Otherwise, the direction was riveting. The lighting, sometimes from below to emphasize the artifice of the court, deserves special mention.

This is the third of Donizetti’s four Elizabethan operas that McVicar has recently staged for the Met; Roberto Devereux is so superior in its set design and dramatic insight to McVicar’s Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda that it is as if a different director were responsible. But then, Roberto Devereux is also musically and dramatically heads and shoulders above the other two works.

In the final performance of the opera, Radvanovsky and Polenzani each ran out of voice on their last note—understandably. They had given their all during the run, along with the rest of the cast, in a fearsomely demanding work, and had risen to Olympian levels of artistic expression. Dazzled fans have been posting bootlegged segments of the HD movie broadcast online, only to have them promptly scrubbed by the Met copyright police. Fair enough, but the Met should release the DVD of the broadcast as soon as possible, so that people who saw the production can sate their yearning to relive it, and everyone else can see what he missed.


http://www.city-journal.org/html/olympi ... 14439.html

slofstra
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Thu May 19, 2016 12:00 pm

John F wrote:Johannes Brahms once declined an invitation to see "Don Giovanni" at the opera, saying he could get a better performance by reading the score at home. That, I suppose, would be the purest musical satisfaction. But of course it's available to very few, and it has nothing to do with the nature of opera. No doubt purely musical satisfaction by ear, in a concert performance or a recording, is possible for many of us, it's not for everyone. One of our members here doesn't go to concert operas, only to staged or at least semi-staged performances; the music alone, however well performed, evidently is not enough to satisfy him.

Mozart himself made do with a private concert performance of "Idomeneo" in Vienna when the opera company would not put it on the stage. He even revised the music for that performance, rewriting the role of Idamante for a tenor because a castrato wasn't available for this amateur performance, and adding some new music. But this was not what he wanted or hoped for, it was merely better than nothing.

A concert performance, or a recording or radio broadcast, may indeed be better than nothing, for those of us able to appreciate the music in its own right. And a ruinous production may be worse than nothing. But purely musical satisfaction is not a full experience of an opera, indeed it goes against the nature of opera itself, and as such can't be completely satisfactory - at least not to me. A comparison would be watching a basketball game for purely visual satisfaction, the movements of the players and the ball, as if it were a kind of ballet, but not seeing it as a dramatic competition between two teams in which points are scored and one team wins the game.
You've created a bit of a false dichotomy here, John. A simplified stage performance still offers plenty of scope for a dramatic reading compared to a pure audio recording. And a symphony orchestra is capable of offering such a performance without needing an orchestra pit, an opera hall, and an elaborate set.
A case in point is the BPO's staging of the St. Matthew Passion. And yes, I'm well aware that I'm wandering outside the realm of opera so save yourself mentioning that. The difference in this performance was in having the singers move around the stage, and act their parts. Here is a brief preview of what they did.

https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/concert/16913

My point, as far as opera is concerned, is that if you can provide a compelling dramatic reading, you're probably most of the way there in terms of realizing the opera. And I would certainly not trade top notch vocal performances and a world class orchestra and receive some cheesy sets, fake blood, and stage action in return. On the screen, the face is actually the most important visual; even some of the best artistic sets tend not to translate well to the screen.

One more example. Just last night I watched a really good performance of Purcell's 'Aeneas and Dido'. The stage realisation and direction were imaginative and visually arresting. There were a number of dance and circus-like elements that added greatly to the performance. But on the screen the wires used to suspend performers were very noticeable because of camera closeups; whereas in the theatre they would just blend in. Perhaps that is the problem with theater sets; one can suspend the imagination in the theatre, but the camera makes theatre sets look very artificial ... unless that is taken into account ahead of time in the set design.
Last edited by slofstra on Thu May 19, 2016 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Thu May 19, 2016 12:04 pm

parsifal wrote:An opera could be divided into two parts, the musical part and what we see from the stage. But if I must prefer one of the elements I prefer the music. It is fully possible to attend a great concert performance of - say - Il Trovatore, but barely a staged performance without Verdi´s music. When I leave the opera house after a performance of Die Walküre, it is first of all a musical experience I got.
So a good recording or broadcast or a concert performance, where I of course am familiar with the plot, is widely to prefer to a bad or a mediocre opera performance. At least it works that way for me.

Kjell Nilsson.
I think that in terms of a sung opera performance we need one more part, which is the acting. That is, when a symphony orchestra takes on an operatic performance in a concert hall, they can still achieve a minimal level of staging, and have the singers act their parts. The opera/ oratorio performances by the BPO (available online) have been like that.

