Sunday, May 23, 2010

Set Design and Rush Opera News

"The result is a sort of scenographic gestalt.  Humans have this great ability to imagine and to convince themselves they see what they imagine."  Arnold Aronson and Harold Prince, American Set Design

Rush Kid Quentin started this set during our first class with Opera on Tap back in October.  Yesterday we finished it off as a group.  After a disagreement as to which opera Quentin was designing for (we never did agree and Quentin was at an PSAT prep class) we decided to sort of mix and match from a variety of operas.

Also opera related:  Following up on Dennis' idea about the Cherry Blossom mural at PS165 being a perfect set for Madame Butterfly, we are going to host a special performance by Opera on Tap at Rush Gallery at PS165 Friday May 28 1-2pm!

And if that weren't enough opera excitement -- Opera on Tap will be doing a cameo aria during both of our Rush Education Exhibition 2010 openings.  Hope you will be able to join us!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Armida MET HD Screening at BAM

The crowd at these BAM HD screenings is unbearable - rude and bitchy.  And I can not fathom why they would design a movie theater where every seat is bad.  

Armida (Gioachino Rossini) seems to have made its way for the first time to the Metropolitan Opera as a vehicle for the incredibly talented Renée Fleming.  Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the best role for her.  Flemming sings the challenging part beautifully enough, but she is an excellent actor and that talent is really underutilized in the rather one-dimensional silly story.

The sets and costumes range from disappointing and dull to ugly and awful.  A real let down after seeing the preview behind-the-scenes bit in the set and prop department at work on Armida.  The large bugs were ridiculous hovering on stage above the enchanted forest that looked like a Pina Bausch set made out of Astro turf and pot scrubbers. The painted scrim used as an outer curtain was rather dramatic but looked like the cover of a Patrick O'Brian novel and did not fit with any other part of the set.  Oh, wait -- perhaps the gigantic bat set in the final scene could compete for drama sake.

There is a bevy of tenors in the production, all of whom are excellent (if a bit short of stature).  I felt the best performance was Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo. 

I also enjoyed the performance by the young lady playing Love.  She had the perfect cherubic face and pranced about with a carefree glee.

Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars

Just watched Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars, a DVD of their concerts in Wales. The disc has two separate concerts, one of Broadway hits and one of classical hits.

The Broadway is just AWFUL. They both look uncomfortable and their classical singing voices sound weird on the Gershwin and Sondheim. I was very disappointed.

The classical program, however, is amazing. They both look like they are having a blast. Terfel in particular can't seem to suppress a smile. None of the arias were familiar to me, but they were all gorgeous. And I'm now officially in love with Renee Fleming.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Armida (Live in HD at BAM)

I saw Armida this afternoon at BAM (live in HD) with Meridita and Odetta.

As much as I love Renee Fleming, who stars in Armida, I have to say I had mixed feelings about this opera.

All the performances (six tenors and Fleming) were wonderful, and there were some stunningly beautiful moments (particularly at the end), but the story wasn't that interesting and the production (Mary Zimmerman) was rather weird and confusing. Something just seemed off to me about the costumes and the sets and the use of the chorus. For instance, the cat-like demons that the sorceress Armida commands seemed both creepy and comical at the same time. The wood nymphs, played by the chorus, had cheap little wings affixed to their backs that looked like they came off of bumble-bee costumes from Woolworth's.

There was a long and interesting ballet in the second act which I enjoyed a lot, but which didn't seem to fit in stylistically with the rest of the opera. It seemed to have a different tone than the rest of the piece. The ballet was interesting though, and I very much enjoyed watching it.

The lead tenor was sung by Lawrence Brownlee, and he was amazing. Other tenors included Barry Banks, who sang two roles, and who Meridita and I have seen in at least one other Met production this season.

The live HD screening included interviews with the performers that I enjoyed -- they give you a glimpse into the professionalism and artistry of the singers.

All in all, Armida was the weirdest opera I've ever seen.