Saturday, June 19, 2021

Music in Time of Covid19

Audiences are returning.  Houses are opening.  Perhaps now is the time to discuss this.  What was it like?  We all watched what pickings there were on our computers at home where we were the only audience.  We had some categories. 

Normal performance.

  • I am including this category to provide a place for the London performance of Fidelio with Lise Davidsen where everyone was ill without knowing it.  The film of a late performance where Jonas Kaufmann had withdrawn with Covid and replaced by David Butt Philip was surprisingly good. There is also an audio only version of an early performance with Jonas Kaufmann.  The final performance was cancelled.  This was the beginning.

Recitals without any audience.

The Metropolitan Opera put on a whole series of recitals by their stars from venues in Europe.

  • Netrebko Recital was part of the Met series.  Instead of standing still as is traditional in classical recitals, Netrebko strolled around constantly.  I've never seen anyone do that, but she sang well.
  • Starry Heavens Concert from the Bayerische Staatsoper with Lise Davidsen.  This was an entire concert of pieces by Beethoven.  I knew that the complete works of any composer includes a list of songs which I assumed were never performed.  This is the exception that proves the rule.  They did not pause between songs, so it wasn't possible to tell how far along they were.  Lise was fine.  The entire concert felt rushed.  I no longer remember if this was live or delayed.  If delayed, it could have been edited.
  • Schumann's Dichterliebe from the Bayerische Staatsoper with Jonas Kaufmann.  I love Dichterliebe and strongly disapproved of an early performance by Jonas.  He has completely erased my previous impression with this wonderful performance.  Jonas has perhaps complained the loudest about the absence of an audience.
  • Lise -- Vocal Arts DC.  An excellent recital with subtitles in original language, Finnish or German, and English.  Talking is inserted into the performance between sets.  I enjoyed this very much.  This was prepared long in advance.  I knew some of the songs, and others were completely new.
  • Three Divas from Versailles.  Ailyn Pérez, Isabel Leonard and Nadine Sierra are also part of the Met series, but the final one, I fear.  Gounod, Mozart, Vivaldi, Leoncavallo, Bellini and R. Strauss are included.  Ensembles include Offenbach's Barcarole, the trio from Der Rosenkavalier and some Spanish songs.  They are all Latinas and friends.
This particular format worked pretty well for me.  It feels more intimate than a normal live recital.  I particularly enjoyed the one where Lise talks to the audience.  It is important to understand that the Bayerische Staatsoper continues their funding from the state of Bayern throughout the pandemic.  Peter Gelb is working with donations.

Concerts without any audience

  • Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde from the Royal Opera Covent Garden with David Butt Philip, tenor, and Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano. The orchestra was very much reduced, which worked surprisingly well.
  • Lise Davidsen from Trondheim in Norway  The audience was cancelled at the last minute.  You could hear cheering from the back, but it was probably the tech staff.  We probably got to see it because there was no audience.

I haven't felt that this worked quite as well, though the concerts were good.  In these performances without audience it is difficult to distinguish between a performance and a rehearsal.  The performers wear their performance attire.  That's the only clue.  I enjoy watching rehearsals.

Concert versions of operas without audience

  • La Walkyrie from Paris with Lise Davidsen as Sieglinde.  I am very familiar with this work and don't require staging to follow the story.
  • Jenůfa from Amsterdam with Lise as Jenůfa.  I am much less familiar with the story here and felt much was missing from the normal intensity of this work.  I prefer my opera acted out.

Fully staged operas without an audience.

There are rather more of these than I would have predicted.  These seem to be almost entirely from Germany and Austria.  There is one snuck in from Italy. 

Fidelio from Theater an der Wien.  This is the production with the giant staircase. 
La Boheme from ROH with Michael Fabiano.
Mozart's Cosi fan tutte from the Salzburg Festival.  The Salzburg Festival managed not to cancel their entire season by retaining two opera performances.  This seemed to be roughly comparable to a normal opera streaming.

Elektra from Salzburg.  This is the second opera retained for the Salzburg Festival.  The relatively small casts seemed to be key.  The lack of chorus reduces the danger.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail from Vienna with Lisette Oropesa.  In this production each singer has a speaking partner in their role.  Lisette was amazing, but the action was confusing.
Die Vögel [The Birds], 1920, by Walter Braunfels from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  This is a new Opera for me, so I cannot compare it with anything.
La Boheme is streaming live from the Bayerische  Staatsoper.  This was done without all the crowds that appear in the cafe, and I liked it better.  Who cares about them anyway?
Werther from the Wiener Staatsoper with Piotr Beczala.  I didn't feel that the pandemic conditions negatively impacted the performance.  It was very serious and intense.
Tosca from Vienna with Anna Netrebko.  Not my favorite Tosca.
Heggie's Three Decembers from San Jose Opera.  This is a new opera for me.  It felt like a normal performance and was successful.  Susan Graham is always wonderful.
Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix from Firenze.  This is a new opera for me.  People wore masks on stage, just not the soloists.  I was glad to at last see this opera.
Weber's Der Freischütz from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  This was regie which takes a lot of the fun out of it.  As a modern American, I might prefer not to see guns on the stage.  Better this than no Freischutz.
Aida from Paris.  This is the puppet show Aida.  Since people are no longer allowed to make up as black Africans, puppets were used for those characters, and the singers stayed in their normal makeup.  Egyptians did not have puppets, only Etheopians.  I don't see the point.  I only looked at the singers.

The way back 

Die Walküre from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  Jonas Kaufmann and Lise Davidsen presented Act I of Die Walküre before a reduced audience. A small audience appears to be the preferred retransition to normal.  The performers seemed happy to see faces again.  It made me happy to see them happy.

I apologize for the frequency of references to the Norwegian soprano.  She's been busier than most.

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