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.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1803-1830]

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