albadger: (Default)
Two days since I posted, which means I've seen two shows -- Tristan und Isolde in a "normal" modernist production, and with the BEST Tristan I am ever likely to experience in my freakin' life. Score! And then on Tuesday, back to the Ring, but not quite yet, says my fragile insides, and I was feeling too ill and unsettled to make it to act 1 of Siegfried. Fortunately, the hour-long intermissions meant I had two hours to recover and get to Act 2. And, hoo goddie!
Set of "Siegfried" from Bayreuth 2016
Set of "Siegfried" from Bayreuth 2016
This is the set for Siegfried -- it opens on the Commie Mount Rushmore (I still think that Lenin looks more like Samuel L Jackson), and then rotates to reveal the Alexanderplatz plaza in Berlin, complete with working Atomic Clock (which I had just seen last April!). I'd seen pix of this but watching it in action took my breath away. Far and away my favorite thing here so far.

In terms of music, it was as with the other pieces, superb, and the direction, as with the other Ring operas, seemed half-baked and juvenile... but I didn't care this time, I loved it, especially at the end, when Alexanderplatz became infested with crocodiles, and Brunhilde fed a beach umbrella to one of them. The "forest bird" who leads Siegfried to Brunhilde is usually just an off-stage voice, but here she was a Vegas showgirl, and nearly got eaten by a croc! Siegfried saved her at the last minute. I'm told that when this premiered in 2014, he didn't. I'm having fun imagining the director FUMING at his artistic vision being tampered with.

ALSO took great delight in the loud booing! There was some at the end of Rheingold but not like this, angry and sustained -- though the crowd switched to cheers when the singers came out for their bows, and then back to loud booing. I was in heaven!

Only opera thing left on my Bucket List -- go to La Scala and have the crowd jeer the tenor. With my luck the tenor will be great that night and nobody will throw anything. Not even a cabbage.
albadger: (I think you're evil! EVIL!)
The damned idiots who are riding thrill-rides at Tivoli, only a block north of here. Just checked in; very nice, centrally-located, affordable and tiny-roomed, just the way I like 'em, and ready for one last night of sleep before flying home. I'm sure there's a very long German word for not wanting a trip to end, but DuoLingo hasn't taught it to me yet.

Last night was the last of the 7 operas at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the Flying Dutchman, in a serviceable but vaguely cheap production (after that Ring cycle I'm not surprised, gotta cut corners somewhere). Nice concept though -- Daland and the Dutchman are captains of industry, instead of captains of ships; Daland runs a factory that makes fans (???), so when we get to Act II (or Scene II, since there were no intermissions), there are cardboard boxes everywhere. The Dutchman is "new capitalism," he does something that makes him rich, but who the hell knows what -- hedge funds? oil? cocaine? It actually made sense of the story, instead of fighting it at every turn, which the Ring production did (mostly to delightful effect, true). All musical values superb, as usual, and so fast -- it took only 2 hours 15 minutes! By my count, I sat through 24 and a half hours of music, which taken at the SF Opera's clip would have lasted 3 hours longer. Didn't feel rushed at all.

But that's done, as is the 12-hour train ride back to Denmark (I forgot to bring a 4-year-old with me, but, fortunately, nobody else forgot), and the trip's over. And I'm sad. It was a truly great 2 weeks, both the time here in Denmark and the Festival, and made much greater by friends old (hi Erling and Johan!) and new (hi Stephen!). Problem is, sure, I accomplished all but one goal of this trip (I didn't get a magnet at Bakken), everything went great, but I just WANT TO BE HERE, not the USA. If I had a billion dollars, I'd just live here, I would. But I don't, so back home... I know, it's SO SAD, you're CRYING. NOTHING SADDER EVER. Except when Leonardo DiCaprio died in Titanic. That was the saddest thing ever.

Well, off to bed, then plane, then home, and I swear I will take up my knitting again! Also, I will tell you the horrible story of why I stopped knitting. Scariest thing ever.
albadger: (Baby Hitler)
Two days since I posted, which means I've seen two shows. AGAIN. Since the tummy upset that made me miss Act 1 of Siegfried I have been very cautious, not really doing any other touristy things, just hanging about the hotel albeit giving the maids time to do the room (I don't make much of a mess. Not like I'm at home or something!). So I was able to attend all of Wednesday's Parsifal and Thursday's Götterdämmerung without any hitches, and even mail off a number of post cards (if you get one, you know, and if you don't, why? Message me).

