V&A’s spectacular new show

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lennygoran
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V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by lennygoran » Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:07 pm

This sounds good-we were at the Victoria and Albert a few months ago.

Exhibition review: Opera — Passion, Power and Politics at the Victoria & Albert Museum


Richard Morrison


Not so much an exhibition, more a seven-act opera in its own right, the V&A’s spectacular new show has something for opera snobs, opera virgins and all shades between. Complemented by a BBC TV series, it brings together paintings, manuscripts, costumes, stage and theatre designs, props, posters and musical instruments, drawn from the V&A’s archives and collections around the world.

All this is accompanied by a high-tech soundtrack, heard through headphones, that mixes specially made recordings with music from the filmed productions you see as you progress through the exhibition.

Even though she has the run of the Sainsbury Gallery, the V&A’s cavernous new underground exhibition space, the curator Kate Bailey wisely avoids the temptation to cram in 400 years of continuous history.

Instead we journey to seven auspicious premieres in seven different cities. One could argue forever about whether they are the right premieres (Verdi’s Nabucco to represent all of 19th-century Italian opera?) or the right cities (Paris, when not one French opera is in the show?), but one can’t fault the imagination with which each epoch’s performing traditions, politics and social ethos are evoked.

For the 1711 London premiere of Handel’s Rinaldo, for instance, an entire 18th-century stage has been constructed, replete with elaborate machinery.

It helps one to understand why the sceptical British — even more Europhobic in 1711 than in 2017 — were blown away by this exotic new continental art form. Similarly, a montage of six different filmed productions shows why Wagner’s Tannhäuser — and particularly the erotic Venusberg ballet — caused such a scandal even in mid-19th-century Paris, a city famously not short of flaunted flesh.

Most evocative of all is rare footage of the 28-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich composing the score of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the 1934 opera that Stalin banned after a few performances. The score itself, never before seen in public, is displayed alongside.

That footage is priceless for another reason. It shows something being created. Although the exhibition is presented as if backstage at a theatre, I would have liked a lot more about the process of making opera, from rehearsals to set-building. This is overwhelmingly a show about the finished product and its place in society.

Also missing is any hint of the mayhem that has always surrounded opera, in all countries and all eras: the continual, desperate quest for funding, the outrageous demands of divas and agents, the tantrums and walkouts, the insecurities, jealousies and critical sniping. Perhaps the V&A’s partner in this project, the Royal Opera House, didn’t want too much emphasis on the dark side — but without that you miss perhaps the most important of opera’s qualities: the feeling of sublimity being conjured, heaven knows how, out of chaos.


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/time ... -2b83qpthr

jbuck919
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:25 pm

Yes, well, the "skeptical British" famously and whimsically abandoned Handelian opera in favor of John Gay's schlock Beggar's Opera, almost putting Handel out of business. That is why he started devoting himself to oratorios.

Brahms was offered the opportunity to receive an honorary degree from one of the two great English universities, I forget which one, and turned it down. Jan Swafford in his biography says it was because he dreaded the thought of a sea voyage, but years ago I read somewhere that the reason was, in Brahms's words, "England is a country without music." Handel is the only important English composer of the common practice period, and of course he was German.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by lennygoran » Thu Sep 28, 2017 5:31 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:25 pm
in Brahms's words, "England is a country without music." Handel is the only important English composer of the common practice period, and of course he was German.
I found this-wonder if Oscar Adolf Hermann Schmitz got it from Brahms--never heard of this Schmitz. Regards, Len

"At all these barbs, we just take a deep breath. But when a German critic called Oscar Adolf Hermann Schmitz composed a dithyramb of abuse of the English cultural scene, just over 100 years ago, he included a jibe from which we have never really recovered. It stung. It made us blink like puppies suddenly kicked, and until now we have never had the nerve to fire back at Schmitz — because we have a terrible feeling that he may have been on to something. England, he said, is Das Land Ohne Musik."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/pers ... hmitz.html

