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CLASSICAL  March 2007

CLASSICAL March 2007

Subject:

Re: The Man Who Knew Too Much

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 8 Mar 2007 08:21:52 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (60 lines)

Janos Gereben quotes Terry Teachout:

>Gratuitous pickiness is a soul-killing trap against
>which the critic must always be on guard..

I just got back from a visit to that opera mecca, Cleveland, Ohio, where
I managed to attend TWO different productions: the Bulgarian State Opera's
Marriage of Figaro; a Cleveland Institute of Music student production
of Fledermaus.

The Figaro, probably the opera I've heard or seen the most, was what a
friend of mine calls "very good third-rate production," which seemed to
me right on the money.  The orchestra, however, was shockingly bad.  The
overture, scrappy (to be kind), stumbled and limped to its mercifully
quick conclusion.  I didn't believe that professionals could possibly
mess that up, particularly since they've been playing it night after
night on tour.  Maybe they thought the yokels, who regularly attend the
concerts of one of the world's great Mozart orchestras, wouldn't notice.
The cast, excepting a good Susanna and good, though inexperienced
Cherubino, was middling but professional.  In such circumstances, the
production focused my attention on the music itself, rather than the
performance, and the music is, of course, a marvel.  I never truly
appreciated the septet at the end of Act 2 before -- the independence
of each character's part, the constantly-changing odd groupings of voices
(at one point, 4 plus three -- the four comic villains in antiphonal
opposition to Figaro, Susanna, and Cherubino).  The finale, by the way,
moves from duet to septet as principals enter the action.  There's a
symphonic level of cohesion to each act, remarkable in an opera with
separate numbers.  THAT's what came through, all because the performance
didn't get in the way of the music.

Overall, the student Fledermaus fared much better.  Student string
playing has soared to great heights since my student days.  The Oberlin
College student orchestra string sections (which included, by the way,
future Naumberg winners) used to make me cringe with whiny tone and wonky
pitch.  The wind players stood out.  These days, sections are far more
balanced.  There was a wonderful Rosalinda, one of the best Orlovskys
I've ever seen (she convinced you she was a jaded teenage punk), a good,
though very hammy, Adele (Lucille Ball on amphetamines), a good Falke,
and a better Eisenstein.  Others needed vocal or dramatic seasoning.
The English translation (probably the Martin) sucked, and inexplicably,
they supertitled it besides.  But there was still plenty to love.  Again,
the inadequacies of the production didn't hide the glories of the music.
The "Bruederlein und Schwesterlein" ensemble in Act II tugged at the
heart and raised it.  One great tune after another, written with deep
understanding of the voice.  In fact, when the voice isn't right, the
character suffers, and you know it right away.  And what gorgeous
orchestration!

So, all in all, I had a wonderful time with two less-than-stellar
productions.

Steve Schwartz

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