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CLASSICAL  April 2007

CLASSICAL April 2007

Subject:

Re: My First Live Ring Installment

From:

George Marshall <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 20 Apr 2007 15:33:12 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (48 lines)

Roger Hecht wrote:

>For once I'm more conservative than Mitch (he knows what I mean), but
>I don't care for updating operas.  Part of their appeal is their time
>and setting, and I've never seen the point of "updating." Wagner is
>based on Norse and German myth and it's always seemed wise to me keep
>it there--that's part of its appeal.  Same as reading a novel set in
>a certain time. Der Rosenkavalier was set in mid-18th Century Vienna.
>That's half its charm, too.  Why update it?  (Has this ever been done?
>Yikes.) Well I once played for a "L'Elisir d' Amore" set as an
>American western and that English National Carmen I saw set in a
>junkyard.....

I agree with the general point but I'm inclined to think the Ring is
a special case. The recent Kirov Ring, which we saw in Cardiff, was
criticized in the press for using a setting that appeared more Asiatic
than Germanic, but that didn't trouble me or anyone else I spoke to at
the performances.  The Ring belongs to a unique category where psychology
and myth meet in Wagner's unusual imagination, and which does not, I
would argue, have any connection to either history or geography.  There
are, however, I would whole-heartedly agree, certain operas that simply
cannot be separated from time and place.  Rosenkavelier is one.  So
is Traviata - Violetta's moral dilemma, around which the entire opera
revolves, would not make sense in a modern setting. A recent production
which had it set in Ireland did not make a lot of sense either.  This
is Paris c.1850 or it is nowhere and never.  Similarly, Philip II's sad
monologue in Don Carlos only has power if we know he is ruler of half
the known world and a devout Catholic - which makes him king of Spain,
not manager of a building society. We in the audience, even if we have
more mundane jobs than he, can put ourselves in his place for the evening
without someone telling us what us "relevant".  Opera producers should
give the audience credit for some imagination.  Whether operas set in
classical or mythical times should be limited to what we imagine those
times actually looked like, is I think more open to discussion.  But it
probably depends mostly on how well or badly it is done.  A few weeks
ago I saw a production of Monteverdi's Orfeo which had the most wonderful
(historically informed) sounds coming from the pit while distracting
trivia reigned on stage.  There are times when I think the orchestra
should be on stage and the action transferred to the pit, preferably a
sunken one.

George Marshall

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