John F
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by John F » Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:22 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:25 pm
Brahms was offered the opportunity to receive an honorary degree from one of the two great English universities, I forget which one, and turned it down. Jan Swafford in his biography says it was because he dreaded the thought of a sea voyage, but years ago I read somewhere that the reason was, in Brahms's words, "England is a country without music."
The second reason is just not plausible, that Brahms would dismiss a nation in which his music was often performed and which had just offered him its highest academic distinction. And apparently there was more to it than Swafford suggests. This from Malcolm MacDonald's biography:
Malcolm MacDonald wrote:In January 1877, at the prompting of Charles Villiers Stanford, Cambridge University attempted to bestow on [Brahms] an honorary Doctorate in Music. Stanford suggested that he come to conduct his new C minor Symhony. Brahms was unwilling to face the sea-crossing, but he might have gone if he could have confined himself to Cambridge and visited London quietly (he told John Farmer that what he really wanted to do there was to explore the East End and the docks, presumably because he envisaged the area as being like Hamburg). Unfortunately, as Stanford relates, as soon as they got wind of the possibility of a visit the Crystal Palace authorities publicly announced that they hoped to arrange a London concert in which Brahms would conduct his works. Dreading the inevitable lionization by London society, especially as he could not speak English (though he understood and read it to a certain extent), he now declined to come to Britain at all, pleading ill-health. As the degree could not be conferred in absentia, Cambridge was forced to withdraw it: but instead Joachim, who receoved a similar degree on the day appointed, conducted the University Musical Society in the British premiere of Brahms's Symphony no. 1, still in manuscript (and somewhat different from its form as eventually published)...

The following year the Royal Philharmonic Society of London awarded Brahms its gold medal, without requiring him to receive it in person. It was left to a German university - Breslau, in 1879 - to give him a Doctorate, not of Music but Philosophy, a degree which Brahms received in person, with a certificate referring to him as "vir illustrissimus...artis musicae severioris in Germania nunc princeps." In thanks for which he composed his Academic Festival Overture, a work that deliberately eschews the "severe" side of his musical nature."
John Francis

John F
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by John F » Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:30 am

The Performing Arts Library has a relationship with the V&A's theatre collection. I'll ask if we might bring the opera exhibition, or some of it, to NYC.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by lennygoran » Fri Sep 29, 2017 6:01 am

Liked the photos in this article-hope the NYTimes lets you see them at the link. Regards, Len

Taking a Walk Through the History of Opera

By FARAH NAYERI SEPT. 29, 2017


LONDON — The soprano Danielle de Niese arrived at the Victoria and Albert Museum here on a recent afternoon for an early glimpse of the new exhibition “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics.”

Making her way through galleries full of maps, costumes and sheet music, she stepped inside a salon-like space dedicated to a work she has often performed: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Perched on a raised platform was a gleaming mahogany piano that Mozart played in 1787. All around were mementos: a poster from the “Figaro” premiere, a letter to a lover (featuring Mozart’s sketch of bare breasts), and the last portrait ever painted of him.


“It’s amazing how intimate this is, considering we’re in the V&A,” she said, as melodies from “Figaro” rippled from the exhibition-provided headset hanging around her neck. “Where most exhibitions take you through something that’s finished, this is taking you through something that is still a living being.”

The V&A extravaganza offers a journey through four centuries of opera, complete with letters, maps, instruments, paintings, musical manuscripts, and set and costume designs. To tell the story of seven cities and premieres that illustrate how composers reflected the political and social realities of their time, the curators often had to look no further than the museum’s own collections.


“Opera combines all the other art forms, and those are all art forms that you see represented in the V&A,” said Robert Carsen, an acclaimed stage director who acted as artistic adviser to the project. “The V&A has a fantastic theater department, this extensive and remarkable museum of clothing and costume, a wonderful collection of musical instruments, books: all the elements.”

Opening in Venice with Claudio Monteverdi’s 17th-century “L’Incoronazione di Poppea,” the show winds up in Leningrad, for the tumultuous 1934 premiere of Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.”


In between, visitors wander through London (Handel’s “Rinaldo,” 1711), Vienna (“Figaro,” 1786), Milan (Verdi’s “Nabucco,” 1842), Paris (Wagner’s revised “Tannhäuser,” 1861), and Dresden (Strauss’s “Salome,” 1905). Punctuating the trip are musical excerpts, beamed automatically into high-tech headsets like the one Ms. de Niese was sporting.


