DAY THREE: DON GIOVANNI

WOW, what an amazing experience! This production and performance got me to rethink what you can do with a standard piece of repertoire.  It kind of shattered my, what now seems like limited, thinking of how you can make riveting theater! This incredible production was aided by a beautiful ensemble of artists and by the London Symphony Orchestra, again sounding fantastic. Top scores go to director Dmitri Tcherniakov for bringing a depth of emotional resonance to the characters that I have not experienced with this work. The Donna Anna and Don Ottavio duet was a remarkable and unexplainable wonder, as was Zerlina’s “batti, batti, o bel Masetto. I was also blown away by the surprising and engaging performance of Rod Gilfrey as Giovanni.

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PHOTO: Rod Gilfry (Don Giovanni), Maria Bengtsson (Donna Anna), Kyle Ketelsen (Leporello)

And here we get to the big departure from the norm. In Tcherniakov’s production, the entire opera takes place in the home of the Commendatore, and all are relatives, with the exception of Leporello, who is a houseguest. And Don Giovanni is an older guy who is driven into a mad drunken state by family members who are dedicated to exacting lethal revenge on the killer of the father. All the disguises, conquests, and intrigues happen in Giovanni’s crazed and drunken mind. Even the statue is imagined and the famous dinner guest is a Commendatore lookalike that the family has hired to push Giovanni over the edge. The whole thing reads like some brilliant HBO series. Here is the link to check out the cast that worked so well to bring this vision into performance - bravi tutti. 

Now gang, don’t worry! I am not going to come back from this trip trying to update or change all of our standard repertoire. In fact, seeing this production provides me even more excitement about our own Giovanni cast and production coming to the Academy of Music this spring. But in considering how to best curate opera experiences that have a healthy yin and yang (read: balance) it is helpful to experience productions like this so that you can see possibilities and nuances to programming decisions.  This brave and wonderful concept has provided great insight on how interpretations can be illuminating and exciting. 

Tomorrow one of my all-time favorite operas Richard Strauss’s ELEKTRA!

DAY TWO: RIGOLETTO

After a bit of sleep (curtain times here are typically 9:30 or 10 p.m.) I had a nice Sunday brunch and walked a bit of the city. A nice day off. I was so looking forward to Robert Carsen’s production of RIGOLETTO featuring George Gagnidze in the title role, and I was not disappointed. Go HERE to learn more about Robert Carsen. He is a fellow Canadian who has given opera some of the most memorable and iconic productions of our time. Gagnidze’s Rigoletto in this production was a dark and ridiculed character in a world occupied by dark and mean people. image

The inspiration of the production was the 1924 motion picture He Who Gets Slapped and worked in bringing the loathing Rigoletto to life in one of the most compelling ways I have seen. Under an ever present circus tent the action unfolded with a strong conceptual hand, replete with six lady strippers in Act I and six ripped and bouncy male circus performers.  Even the duke dropped his robe for a bare bum exit on his way to Gilda.  It all sounds more gratuitous than it was, as it completely fit in this underbelly world where ridicule, thievery and murder exist. image

The audience here loved it – yet I am still working out in my mind if this is something that would work in the U.S. (Ruminating on this subject will take some time). It was Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) today and as this production was performed in the outdoor Théâtre de l’Archevêché. We were treated not only to the beautiful sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra for the overture at 10 p.m., but also to the sounds of fireworks at the nearby Rotunde.  All in all, a special night.