Opera in 3-D
BY NORMAN WEIL | The 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera season is well under way. There are some special personal points of interest. Mozart’s La Clemenza Di Tito is being revived with Barbara Frittoli, the preeminent soprano interpreter of Mozart and Verdi.She also stars in Verdi’s Don Carlo with two other operatic luminaries, Ramon Vargas and Ferrucio Furlanetto.There will also be the opportunity to hear two totally unfamiliar operas, Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini and Thomas Ades’ new opera The Tempest. And, there will be a revival of Donizetti’s rarely performed Tudor opera,Maria Stuarda.
Powerful masterworks such as Berlioz’ Les Troyens(The Trojans) and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites — with its shattering procession of the doomed nuns to the guillotine during the French Revolution – will also be revived.
Old favorites will also be back: Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) in a new production with such phenomenal artists as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Kathleen Kim, and Aida with such stellar interpreters as Roberto Alagna and Olga Borodina are eagerly awaited. Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Otello and Puccini’s La Rondine (The Swallow) and Turandot join the list of anticipated revivals. All in all, this is a repertory with decided points of interest.
Certainly, the understanding and enjoyment of this season’s operas at the Met-and of opera in general-can be intensified if they are seen against an extra dimension. In other words, the opera should be experienced alongside other relevant sources that are pertinent to it. In effect, the opera can be seen in 3-D rather than in just an enjoyment of its musical and dramatic components. (The HD presentations would be an excellent visual illustration of this concept in that it expands the operatic experience)
Let this concept now be illustrated. An appreciation of La Clemenza di Tito would be heightened by a quick perusal of the life and times of the Emperor Titus. Likewise, Don Carlo would be appreciated even more with a familiarity with Philip the Second’s Counter -Reformation and the Spanish Inquisition. The listener should also be directed to Friedrich Schiller’s celebrated play, Don Carlos. Schiller’s other renowned play, Mary Stuart, should also be read as source material for Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.In both the play and the opera there is the great fictional confrontation between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth the First. A DVD of Janet Baker as Donizetti’s Mary Stuart, in one of her farewell performances, would also offer an interesting point of comparison.
Thomas Ades’ The Tempest might be enriched by reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and by listening to the audio of it on Caedmon Records with Michael Redgrave as Prospero and Vanessa Redgrave as Ariel
Berlioz’ The Trojans would be heightened by reading Virgil’s account of the fall of Troy and Dido and Aeneas’ tragic love in Carthage. This momentum can be intensified by listening to Sir Thomas Beecham’s extraordinary recreation(with the Royal Philharmonic) of the Trojan March in which the fall of Troy is prophesied with unparalleled musical and dramatic splendor.
Poulenc’s The Dialogues of the Carmelites could be further intensified by listening to the superlative classic recording with Regine Crespin and Rita Gorr, conducted by Andre Cluytens. It might also be rewarding to see the hard to find film with Jeanne Moreau and Alida Valli.
Zandonai’s Francesca di Rimini would benefit from a reading of the famous Francesca and Paolo episode in Dante’s Inferno, by seeing Sandro Botticelli’s celebrated drawings of this doomed love in Dante, and by listening to Tchaikovsky’s emotionally charged tone poem, Francesca di Rimini.
These are just a few examples of how the operatic experience can intensified and heightened. Similar examples could be given for the repertory favorites that were cited at the beginning of this article(e.g. Don Giovanni, Le Nozze Di Figaro, Faust, Otello etc.)
Two seasons ago, during the 2010-2011 season at the Metropolitan Opera, at a sublime performance Of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Barbara Frittoli, Ramon Vargas and Ferruccio Furlanetto, with James Levine conducting, a revelation appeared. It happened in the magnificent Council Chamber Scene when the Genoese Doge, Simon Boccanegra, passionately urged peace from the divisive and warring Genoese factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Suddenly, a letter arrived from the great Humanist poet Petrarch with his passionate plea ”I go crying: peace, peace, peace.” Music and literature were fused in this extraordinary scene in which opera had gained an added dimension by the introduction of this great Renaissance poet and man of letters into the already turbulent proceedings. Previously, there was little personal connection with Petrarch . This scene galvanized a profound interest in his poetry and letters, especially “ Mia Italia”(“My Italy”) with Petrarch’s entreaty for peace. This is what opera should do:to go beyond a particular art form, opera, and lead the listener to other art forms, literature and poetry, in order to intensify and illuminate individual pleasure
This is not to suggest that the casual operagoer should slavishly devour all relevant sources for a particular opera that is being performed. They can do so only if they want to. A recording of the opera in question or of its literary sources might be enough to increase the average operagoer’s understanding and enjoyment so that they can see and hear in 3-D any opera that they are experiencing.