Monday, April 12, 2010


Last night I watched a 1981 opera movie of Rigoletto which was fabulous.

True there was a slight cheesy 80s quality, but other than that... I was pretty riveted and blown away.

The story concerns a bitter hunchback/jester who is mocked at the court of the Duke whom he serves. The Duke is a cad, a remorseless seducer of women, and Rigoletto has hidden his daughter from him. However the court learns that Rigoletto has a "mistress" and they begin to devise a plot to toy with him. In the meantime the Duke has actually met the daughter, Gilda, and they seem to have fallen in love. She at least has fallen madly in love with him. The men of the court abduct her to play a trick on Rigoletto, and it appears that she is ravished by the Duke. When Rigoletto finds out, he vows revenge, and goes to a local low life to set a trap to murder him. When Gilda discovers the trap, she places herself in its way and she ends up murdered. The opera ends with Rigoletto discovering her body.

It's all actually more intense than I have described. Rigoletto is not a completely sympathetic character. On one hand he suffers terribly and loves his daughter utterly. On the other he is bitter and vengeful and a bit maniacal.

In any event, the absolute most amazing part of this opera is the music. I fell in love right away. I think I might like Verdi more than, or at least as much as, Mozart. I really loved it. In fact I'm going to put the DVD in again now just to hear it while I bead.

In this production Ingvar Wixell sang Rigoletto and was marvelous. Edita Gruberova was fucking amazing as Gilda. She had an extraordinary voice. And Luciano Pavarotti was the Duke, and he was pretty fucking awesome as well.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Die Zauberflote

Last night, thanks to the wonderful generosity of a dear friend, I was able to see the Julie Taymor production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote at the Met.

As I've learned this year, I absolutely love Mozart. Le Nozze de Figaro had me hooked. The music in The Magic Flute was just as delightful.

The fantastical fairy story didn't draw me in as much as the more dramatic operas I've seen (ie, Der Rosenkavalier, Madama Butterfly, etc), but the costumes and staging were so wonderfully imaginative and magical. Between the quirky, clever, beautiful visuals, and the delightful, rich, virtuosity of the music, I was thoroughly transported. I felt so privileged to be there last night, and I was pleased to be able to bring my mom. Taymor's production was really very special, with delightful puppetry, such as bears made of giant sheets... I can't quite describe all the visual flourishes...

None of the names of the performers rung a bell for me. My favorites were the two sopranos (Julia Kleiter as Pamina, and Albina Shagimuratova who brought the house down with her Queen of the Night), and the bass (Hans-Peter Konig as Sarastro). The other players were Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Matthew Polenzani as Tamino. Adam Fischer conducted.

Oh, and most fantastic were the three boys who played the angels or spirits that guided Tamino and Papageno. They had the most angelic voices and were so poised and sweet. Their costumes were amazing as well. They were dressed in tidy-whities, with white paint all over their bodies, but with black symbols running up the sides of their legs and arms. Then wore these thin, very long white beards and had spiky white hair. They were truly ethereal..

Also, with Strauss' Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier under my belt, I can now say that I'm fully comfortable with opera sung in German!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Fairy Queen at BAM

One of the stranger pieces of theater I’ve seen lately was the oh-so-talked-about The Fairy Queen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 
Luckily I went with my father who knows all about this stuff and was able to give me some pertinent background information. The Fairy Queen is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age of 35. The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The sets and costumes were an eclectic mix spanning all time periods and well, I suppose you’d say styles – I am thinking about the huge group number with most cast members wearing full-body white furry bunny costumes. I thought the set a bit dull which is rather strange to say about something that included flying clouds and a 20-foot high cabinet of curiosities.

On the other hand, I thought the cast was superb. The singing excellent and the dancers were a delight to watch. My father commented that they sunk a ton of money into the production.

Explosion, velocity, spectacle

E.V. Day, Mimi - Rigor Mortis (La bohem, Puccini)
Installation view, David. H. Koch Theater

Next time they are looking for someone to make art using costumes from the archives I sure do hope they call me!!

Love, Meridita

EV Day at New York City Opera

Earlier this evening Meridita and I had a very special treat: we got to see the EV Day installation at the David H. Koch Theater.

Costumes from the New York City Opera were used as the basis for these suspended pieces, which Day describes as "exploding couture."

Thirteen gorgeous and ghostly works were hung between "hoops" at different levels throughout the theater's promenade. Unfortunately I could not get a decent image of any of these stunning pieces (but I'm sure Meridita will supply some that are more up to par).

In her artist statement Day writes: "I make sculptures that transform familiar icons of women's empowerment and entrapment into new objects that confound conventional readings of these cliches, and constellate meaning in a range of emotions: anxiety, ecstasy, liberation, and release. When City Opera's General Manager and Artistic Director George Steel asked me if I'd be interested in making art using costumes from the archives, I was thrilled because recurring themes in my work -- explosion, velocity, spectacle -- have an energy that might be termed 'operatic.'"

I could completely feel the range of emotions she speaks of, particularly the anxiety and the release. My only criticism is that taken together, the shape of the pieces (suspended in tubular space between hoops) was a little redundant and almost limiting. Still, this is truly a special exhibition. I'm really pleased that I got to see it because this evening was the *only* time that it was open to the general public. -- Thanks to Meridita!