Another example -

https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/concert/22405

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by Lance » Thu May 19, 2016 7:38 pm

I, too, fall in the league of the MUSIC in opera over the full staging if I had to make a choice. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of operas on stage. Still, for me it is the MUSIC itself. Among operas that immediately come to mind WITHOUT staging, with only the sound available, is Cilèa's Adriana Lecovreuer or Giordano's Fedora when sung by Magda Olivero, who, like Callas, would the music to full life without staging simply through acting through the voice.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Thu May 19, 2016 8:32 pm

Lance wrote:I, too, fall in the league of the MUSIC in opera over the full staging if I had to make a choice.
Just to be clear - if you had to make a choice between unstaged and staged opera (both necessarily including the music or it isn't opera at all), you'd prefer it unstaged?
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 20, 2016 4:31 am

Lance wrote:I, too, fall in the league of the MUSIC in opera over the full staging if I had to make a choice. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of operas on stage. Still, for me it is the MUSIC itself. Among operas that immediately come to mind WITHOUT staging, with only the sound available, is Cilèa's Adriana Lecovreuer or Giordano's Fedora when sung by Magda Olivero, who, like Callas, would the music to full life without staging simply through acting through the voice.
Lance one thing I would add-whether it is a concert performance or a full production you're never gonna hear Magda Olivero doing it live. They just had a concert performance of Donizetti's Parisina


Parisina d'Este
Rose Theater, New York
MARTIN BERNHEIMER
Financial Times / May 5, 2016 / Arts


"Eve Queler has been awakening musical memories in Manhattan for
nearly half a century. She may not be the world's most authoritative
conductor (that is an understatement), but she beats time with boundless
energy. More important, she loves to explore challenges ignored by our
better established companies, and she has a worthy knack for casting
significant talent in unexpected assignments. Back in 1974, for instance,
she unearthed a forgotten flight of lovelorn romance, Donizetti's "Parisina
d'Este" (1883), on behalf of a super-soprano named Montserrat Caballé.

In the good old days, Queler plied her exalted experimental trade
within the huge, hugely glamorous confines of Carnegie Hall. Now, facing
financial and sociological vicissitudes, she must content herself, and her
followers, with more modest endeavours. And there she was on Wednesday
leading her fine Opera Orchestra of New York in an emphatically intimate,
emphatically unaccustomed locale: the Rose Theater at 60th and Broadway,
part of the so-called Jazz annex of nearby Lincoln Center."

It's not a free website btw.

Given a choice of seeing this opera live with the same cast as either a concert performance or as a full production I'd definitely want the full production. Still I sure can understand wanting to have a recording with Caballe doing it. I guess the real choice would be in Caballe's day-would you rather go to a concert performance with her singing or see it as a full production with a lesser soprano--of course you'll never see Caballe doing it in a full production right now. Regards, Len :)

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 20, 2016 4:41 am

John F wrote:Johannes Brahms once declined an invitation to see "Don Giovanni" at the opera, saying he could get a better performance by reading the score at home. That, I suppose, would be the purest musical satisfaction.
I wanted to ask you more about this-I'm so amazed that there are those who could do something like this-is it really possible-you could enjoy the work without actually hearing the music or seeing and hearing the singers?

I found this article which really doesn't get at my question:

" Since Brahms felt at home only in the Vienna of the opposition, he wrote no operas. He rarely went to see them, though he adored two of them, Mozart's ''Don Giovanni'' and Beethoven's ''Fidelio'': prototypical anti-operas, because of the way their musical energy and militancy undermine representational balance.

In 1890, Brahms attended a performance of ''Don Giovanni'' in Budapest, and he rushed backstage at intermission to congratulate the young conductor, Mahler, for having rediscovered Mozart's opera as a drama of power rather than a comedy of manners. For Brahms, highly sophisticated in matters of musical history, Mozart was a fellow modernist. In ''Don Giovanni,'' especially, he had stretched the power of music beyond existing boundaries, making it capable of wrestling with metaphysical questions: desire and morality, life and death. But Mozart the metaphysical modernist was not the Mozart of late 19th-century musical taste, especially Viennese musical taste, which had transformed him into the wigged and powdered puppet of a bygone age of security and grace. "

