well, it’s been quite a busy week for opera around here. some of it i’m interested in, some of it i’m not but i know you all are so it’s best if i just lay it all out there, right? right!
nothing like reading the Times and seeing a nice big article with the words “Rossini Scholar” in it. it seems that the Met asked Phillip Gossett to write program notes for their new production of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory which opened last week but he would have no part of it. according to him, there is a new version of Ory that has been put together for the new Rossini critical edition put out by Bärenreiter, one that was available in time for Munich Opera’s production last year. this is where i’m going to stop with all the musicological lingo (if you want more of that, head over to another musicology blog!) and just ask the question: why do we even care? everyone with whom i’ve talked who has heard Ory has expressed very little interest. i mean it’s only program notes. (please note the facetiousness in my voice — i write program notes, for god’s sake) while the new version (complete with over 100 new measures of music) could provide a more complete experience for the viewer, my guess is that if we took a poll of the audience, few would register any concern. now this is not me saying that the regular audience isn’t capable of noticing these changes, i’m sure that many are but it seems that the idea of change is not one that’s very popular in the par terre. i think it’s interesting that Anthony Tommasini states in his article that one element that might have attributed to this reluctance may have come from Juan Diego Florez (and a stubbornness to change things already in his wheelhouse — more on him later).
we see this idea of change, and the negation of its existence, all throughout opera. whether it’s a new production, new singers, new tempi, what have you, audiences don’t tend to be receptive. (LePage’s brilliant staging of the Ring cycle a recent example). somehow, operas have turned into old friends with whom we’ve become comfortable. change then turns into the facelift they decided to get that went horribly wrong. but what if that change isn’t horrible? and what if people hate it just because? i know i’m guilty of this on a small level — when i hear performers in operas with which i’m intensely familiar or attached and i’m not feeling it, i get upset. we want to hear it the way we like it, the way in which it became special to us. but this codification/museum/masoleum-like culture does not bode well for opera. in the nineteenth-century, people changed operas all the time. adding arias, changing voice types, replacing music with other people’s music, often at the audience’s behest. i don’t know if that’s a concept to which we can return (the work concept is a little too ingrained in our conscious) but we’ve got to take a step back and ask ourselves why and if we should respond to change with such vitriol. plus, this is like, you know, what i do for a living? you people are gonna put me out of work!
and speaking of JDF, congrats to him and his wife on their new baby and for being the embodiment of “the show will go on”, though if you go to the Met website they make it seem like he delivered the baby himself and then got into his nun’s habit covered in amniotic fluid. but then again, the Met would.
across the plaza, my baby, the opera company that could, New York City Opera is putting their fall season on the backburner. for those of you acquainted with NYCO, you know that this is one of many challenges they’ve had to face in the last few years. i worked their right before their major woes began and i remember how excited they were about the upcoming arrival of Gérard Mortier. his sudden departure raised several questions (especially, in my mind, that of state-funded arts) and left them in somewhat of a pickle. it had seemed as though they were pulling themselves up out of the well. i will keep you apprised of the situation and everyone send good vibes.
so my newest venture is singing in the UWS vocal ensemble Cerdorrion which has been great so far. everyone is super nice and just love the fact that i write about opera and Britten. of course, they take every opportunity they can to talk to me about it (which can be a blessing and a curse). after our saturday rehearsal, i found myself walking with one of my fellow choristers when she told me that she just loved contemporary opera and couldn’t really get into the nineteenth-century stuff. o happy day! we had a great conversation about our experiences, Doctor Atomic (i swear this opera will come up in every conversation i have for the rest of my life), and upcoming local productions. it was nice to hear someone so excited about twentieth-century opera and i told her that it’s not a statement i hear often. this could work out…
and the president of the ensemble, a self-proclaimed Brittenophile, is still trying to come up with an answer to my Midsummer Night’s Dream question. he doesn’t like the Met’s new production of Grimes (strike number one!) but he’s so damn eager that i think it might be a nice relationship. maybe he’ll feel less inclined to talk to me if he reads my thesis.