Friday, March 4, 2011

Was There Any Singing In That Opera Performance?

Commedia dell'Arte with very little scenery to steal focus.
"Opera reviews: why does no one write about the music? Staging tends to take precedence over singing, at least if critics are to be believed. But surely it's the music that really matters....Yet most reviews of productions I've attended concern themselves nearly exclusively with a detailed analysis of the director's conception of the drama. The fact that the writer is generally a music rather than theatre expert is even more bemusing. To pick one example among several, a review of David McVicar's 2008 Salome production at the Royal Opera House devoted just the last sentence to informing the reader that it was a
'musically solid production'. Or, to take another example, reviews of Rupert Goold's Turandot, where again the main thrust of the review is the staging: 'I haven't the foggiest idea what Rupert Goold is driving at,' writes the Telegraph's critic, while later admitting that although much of the music was "gorgeous" he was only awarding the production one star....Are opera and its critics focused too much on staging and dramaturgy at the expense of the music? Yes, a good production and fine direction can illuminate a piece but, given the option I'd much rather have a thrillingly played and sung version of any opera with a grotty production rather than vice versa. I remember a terrible production of Tristan at Covent Garden in 2002 that, thanks to glorious playing, was utterly compelling, and similarly a performance of Jenufa of such searing intensity that I spent the final act in a flood of tears – entirely because of the music and singing. A production, no matter how good, simply doesn't have the same effect." [Source]

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