Posts Tagged ‘Carmen’

opening night at la scala

December 8, 2009

Yesterday was Saint Ambrose’s Day. Oops, miss it again?

If you lived in Milan the occasion would be second nature, a fact of life in the Lombard capital. December 7th is the traditional feast day for St. Ambrose, the city’s patron saint. For that very reason no matter what day of the week December 7th turns out to be, it’s also traditionally opening night at La Scala Opera Theatre.

As I stripped off my down coat and wool scarf to settle in for yesterday’s live HD presentation at Burlington’s Roxy Theatre (Noon in Vermont, 6pm local time) I couldn’t help but notice the contrast in the two audiences. Ours: casual, dressed for warmth in boots and gloves on the day of the season’s first real snowstorm. Milano: spaghetti straps, open-back dresses, Armani, Armani, Armani. Strictly the “rattle your jewels” echelon of opera patrons; a glimmering audience befitting one of Europe’s foremost cultural events.

Yet there we all were. In Burlington, Vermont and in Milan, Italy – half the world apart and gathered together at the same moment for the purpose of sharing a special musical experience.

Accessibility and affordability (relatively speaking) are the hallmarks of the new HD opera presentations, now in their fourth year. I’ve been fortunate to see a few productions in that time, yet for all the reasons I know I should enjoy them I can’t say I have. Not completely. At least, not until yesterday.

I think what it comes down to are the decisions that are made with the camera work. Too many times has the screen been enthralled with the wet, freshly polished details of the tenor’s (2-foot tall) left molar…while another character makes an important singing entrance that the cameras miss completely. I recall my first time having that experience, in the Metropolitan Opera’s HD presentation of Hansel und Gretel a couple of years ago. In the opera’s fantasy “banquet scene”, the camera lingered sumptuously on the multitude of cakes, pies, tarts…and the next thing you know there’s…a  human-sized FISH on stage, dressed as a waiter, carrying a tray and walking around. Wait a sec, where did that come from? Oh, the trapdoor stage left. While the camera was drooling over the pastries, a completely new character was introduced to the scene and is now strolling around center stage. ARGH.

In the subsequent live HD Metropolitan Opera productions I’ve seen, I keep thinking that for this format to be meaningful there must be some balance achieved between preserving the full-stage opera experience, and selectively using the flexibility of camera technology for the closeups, pans, crossfades, etc. to offer the insight that even a live experience in person can’t provide.

Yesterday’s presentation from La Scala happily found that balance. It was great!

This one had none of the Met Opera’s trademark intermission features, backstage interviews, or insightful vignettes: when the intermission lights went up at La Scala and the patrons began to stand up and mill around, so did Burlington’s audience. That was it. And, after a half hour, the lights dimmed, Daniel Barenboim resumed his seated helm in the La Scala pit, and the story continued. Just like it would in a live experience. I enjoy the inventiveness and spontanaeity of the Met’s intermission features, but for an alternative, true-to-life opera experience, La Scala’s HD presentation was it.

La Scala’s opening night production was George Bizet’s timeless Carmen, with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann (who stole the show as the heart-broken, love-crazed soldier, Don José), Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott (as Carmen’s bullfighter/lover Escamillo), and the dark, firey Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role as the reckless free-spirited Gypsy girl. Terrific portrayals by all three of the leads.

The Roxy’s next live HD opera presentation is La Scala’s new production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, at 12:30 this Sunday afternoon (with an encore next Thursday evening at 6pm). Recommend it? Oh yes, I can. Just another grand afternoon “at” La Scala.

But go ahead and wear your earmuffs and mittens into the theatre if you want, no one will think twice about it: it’s December, and this is Vermont!

playlist #81 (9/14/2009) – under the covers, pt. 3

September 14, 2009
World of Music
Pgm #81 – Under the Covers, pt. 3 – a revival of our occasional series featuring all world and jazz covers of pop tunes
Listen Mondays 3-5pm EDT  – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Denver Dub Collective (covering Prince): When Doves Cry / Purple Dub / 2009 – (USA) *NEW*
Easy Star All-Stars featuring Sugar Minott (covering the Beatles): When I’m Sixty-Four / Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band / Easy Star Records 21622 – (JAMAICA) *NEW*
Tarrus Riley (covering Sting): King of Pain / Spirits in the Material World-A Reggae Tribute to the Police / Shanachie 45067 – (JAMAICA) *NEW*
Soweto Gospel Choir (covering U2): In the Name of Love / In the Name of Love-Africa Celebrates U2 / Shout! Factory 10608 – (S. AFRICA)
Sunshiners (covering David Bowie): Modern Love / Sunshiners / BMG Japan 21074 – (OCEANIA)
Seu Jorge (covering Bowie): Rebel Rebel / The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions Featuring Seu Jorge / Hollywood Records 62576 – (BRAZIL)
Oslo Gospel Choir: Vaer Meg Naer (Kumbayah) / Salmeskatt / FX CD 272 – (NORWAY)
Junior Parker & the Jimmy McGriff Orchestra (covering the Beatles): Taxman / Funny How Time Slips Away / LaserLight Blues B000001J12 – (USA)
Mongo Santamaria (covering the Beatles): Daytripper / Jazz Moods: Cha-Cha Party / Concord Picante 5220 – (CUBA)
Bonerama (covering Led Zeppelin): Ocean / Bringing It Home / 2007 – (N’AWLINS)
Matt Haimovitz (covering Zeppelin): Kashmir / Goulash! / Oxingale 2007 – (USA)
Steve Blanco Trio (covering Zeppelin): Black Dog / Piano Warrior / Art of Life 1035 – (USA) *NEW*
Accoules Sax (covering Mr. James Brown): I Feel Good / Fiesta Music / CMD 12597 – (FRANCE)
Mo’ Horizons (covering Percy Mayfield): Hit the Road Jack (Pé na éstrada) / Brazil Remixed / Groove Gravy 1102 – (BRAZIL)
Nat King Cole (remixed by Cut Chemist): Day In Day Out / Nat King Cole RE: Generations / Capitol 2009 – (USA) *NEW*
Rachid Taha (covering The Clash): Rock el Casbah / Tékitoi / Wrass 126 – (ALGERIA/FRANCE)
The Fabulous Thunderbirds (covering the French original by Louiguy): Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White / Blues Masters, vol. 4: Harmonica Classics / Rhino 71124 – (USA)
Lila Downs (covering the trad. Mexican tune): La Cucaracha / One Blood – Una Sangre / EMI 78049 – (MEXICO)
Magnifico (covering the Animals): Land of Champions (House of the Rising Sun) / Grand Finale AVIH ? – (YUGOSLAVIA)
Kruno (covering Irving Berlin): Puttin’ On the Ritz / Gypsy Jazz Guitar / Gypsy Jazz Distribution 2006002 – (CROATIA/USA)
Easy Star All-Stars featuring Dr. Israel (covering Pink Floyd): Brain Damage / Dub Side of the Moon / Easy Star Records 21606 – (JAMAICA)
The Bad Plus (covering Pink Floyd): Comfortably Numb / For All I Care / Heads Up 3148 – (USA)
Denver Dub Collective featuring Venus Cruz (covering Prince): Purple Rain / Purple Dub / 2009 – (USA) *NEW*
Jake Shimabukuro (covering Chick Corea): Spain / Live / Hitchike Records 1109 – (HAWAII, USA) *NEW*
Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion (covering George Bizet): Klazz Meets Cuba / Carmen Cumaba / Sony 93090 – (CUBA)

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