Sunday, July 01, 2018

Iolanta / Perséphone

Conductor:  Teodor Currentzis
Production:  Peter Sellars

These two operas -- Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (1892) and Stravinsky's Perséphone (1934) -- were presented together at Teatro Real in 2012.  Both were staged by Peter Sellars.  I am considering this as the end of my Peter Sellars project.


René, King of Provence, bass, Dmitry Ulianov
Robert, Duke of Burgundy, baritone, Alexej Markov
Count Vaudémont, a Burgundian knight, tenor, Pavel Cernoch
Ibn-Hakia, a Moorish physician, baritone, Willard White
Alméric, armor-bearer to King René, tenor, Vasily Efimov
Bertrand, doorkeeper of the castle, bass, Pavel Kudinov
Iolanta, blind daughter of King René, soprano, Ekaterina Scherbachenko
Marta, Bertrand's wife, Iolanta's nursemaid, contralto, Ekaterina Semenchuk
Brigitta, Iolanta's friend, soprano, Irina Churilova
Laura, Iolanta's friend, mezzo-soprano, Letitia Singleton

Iolanta is a fairy tale sung in Russian.  It was not brought to its full effect in its semi-realistic setting at the Met in 2015.  The magic was missing.  We are presented here with abstractions.  Door frames are topped with mysterious dark objects that sometimes suggest birds.  Instead of a film, we have still pictures.  Iolanta carries a cane, as the blind often do.  Her own chamber music group accompanies her.  I think we may presume they are singing the original text rather than the Soviet approved one.

28 minutes in we have movement just in time for the wonder of Willard White.  I find this abstraction very beautiful, but when they sing of roses, no roses appear.  I like the soprano very much, but the tenor could be better.  This is Sellars' area of expertise.  He isn't here to provide you with pretty scenery.  He's here to provide you with a spiritual experience.


Eumolphe, tenor, Paul Groves
Perséphone Speaker, Dominique Blanc
Perséphone dancer, Sam Sathya
Demetra, dancer, Chumvan Sodhachivy
Pluton, dancer, Khon Chansythyka
Mercure, Démophoon, dancer, Nam Narim

Perséphone is a Greek myth about the underworld, here sung in French.  We are in the same set as the previous work, and visually the two are similar.  There is a tenor, a speaker, a chorus and dancers from Cambodia but no choreographer.  The director seems to have collaborated with the dancers.  The music is serene for Stravinsky.

A line caught my eye:  "never chase after what your eyes gaze on too lovingly."  The story of my life.

The pairing of these two works is genius.  The entire thing is a meditation on beauty.  Life is beautiful.  Love it more.  Do not go into the darkness never to return.  Open your heart to beauty.  Thank you, Peter.

Since I am counting this as the end, I repeat the score card here.  It omits works where Sellars is the librettist.

Score card:

Great things:  Mozart La Clemenza di TitoHandel Theodora, Bach Matthew Passion, Iolanta / Perséphone
Hits:  Saariaho L'Amour de LoinMozart Don Giovanni, Nixon (1st)
So so: Mozart Figaro, Giulio Cesare
Misses:Vivaldi Griselda, Adams The Death of KlinghofferNixon (2nd)

No comments: