Tag Archives: Opera

The age-old Opera-staging debate

Sitting in the Garter Inn, Falstaff taps at his typewriter and puffs on his fag under the gaze of a portrait of the king – George VI rather than Henry IV – and we know at once where we are: Not in 15th-Century Windsor – that is to say, where Verdi, like Shakespeare, set his work – but in a 21st-Century opera house, where the first rule is that a production should ignore the work as written.

That’s the opening of a piece in The Guardian by Geoffrey Wheatcroft which has generated quite a few comments from readers and also a rebuttal piece by Charlotte Higgins in the same edition of the paper. Ms Higgins, whose piece also spawned a high level of comments, has this to say, in part:

Wheatcroft quotes Clive James’s apercu that “directing opera is what Germans do nowadays instead of invading Poland” – implying that such directorial interventions in opera are inherently violent and destructive. Far from it, I would argue.

Within our own group, I think we’d all agree that Ron and Bernard neatly represent the opposing camps in this debate. For myself, I’m somewhere in the middle: once a production is convincing and involving, I’m happy, whether the staging be traditional or boundary-stretching, so (in my opinion) Turandot in Dresden was excellent; Faust in Munich was idiotic.

What about you guys? Any strong opinions one way or the other apart from Ron and Bernard?

Met Opera putting audio and video online

The Metropolitan Opera plans to introduce an online service providing video and audio recordings of its operas. The service, Met Player, is scheduled to begin on Oct. 22. It will allow users to hear 120 audio recordings and watch 50 full-length operas collected from the Met’s archives, with more to be added in subsequent months. For a monthly subscription fee of $14.99 or an annual cost of $149.99, users will have access to the entire service. Individual videos and audio recordings can also be streamed for small fees. A preview of the service is available at metplayer.org/preview.

I’ve tested the preview and it looks pretty amazing, especially full-screen. You’ll need to install MetPlayer first, but this shouldn’t cause any headaches. I did find that it was happier with the Firefox browser than with Safari, which is the standard for the Mac. The actual preview consists of a six-minute video showing bits from several Met productions (some with the most amazing staging — watch out for Tan Dun’s The First Emperor!).