Last edited by Chris Newman; 12-04-12 at 18:32. Reason: Changed wording
I am sure that David McVicar the director of Les Troyens will do Berlioz proud.He is one of my favourite directors. If settings remind us that War is War and bring it nearer our age it is often the better.
Berlioz's twin themes were those of Homer's tragedy: war and the tragedy of Dido and Aeneas. Back in the 1981 I was lucky enough to attend the RSC production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, another love and war story. It was a brilliant production by Terry Hands (another good one)with a cast including David Suchet, James Hazeldine, Carol Royle, Tony Church, Oliver Ford-Davies and Joe Melia. Terry Hands reset the play in the First World War rather than straight-forwardly in Troy. The first half saw the generals faffing and fretting over maps in a chateau. The second half saw the common soldiers falling down in trenches and on barbed wire. It was painfully telling like Warhorse (currently being staged in London and shown at cinemas or even more like the film The Dirty Dozen which began funny (almost Dad's Army) and after the interval (remember those in films?) ended in the full horror of war. I grant that there is little funny stuff in [I]Les Troyens[I] apart from the dramatic irony of the Trojan soldiers' duet just before Dido's suicide.
I felt a twinge of teacherly pride when I watched a former pupil who I took to that Troilus and Cressida and whom I directed in A Man For All Seasons in 1980 play Troilus at the RSC in 1990.
I am praying that I can get tickets for Les Troyens. It is so rarely performed we must be grateful for this. Touch wood I have heard every performance at the Proms as well as the night Janet Baker saved the day at Covent Garden.
Shouldn't this thread be merged with the other one on the Opera sub-thread?
I wonder if a steel band and tin whistles would improve on the sounds that Berlioz imagined. Why is it only the production that can be interfered with?
If Berlioz was as entranced with the Crimean War as you seem to be, he could have embraced that.
If people like you are to have your way, how are new and future music lovers ever to experience what was intended?
I have never forgotten the insult offered by that arrogant pipsqueak Paul Daniel, when asked on Desert Island Discs how people who didn't like modern productions were to react.
"They can listen to their CDs".
Nobody quite "like" our Chris! And what do you mean by "have your way"? This rather suggests that you believe that the person you attack wishes his preferences to supplant all other forms of staging. What evidence do you have for such a belief? Isn't it rather a - how shall I put it? - "pip-squeakingly arrogant" supposition?If people like you are to have your way, how are new and future music lovers ever to experience what was intended?
Well, they can! And they do.I have never forgotten the insult offered by that arrogant pipsqueak Paul Daniel, when asked on Desert Island Discs how people who didn't like modern productions were to react.
"They can listen to their CDs".
Meanwhile, as there are sufficient numbers of people who eagerly buy tickets for "modern productions", (and who dread the idea of a return to middle-aged men in tights standing at the front of the stage singing out to the auditorium) does it not suggest that those who would impose their own staging preferences are themselves at least equally guilty of such "sheer selfishness"?
All I say is that I wish the music to be given full justice. Why on earth would I expect steel bands and whistles? I hope Mr Pappano includes Ophicleides in the mix though. I believe that most composers expect any production to bring out the dramatic best in their music. If, having sat on high looking down on theatrical developments since their last visits to earth, Berlioz and Handel, making brief returns to Earth, would be rather surprised to see the attendant deities in some of their opera seria to fly across the stage on cardboard cut-out clouds. I believe that they would be more impressed by the momentary appearance of, say, Mercury in a cloud of real billowing stage smoke which actually conceals a fork-lift truck. I have once seen gods on flying cut-out clouds used to great comic effect in Handel's Semele which of course is a bawdy romp.
Berlioz himself argues strongly for contemporary theatrical realism and progress in his splendid autobiography. Having read that I am convinced that this is what he would expect.
My own belief is that the less clutter there is on the stage the easier it is to concentrate on the action. It does not matter whether the Trojan Horse is wood, metal or projected on the back screen. It symbolises the gullibility of the Trojan and deviousness of the Greeks. It is only there for a short while at the end of Part One. If the stage is filled with temples, pillars and such details the drama becomes obscured. Look at those camp, over the top Zeffirelli productions like Cavaliera Rusticana: very pretty but you could hardly hear the music because the fountain was splashing so loudly and soloists disappeared into the bright colours until they start sing and you look for the singer who is moving his or her lips. Aida with live camels and horses make me think of Thomas Beecham!! We all sit waiting for it to happen. The current ROH production of Tosca based of designs from the actual sites of the action is too glittery. It need a little toning down so that you can see entrances clearly and people opening and closing peep holes. Much of the action goes for nothing in all that beauty.
On the other hand some production go too far and end up barren and empty. Balance is required and recognition that an audience is an intelligent body with a sense of imagination.
To quote / paraphrase Sorabji, 'Like the cuttlefish when pursued, Newman and Ferneyhough have emitted a cloud of ink -but very little else'.
I have my ideas of what I would prefer to see and hear but have no power whereas you have control. So it's no contest but at least I do not contribute towards nonsense such as men onstage sitting on lavatories or Brunnhilde with a paper bag on her head.
You "pursuing" me, then, Seggy? Cor; how exciting! Shall I keep my hat on?
Which I would not suggest, though I approve of reduced scores by talented composers like Jonathan Dove, which enable operas to be toured in small venues where Wagner or Janacek might never get heard, and that is a different matter.Originally Posted by Segilla
And while you're at it, why not update the music?
I have not suggested that all productions should change time or place. You are supposing I will.If people like you are to have your way, how are new and future music lovers ever to experience what was intended?
I do not understand the first sentence. I have control over what? My days of performing or directing are long over. I am like you a retired person who happens to love opera.I have my ideas of what I would prefer to see and hear but have no power whereas you have control. So it's no contest but at least I do not contribute towards nonsense such as men onstage sitting on lavatories or Brunnhilde with a paper bag on her head.
Have I said I approved or promoted chorusmen sitting on lavatories or Brunnhilde with a paper bag over her head? Never! The first suggestion is nonsensical and dramatical nonsense. Similarly I detested the new production at the ROH of Rusalka for similar reasons but I loved the music making. That was not updating a fairy tale it was perversion. I am not familiar with Brunnhilde and paper bags. I presume it was a director's cheap version of a Tarnhelm, and rightly was ridiculed.
If opera or theatre is updated it is usually for good reason. I am sure you will regard me as beyond the pale for confessing this. As a student I sang Koko in The Mikado. I did it because I passed the audition and it was the only thing on that term. etc. It turned out everyone wanted to be in it but no-one wanted to direct it or design a set. So Muggins did the rest. I would rather have done Mozart or Smetana. To be blunt, I dislike the usual dull Mikado production with the flapping fans and the words droned out as if the cast are bored stiff. Firstly I designed a set based on Thomas Minton's Willow Pattern. In case you say it is Chinese, it is oriental in flavour but the design is British. Secondly the Willow Pattern story is vaguely similar to Gilbert's. Thirdly, a willow tree was apt. My main reason was I had seen several lovely opera productions at Glyndebourne (well, on tour) with sets by David Hockney. I suppose Minton's plate design enlarged so the bridge was crossable was my tribute to Hockney doing the same with Hogarth. Instead of that dreary fan flapping I made the men practice Karate all the time, but as soon as the "Amazonian" women appeared they grovelled before them in fear. It was a running gag till near the end of the opera when the women caught the men at their Karate. It had strong connections with the feminist Katisha, teased it and it was very funny. I was surprised the audience absolutely loved it though in my opinion it is not as funny as Jonathan Miller's ENO version.