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/29/arts/ ... wanted=all

Regards, Len

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Fri May 20, 2016 5:11 am

lennygoran wrote:is it really possible-you could enjoy the work without actually hearing the music or seeing and hearing the singers?
I couldn't say about enjoyment, though I don't see why not. But as regards literacy, it's certainly possible to read music and hear it in your mind's ear, especially if you already know the music as Brahms knew "Don Giovanni." Just as it's possible to read Shakespeare's plays and Lincoln's speeches without hearing them spoken, providing you've learned to read.
John Francis

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 20, 2016 5:37 am

John F wrote: I couldn't say about enjoyment, though I don't see why not. But as regards literacy, it's certainly possible to read music and hear it in your mind's ear, especially if you already know the music as Brahms knew "Don Giovanni." Just as it's possible to read Shakespeare's plays and Lincoln's speeches without hearing them spoken, providing you've learned to read.
Thanks this is just amazing to me-would a score reveal to you how a composer would want a character in an opera to appear based on the music? For example would a score tell you how Massenet wanted us to deal with a character like Werther-I have heard that in The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Werther comes across poorly-would Massenet's score tell you how Massenet feels Werther should come across in his opera? Regards, Len

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Fri May 20, 2016 8:42 am

Published opera scores generally include brief descriptions of the setting of each scene, entrances, exits, major actions. How much of this varies from one opera to the next; the older the opera, the less there is. Published librettos and scores often include more of it than the composer's originals. What you're asking about normally isn't included in an opera score or libretto, any more than in a playscript. The composer leaves it to the opera company giving the performance.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 20, 2016 9:07 am

John F wrote:Published opera scores generally include brief descriptions of the setting of each scene, entrances, exits, major actions. How much of this varies from one opera to the next; the older the opera, the less there is. Published librettos and scores often include more of it than the composer's originals. What you're asking about normally isn't included in an opera score or libretto, any more than in a playscript. The composer leaves it to the opera company giving the performance.
Thank you very much-I didn't think the musical part of the score alone could describe that much about the plot-it seems to me that the libretto or a summary from wiki or the synopsis in the program notes are better for that. Regards, Len

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Fri May 20, 2016 9:12 am

John F wrote:
Lance wrote:I, too, fall in the league of the MUSIC in opera over the full staging if I had to make a choice.
Just to be clear - if you had to make a choice between unstaged and staged opera (both necessarily including the music or it isn't opera at all), you'd prefer it unstaged?
We'd all prefer it staged, I'm quite sure, if it was staged well. Of the dozen or two operas I have on DVD there are only a few I would say were well staged, well sung and well performed by the orchestra. I tend to stick to these operas for repeat viewing.
My very favourite of them all is 'Cosi Fan Tutte' on Blu-Ray with Miah Persson conducted by Ivan Fischer. The staging is elegant, colorful and simple.

I have three Don Giovanni's and only really like one - directed by Rene Jacobs - but the sets are poor to middling, which doesn't greatly matter. From the perspective of viewing on my home theater I could do without those sets entirely. Their chief advantage is that they are sparse. I suppose that if I had this exact performance with the same singers and orchestra, I'd be just as happy.

The other two productions. One with Simon Keenlyside at the Royal Opera I barely remember other than I disliked it more, the more of it I watched. Finally, the Losey movie production I couldn't get through. Weird staging, weird looking people, and poor sound fidelity. It just seems dated at this point and the BluRay release I have adds nothing over, say, VHS tape. I suppose I've been spoiled by the Jacobs' production.
Last edited by slofstra on Fri May 20, 2016 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by slofstra » Fri May 20, 2016 9:31 am

lennygoran wrote:
John F wrote:Johannes Brahms once declined an invitation to see "Don Giovanni" at the opera, saying he could get a better performance by reading the score at home. That, I suppose, would be the purest musical satisfaction.
I wanted to ask you more about this-I'm so amazed that there are those who could do something like this-is it really possible-you could enjoy the work without actually hearing the music or seeing and hearing the singers?

I found this article which really doesn't get at my question:

" Since Brahms felt at home only in the Vienna of the opposition, he wrote no operas. He rarely went to see them, though he adored two of them, Mozart's ''Don Giovanni'' and Beethoven's ''Fidelio'': prototypical anti-operas, because of the way their musical energy and militancy undermine representational balance.