Among the show’s gems are the crossed-out notes on Handel’s original score for “Rinaldo,” Salvador Dalí’s costume designs for Peter Brook’s 1949 production of “Salome,” and Manet’s large painting “Music in the Tuileries Gardens,” which evokes the atmosphere of 19th-century Paris. The exhibition also includes a sound installation featuring a Verdi recording by the Royal Opera chorus, and a closing section where scenes from 20th-century operas (“Porgy and Bess,” “Einstein on the Beach,” “Dialogues of the Carmelites”) are projected on screens.


“We’re avoiding the clichés,” said the show’s curator, Kate Bailey, regarding the absence (except on the soundtrack) of legends like Maria Callas, and of diva tiaras and gowns. Large inscriptions on blackboard-like walls list the various historical milestones that lead up to each of the operas in focus. Buzzwords — “sexuality,” “spirituality,” “murder,” “passion” — are used to spell things out as plainly as possible.

Ms. Bailey said she and her team wanted to reach those who had never attended an opera, connecting each of the seven works to a broader theme. “Nabucco,” for instance, was selected for epitomizing Italian nationalism, and “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” which was attacked by Stalin, as an example of political censorship.


“The biggest threat to opera is the prejudice that people have about the art form: that it’s superficial, that it’s only for rich people, that it’s difficult to understand, and that you have to be a member of a club to get in,” said Kasper Holten, the former director of the Royal Opera. “The art form continues to occupy and preoccupy us because it has something to say.”

The idea for the show, the first to be staged inside the V&A’s large new underground exhibition space, came up in a 2011 conversation between Martin Roth, who had just been named the director of the V&A (and who died earlier this year), and Mr. Holten, then newly appointed to the Royal Opera (and now an independent stage director).


“What we felt quite keenly was that opera was essentially a European art form: the art form which has been, in a way, the soundtrack to the history of Europe,” said Mr. Holten. “So we chose early on to say, ‘Let’s pick seven world premieres in seven important European cities and try to see the interaction between the work, the opera house, the city around it and the continent around it.’”

There was also an underlying political purpose. Opera has always been “an art form where all of Europe came together,” Mr. Holten said. The desire to make that point became more pressing, he added, after Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union and the “growing confusion in Europe about who we are.”

“Cultural exchange is more important than ever before,” he said. “We must preserve it and fight for it.”



https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/arts ... views&_r=0

jbuck919
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Re: V&A’s spectacular new show

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:36 pm

John F wrote:
Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:22 am
jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:25 pm
Brahms was offered the opportunity to receive an honorary degree from one of the two great English universities, I forget which one, and turned it down. Jan Swafford in his biography says it was because he dreaded the thought of a sea voyage, but years ago I read somewhere that the reason was, in Brahms's words, "England is a country without music."
The second reason is just not plausible, that Brahms would dismiss a nation in which his music was often performed and which had just offered him its highest academic distinction. And apparently there was more to it than Swafford suggests. This from Malcolm MacDonald's biography:
Malcolm MacDonald wrote:In January 1877, at the prompting of Charles Villiers Stanford, Cambridge University attempted to bestow on [Brahms] an honorary Doctorate in Music. Stanford suggested that he come to conduct his new C minor Symhony. Brahms was unwilling to face the sea-crossing, but he might have gone if he could have confined himself to Cambridge and visited London quietly (he told John Farmer that what he really wanted to do there was to explore the East End and the docks, presumably because he envisaged the area as being like Hamburg). Unfortunately, as Stanford relates, as soon as they got wind of the possibility of a visit the Crystal Palace authorities publicly announced that they hoped to arrange a London concert in which Brahms would conduct his works. Dreading the inevitable lionization by London society, especially as he could not speak English (though he understood and read it to a certain extent), he now declined to come to Britain at all, pleading ill-health. As the degree could not be conferred in absentia, Cambridge was forced to withdraw it: but instead Joachim, who receoved a similar degree on the day appointed, conducted the University Musical Society in the British premiere of Brahms's Symphony no. 1, still in manuscript (and somewhat different from its form as eventually published)...

The following year the Royal Philharmonic Society of London awarded Brahms its gold medal, without requiring him to receive it in person. It was left to a German university - Breslau, in 1879 - to give him a Doctorate, not of Music but Philosophy, a degree which Brahms received in person, with a certificate referring to him as "vir illustrissimus...artis musicae severioris in Germania nunc princeps." In thanks for which he composed his Academic Festival Overture, a work that deliberately eschews the "severe" side of his musical nature."
Gaudeamus igitur.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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