Thursday, November 03, 2005

Il Viaggio a Reims

This production of Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims is the appropriate pairing for L'amour de loin. In one the whole stage is covered with a 6 inch layer of water. In the other the water forms into a swimming lane at the back of the stage and a heated pool downstage. On the right of the stage is a massage table. There is also a portable bath tub that plays a crucial part. I don't know what Rossini thought was going on here, but in this production we are at a spa. At the beginning the conductor enters in a bathrobe which he takes off to step down into the imaginary swimming pool that is the orchestra pit.

This production is from Barcelona in 2003, with Mariola Cantarero, Elena de la Merced, María Bayo, Paula Rasmussen, Josef Bros, Kenneth Tarver, et al. Typical Rossini buffa music is the excuse for all this silliness. There is coloratura singing for every type of voice, some of it quite good.

When the opera begins, everyone has already arrived at the spa and made themselves at home. We don't see that they have all come as established pairs, but we do see a lot of flirting going on. These people are all away from home and very horny. There is quarrelling and making up. They're supposed to be on the way to a coronation but get stuck here instead. That's all we have for a plot. A lot of people seem to be striving to prove that plot is just not necessary.

One character thinks she has lost her hat and sings a glorious celebratory aria when it is found. There is a party. There are Victorian swimming suits. "God Save the Queen" is sung. The whole thing descends into a discussion of irrelevant modern politics. How did this happen?

It's true, I used to listen to Chailly's La Cenerentola for hours on end, to the point where I could sing along, but that doesn't seem to spread out onto all possible Rossini buffa music. I am constantly learning new things in this immersion into opera. I am learning about the difference between Rossini buffa and Rossini seria, for instance. I think my next opera film should be Semiramide.

Historical Footnote

Information I came on by accident says that Il Viaggio a Reims was written in 1825 and is also called L'albergo del giglio d'oro, since the whole thing takes place in a hotel.

According to Wikipedia "[Charles X] was crowned King of France in 1824 in the cathedral at Reims and reigned until the French Revolution of 1830 when he abdicated rather than become a constitutional monarch." This is important because he is the one they are all traveling to see crowned, and the opera ends in a long aria praising him. Maybe that's why the opera was lost. He was a notorious reprobate.

Here's another quote from the internet: "The story of Rossini's last Italian opera was well known for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: written for the coronation of Charles X and performed at the Parisian Théâtre royal italien on 19 June 1825, half of Rossini's pièce de circonstance was almost immediately cannibalized as Le Comte Ory, premiered at the Académie royale de musique (the Paris Opéra) three years later. But after 1825, as anything more than a point of historical reference, Il viaggio a Reims disappeared almost completely."

It was reconstructed by Janet Johnson and "formed the basis of a performance at the Pesaro Festival in 1984..."

Very interesting stuff, don't you think? The French had trouble deciding what kind of government they wanted in those days. I don't normally research anything I write about, but I was browsing through some old papers.


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