In 1890, Brahms attended a performance of ''Don Giovanni'' in Budapest, and he rushed backstage at intermission to congratulate the young conductor, Mahler, for having rediscovered Mozart's opera as a drama of power rather than a comedy of manners. For Brahms, highly sophisticated in matters of musical history, Mozart was a fellow modernist. In ''Don Giovanni,'' especially, he had stretched the power of music beyond existing boundaries, making it capable of wrestling with metaphysical questions: desire and morality, life and death. But Mozart the metaphysical modernist was not the Mozart of late 19th-century musical taste, especially Viennese musical taste, which had transformed him into the wigged and powdered puppet of a bygone age of security and grace. "

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/29/arts/ ... wanted=all

Regards, Len
Imagine if we could all do this. Composers could just write scores and pass them around; no one would ever have to play them. They could even invent new imaginary instruments for the imaginary performance.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Fri May 20, 2016 9:41 am

lennygoran wrote:I didn't think the musical part of the score alone could describe that much about the plot-it seems to me that the libretto or a summary from wiki or the synopsis in the program notes are better for that.
You're right that the score includes more than the musical notes and the sung words. But the librettos that come with recordings or in the bookstore often contain more stage directions than the composer and librettist put into the work. These are not really part of the opera but somebody's interpretation of it, and plot summaries are even further removed from the actual opera, as they substitute for the words the characters sing.

With some exceptions, notably Wagner, composers don't concern themselves with the stage presentation of their operas and take no part in the stage direction. Sometimes the librettist is stage director of the first production - Lorenzo da Ponte did this - but usually not. If you're looking for the composer's authoritative intentions, then, sorry - you will seldom find them.
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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by maestrob » Fri May 20, 2016 12:34 pm

A good stage director is a musician also, and takes his/her cues from the music. There are traditions in opera staging just like there are in ballet. So much of that is being lost now as stagings are being done by directors with no background in these traditions.

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by John F » Fri May 20, 2016 2:20 pm

maestrob wrote:A good stage director is a musician also, and takes his/her cues from the music.
I've said elsewhere that the composer is his opera's first stage director as well. The music determines the tone and pace of the dialogue, its emotional color, and sometimes details of the action, as in the sword fight toward the beginning of "Don Giovanni." In that sense, the conductor is the assistant stage director, setting tempos and making emphases both in his phrasing and in coaching the singers in their music. Ideally, the conductor and stage director of a production should collaborate, each sitting in on the other's rehearsals and discussing points of interpretation with him. But if this ever happens, I believe it's extremely rare.

Very few stage directors, including the best of them, literally are musicians. Wagner, who directed and did not conduct the premiere production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen," was both; and some conductors, most consistently Herbert von Karajan, took charge of every aspect of the productions they conducted, not just the singers' actions but overseeing the scenic and costume design. Otto Klemperer also staged "Fidelio" at Covent Garden. The consensus is that while their direction seldom goes wrong, it tends to be boring and often banal. That's certainly been my impression of the Karajan productions I've seen.

Seems to me that while the stage director needs to know the opera's music reasonably well, perhaps from listening to records, he should take his cues not from the music but from the words the characters sing or speak, helping the singer-actors to create their characterizations from moment to moment and to deliver their words like living human beings, not just singers. That is or should be the director's area of special expertise, in which he can really help the singer-actors bring their roles to life.

Depending on what you mean by "traditions," I'm no great friend of staging operas as they have conventionally been done - it's not just in musical performance that, as Mahler said, Tradition ist Schlamperei. The words and music of most operas are not so inflexible as to preclude brilliantly original productions that nonetheless are dramatically and psychologically consistent with the dialogue the characters are given to sing. Here at the library we have an exhibition of scenery and costumes for many different productions of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," some by famous artists who designed no other operas - Kokoschka, Chagall, Hockney, Scarfe, for starters - each of which captures both the fantasy and the seriousness of the opera in a unique way characteristic of that artist alone. Vive la difference!
John Francis

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Re: Riccardo Muti and concert versions

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 20, 2016 10:28 pm

John F wrote:
lennygoran wrote:I didn't think the musical part of the score alone could describe that much about the plot-it seems to me that the libretto or a summary from wiki or the synopsis in the program notes are better for that.
You're right that the score includes more than the musical notes and the sung words. But the librettos that come with recordings or in the bookstore often contain more stage directions than the composer and librettist put into the work. These are not really part of the opera but somebody's interpretation of it, and plot summaries are even further removed from the actual opera, as they substitute for the words the characters sing.

With some exceptions, notably Wagner, composers don't concern themselves with the stage presentation of their operas and take no part in the stage direction. Sometimes the librettist is stage director of the first production - Lorenzo da Ponte did this - but usually not. If you're looking for the composer's authoritative intentions, then, sorry - you will seldom find them.

John thanks. Len

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