Saturday, December 01, 2007

The danger of a good night out

See now I'm thinking what Wadsworth and his team ought to be doing once they're permanent fixtures at the Met, which surely they will be. And the perverse thing I keep landing on is La Vestale. Cuz here's the thing: Gluck is at best riveting if not religious, and at worst, a little dull. Even in the hands of someone whose musical intelligence is pretty much universally acknowledged (I'm talking about Mark Morris, of course) things can go pretty wrong, and you're stuck in a living, breathing version of what, er, normal people think opera is like, an airless pageant of artifice and pretense. Mr. Wadsworth is the enemy of that kind of aesthetic death, if the current production is fair evidence of his work. So I say sic him on the things that feel lost to the accreted dust of changing taste. No, for once, I don't have a Giulia in mind, nor a Licinia, nor a Cinna, not at all. It's just a formless idea.


Straussmonster said...

...I like the way that you think.

Wadsworth would also be a good person for this neglected repertory because he focuses so intently on music and libretto and starting from those sources to make something that then comes to life and can speak to a modern audience, instead of assuming from the start that modern audiences won't/can't be interested in works very much out of line with current taste and dramaturgy, and that they need dramatic intervention to be rescued. (I do think that's the starting point for a lot of directors, when engaging with things that we don't see any more. 5% of the time it works; the 95%, though...)

And yeah, Spontini is hardly flawless material, but it is so akin to Gluck (just larger and louder and with more crazy finales) that if we can get one, we might get the other. I'd like to see it rescued from the situation where it's only known because One Certain Singer took one of them, too.

alex said...

Maury, your posts about Wadsworth and this Iphigenie are watering my mouth absolutely and totally.

I must scheme to see this somehow, though I am unsure how to do so. Hmm.

But another thought (which is the peanut gallery of the peanut gallery as I haven't seen anything at all, nor heard) -- what about productions of Haydn operas?

I think there are some really interesting things there, but they're generally not very well known and could probably use the approach you and the Monster describe Wadsworth taking.

Heck, there's probably a whole crap-ton (that's metric system) of rep out there that could use this approach. mmmmm.

Chalkenteros said...

He should do the new Norma, and I'd love to see him do a Medea. But your idea is also right, Maury -- Wadsworth could be the person to resuscitate a whole bunch of neglected 18th century pieces.

Will said...

Somehow or other the MET has messed up in not getting Anna Catarina Antonacci on the roster. She may not have the most perfect voice in the world but she's a brainy and charismatic performer who should be perfect for either Vestale or Medea (preferably as Medee, PLEASE, in the original version).

Alex said...

His Rodelinda from a few years back is pretty strong evidence, too. An awesome guest conductor doing a Handel concert for a chorus J and I used to be in said in rehearsal something like: "Composers of the Baroque didn't inject any less emotion into their work than Brahms, they just didn't have the romantic tools we're used to at their disposal. Doing justice to this music means understanding how to express that passion."

That's kind of how I felt about that Rodelinda...Wadsworth and co. did away with the period cautiousness and any modern pretensions to simply focus on giving the passion of the story and the music a full airing. The result was definitely the best four hours I've ever spent with Handel.

Henry Holland said...

What's Wadsworth record on 20th century repertoire? I can think of at least a dozen operas written just before and after WWI that could really do with a revival.

Straussmonster said...

Just from browsing around, it looks like the latest stuff Wadsworth has worked with is a little Janacek; he's also done beautiful things with Wagner (Seattle Ring).

Frankly, I'd prefer to see him stick to the older material. Although they may be neglected, the early 20th century repertory is far easier to pull off for modern audiences because the dramaturgy is much closer to what audiences are familiar with, and they have far more overt bells-and-whistles, colorful orchestration, etc. Wadsworth's talents and interests seem more inclined towards the Classical in many ways (also given that he's worked extensively with Moliere), and for my money, those are actually harder to do well for a modern audience.