Parsifal is the year's new production, and part of the reason for visible police presence, since there's clearly the worry that this staging will tick off some fanatic or other... since it's quite openly set in 2016, in northern Iraq, and has pretty accurate representations of the area's Christian, Jewish and Moslem communities. Um, "accurate" isn't right. The "flower maidens" of Act 2 are Moslem girls in enveloping black coverings, who gleefully strip down to belly-dancer attire at the sight of a handsome blonde Marine. That's less realism than 1930's music hall... and the "Christian" grail ceremony of Act 1 has Amfortas stripped to a loincloth and cut by a monk, who then gathers the dripping blood in a cup and shares it with the community. If somebody's going to attack this, makes more sense if it's somebody Orthodox instead of Sunni.

Still, the telling didn't get in the way (as the Ring stagings have), and the performance was transcendent; not my favorite Wagner but this hearing upped my opinion of the piece.

Götterdämmerung, on the other hand, continued the combination of gigantic delightful sets with graffiti-tagger direction as in the previous Ring entries, but was neither as annoying as Rheingold or as fun as Siegfried, mostly because this last entry is so plot-driven, there's little room for nonsense. Mind you, I won't forget the image of Brünnhilde shaking cans of gasoline over everything, including herself, and the slutty Rheinmaidens helpfully offering her their cigarette lighters. No real flames, alas. One thing I noticed was the real chemistry between Brünnhilde and Hagen. A shame they couldn't have gotten together, he's way better a match for her than Siegfried or Gunther.

Today, the opera is the Flying Dutchman, and doesn't start until 6pm, so I have a few extra hours, and I rode the bus up to Wahnfried, which had been Wagner's home here. Mostly reconstructed, since WW2 pretty much demolished the original, but still cool, with a museum on the side filled with set miniatures and full-size costumes from previous productions. I'm still sorry I missed the Lohengrin where all the people are lab rats!
albadger: (Viking and Satyr)
This is it -- this is why I'm doing this trip! And, yes, I'm good. It's worth it.

Bayreuth is a charming smallish town, good bus system but no trolley or subway, so mid-size for this area. My hotel is a ways from the Theater, but right next to the cobblestone pedestrian-only streets that make the downtown shopping area, and I've got a bus pass now, so I'm getting the feel.

But it's the Wagner Festival that got me here, and I've now seen 2 of the 7 shows I have tickets for, and I'm kinda in heaven. I think this isn't that different from what roller coaster aficionados feel. Or heroin addicts. Just guessing of course.

For the Ring, I got the cheapest seat I could, and it's not even a seat, really, just a bench tucked into a little cubbyhole on the balcony, but it's got a fine view of the stage, and so steeply raked that heads in front of me aren't a problem. Also, my right shoulder is against the wall of the cubbyhole, so that makes my reptilian hindbrain happy.

Musical considerations first, and this is glorious. The orchestra pit is REALLY a pit, with barely a slit for the sound to come out of, which tips the scales to the stage, and lets the singers ring out beautifully (also gives the orchestra an interesting shimmer). Even the weakest of the singers is a joy to hear.

Visually, more of a mixed bag. I love the sets so far -- both are giant 3-story structures on turntables, amazing engineering feats. Das Rheingold is in a sleazy motel/gas-station apparently near Amarillo, Texas; die Walkuere on a massive oil-extraction structure apparently in Azerbaijan. The theme appears to be Greed is Bad. I like a wacky Ring but I'd like wackiness with a more complex intention. This just seems cluttered, especially in Rheingold, when nearly the entire cast of 20 (14 singing roles, 5 homeless drug addicts in swimwear, and the gas-station attendant played by a young David Cross) is jammed into the tiny upstairs motel room; I was hoping the girl with the hat would show up and ask "Is my Aunt Minnie in there?" (That's a reference to "a Night at the Opera," which if you haven't seen, do). Also off-putting was the constant and usually pointless use of video projected on large screens.

All the "magic" moments have been effectively botched (Alberich turning into things with the Tarnhelm, the Magic Fire, etc.), but I'm thinking this is intentional. The text in the program (7 Euro) talks a lot about irony; this is less irony than adolescent mockery, like when I was 19 and a friend and I re-imagined the Ring in pedestrian terms; instead of a sword in a tree, a switchblade in a Formica breakfast table, that sort of shit. Fortunately, nobody gave us a pile of money and a famous theater to wank around in.

