I read Alex Ross on the staging of The Tempest and Un Ballo in Maschera, and he had some interesting points.
I was interested in the idea that the productions last year looked better in the simulcast than they did in house. A film of an opera is often very different from the impression it makes in house. For one thing, directors often put things on the side of the stage that are not visible in the film. In the Munich Lohengrin the hero sleeps off camera for an extended period, visible to the in house audience but not to the film. Filming focuses on the important details and often ignores the bigger picture.
I don't know which of last season's productions he is referring to. I liked Flute and Enchanted Island on the screen. I have seen Ernani, Satyagraha and Walkure both on the screen and in the house and thought they worked about equally well in both places. Walkure is just pictures in a foreshortened space both on the screen and in the house.
If I have 9 windows arranged in three rows, such as is the case in Don Giovanni, on the screen I will see each window one at a time in close-up with occasional wide shots of the full set. In the house I will see all 9 windows all the time. Perhaps in the house one prefers that the sets are in motion.
Ross talks about claustrophobia when the sets are close in and shorten the depth of the stage, such as in the Lepage Ring and Ballo. Singers tend to love this because they can feel their voices reflecting out into the audience instead of disappearing into the flies. The illusion for the Ring worked better on the screen because you could not see the pictures projected on the actors' faces which were obvious in the house.
I thought that the production for The Tempest made for some interesting pictures but did nothing to clarify the plot.
I was fascinated by the picture that accompanied Ross' article in the New Yorker. It showed Zajick as Ulrica in an aqua blue dress such as a relatively lower-class woman might wear while Blythe in our version was dressed in upper-middle-class black. She also pulled different things out of her purse. Hmm. Perhaps the other version makes more sense. After all, she is reading the fortunes for sailors on leave, and not just upper-class women like Amelia.
His complaints about Dmitri are the same for anything he does. Renée Fleming in Onegin brought him out of himself, but this is a rare event. He is a sharp contrast to Marcello.
I liked the flamboyance of the production for Ballo, the subdued palate combined with the outrageous Oscar, the sophisticated Ulrica with her skull, the king's disguises where he always still looked like Marcello Alvarez, the radical changes of mood from scene to scene. In fact I felt these mood changes clarified the plot as never before. This is what matters most to me in a production.
Perhaps I should go back to reading Alex Ross.
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