Still, I feel kind of small complaining about how poor the visual production is when the audio is so fine. After Walkuere, the conductor got the biggest ovation of all, and it went on for 10 minutes. And such a fast reading! On the stairs out, a little French gentleman engaged me in conversation, and compared the conductor to Usain Bolt. "Un heure cinq minutes! Olympic sprinter!" he said. "Ja, mach schnell!" I replied, completely oblivious to any language issue.

Here's some good reviews from Parterre Box:

http://parterre.com/2013/08/23/first-impressions/

http://parterre.com/2013/08/24/flame-off/
albadger: (KNITTING!)

Today's adventure found me at the doctor's office. They got the labs back from Thursday, and the verdict is:


  • Blood Pressure: Great!

  • Blood Count: Great!

  • Blood Sugar: On the high end of Great, but still Great!

  • Cholesterol: Why aren't you dead yet?

I think this is partly hereditary, but those numbers are high -- so high that the doctor took out her pen and drew a diagram for me on the roll of paper covering the examining table -- and I have consented to take the anti-cholesterol meds that she prescribed. For now, at least; I'm hoping that a good weight loss regimen will bring those numbers back into whack, as it has before.

More to the point, I brought my KNITTING! with me to while away the lenghty delays (this office does accept Medi-Cal after all). I'm still very new at this, and when people ask what I'm making, I say, "experience," because until I can knit a Colorado that doesn't look like West Virginia, I'm not making anything else. But even at my tyro stage, it's very calming and centering. One of the nurses (not the lovely big bear nurse alas) saw me, and grabbed her friend so they could chat about it with me. I'm... this is a cult, isn't it? Not that I'd stop if it is, but I'd like to be forewarned if there's any rituals or sacrifices I'd be expected to make.

I know some of you will be watching the Democratic "debate" tonight -- these things aren't really debates, they're parallel interviews, and I'd love a real debate, with a topic, and people assigned at random to argue pro and con -- but I'll be at the opera watching a Scottish lassie flip out and murder her husband on their wedding night. Here's a stage credit I'd love in my résumé: "Charlie Martinez makes his San Francisco Opera stage debut as the stand-in for the murdered Arturo, found naked and bloody in the wedding bed.” And I have no idea where my binoculars are, dammit.
albadger: (Brendon is a pretty lady)
Yes, I know I should be pursuing a voice acting career, moving to Hollywood, building my network of contacts, and eventually grabbing the attention of the producers of a faltering sitcom about a spunky young woman in the big city, which would lead to them casting me as the heroine's randy bisexual grampa, instant C-list fame, too much pressure, a mental breakdown, and relocating to an ashram in eastern Oregon where I would finally find peace and harmony. I'm just too busy travelling to foreign cities to see operas. Tonight it's Washington DC, where I saw Dialogs of the Carmelites tonight.

Opera Blabbing behing lj-cut )

Hard to believe this is night 2 of 4 -- nearly halfway through the trip. Tomorrow, more theater, all near Metro stations! I hope.
albadger: (Carol Channing!)
I ask because I ordered an iced coffee at Starbuck's, and they "sweetened" it without asking me. This normally only happens east of 100 degrees West longitude.

A quick glance out the Starbuck's window confirms that this is Burbank, California, whither I have flown to attend tonight's performance of the Ghosts of Versailles, part of my LA Opera mini-subscription. I'm excited for this, it's been getting great reviews, and it's been staged by my favorite theater director, Darko Tresnjak. After that, I'm heading farther south, meeting my brother & my sister-in-law, and we're going to Disneyland! So, of course, I forgot my Disney Annual Pass, which is in my top desk drawer (I meant to swap it out with my library card last night, and I blame the cat).

...or perhaps I can blame the excruciating pain I was in most of last evening during the West Edge Opera performance of Rossini's Zelmira. Not pain from the performance -- that was magnificent, with the lead tenor in particular shaking the Freight & Salvage rafters -- but from my dress boots, which have remained the same size even as my feet have grown. Wrong footwear aside (when I am rushed I gravitate towards the pull-on boots instead of the lace-ups), it was a great evening, but I hobbled home around Midnight, and had to be up & moving at 6. Fortunately, Disney has an easy policy for things like forgetting your annual pass. Also fortunate is I'm wearing my Red Wings now.

I still have a few hours to kill here in the greater Los Angeles area; it's 11:16 AM as I keyboard, and the show doesn't start until 8:00 PM. Any ideas? Please note that any ideas will reach me after it's too late for them to be of any use. I'm still interested, though.
albadger: (Hank with Welcome Basket)
I may not have read much last year, but I saw a ton of shows, here broken down into 5 of the 6 categories that all performing arts fit into. Category 6 is still awaiting its comeback. It will come back. It WILL.Read more... )
albadger: (Eagle)
Went out this morning to see the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD telecast of Werther, at the Century Hayward -- sadly not featuring yummy Jean-François Borras, but drab, dingy international superstar Jonas Kaufmann (funny how stars always get over whatever they're sick with when there's a camera pointed at them). Opera was nice, though the sound dropped out for the last 10 minutes, giving us elderly attendees a taste of what Silent Opera was like before Sound Opera was invented. But what happened before the show was more interesting still.

I parked in the nearby garage and found myself ambling very slowly to the box office; no surprise, as the Live in HD crowd doesn't move fast... but today I was stuck behind a slow-paced young woman, dressed to today's fashion, a spaghetti-strap top leaving a lot of skin bare. I hoped that she'd be going to the opera as well, and liven the joint up a little, so I didn't push past... but when she got to the box office...

  • GIRL: I'd like a ticket to "the Return of Dorothy."

  • CLERK: [confused silence] Uh... We're not showing that movie.

  • GIRL: No. You are. It started last night. "The Return of Dorothy."

  • CLERK: Hold on just a bit... [checks paperwork] I'm sorry, we're not showing that movie.

  • GIRL: [Angry silence. Turns away and stalks back to garage.]

I felt bad for her, and curious, so after I got my ticket to Werther, I pulled out my Nexus 4 and tried to look up "the Return of Dorothy." I hardly needed to, as this display was in the hall outside the Live in HD auditorium:
Return of Dorothy
Apparently she'd gotten the month wrong. She was a fan, I could tell.

I could tell because, proudly displayed on her right shoulder, was a huge tattoo of Judy Garland as Dorothy; beneath that, tattoos of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion. On her back she had tattooed a poem, which I tried to read as I walked behind her, and seemed Oz-related as well, but it was either read the poem or walk without falling over, and I picked not falling over.
Next time: Oscar picks! I'm not sure which year they'll be for, though.
albadger: (Bill Oddie -- Mister May)
Leg 2 of the "Little Trip" is Sarasota, Florida; a relaxed 2 days, with only one scheduled event. Sarasota is amazingly full of stuff to do, and here is a list of the things I would have done if I'd done them but didn't do:

  1. the Van Wezel Stadium! If I was staying until Saturday I could see Joan Rivers!

  2. Sarasota Jungle Gardens! Their new "Flamingo Cam" provides 24-hour viewing of the flock!

  3. the Mote Marine Laboratory! Their giant squid specimen preserved at Mote Aquarium originates from New Zealand and measures 27 feet (8.2 m) in total length!

  4. Dog Racing! Oh, I so want to do this but am terrified of accidentally adopting a greyhound.

  5. And best of all,
  6. the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy! I want to stay pure on this, and will avoid looking at the web site or learning anything else about them until I actually can go next time I'm here. It sounds too perfect to spoil with foreknowledge.

But I was here for one thing and one thing only: Sarasota Opera's production of Verdi's Jerusalem, his rewrite of i Lombardi for Paris, which gets done never, anywhere -- so this may the only chance in my lifetime to experience it. As the woman sitting next to me said, "Check this off the bucket list, don't need to see it again."

She's right; the music is almost entirely from the earlier opera, and it is magnificent, but not as strongly placed emotionally. The revision straightened out the original's whack-a-doodle plot, reduced 2 star tenors to 1, and made the love story central -- but the politics are still as regressive as i Lombardi, and entirely free of the irony. Key change that informs everything: in the original, the leading lady curses the Crusaders for murdering in God's name; in the rewrite, she curses the Crusaders for sending her boyfriend to jail.

But it's rare, and I'm glad to see it, even if Sarasota's traditional production bent looks stodgy after Hamburg and Bielefeld. I understand the approach -- they see themselves as curators of museum pieces, not as daring thinkers -- but they should have rethought the scene where a hefty crusader smashes the hero's helmet and shield with a large mallet. Anybody my age would have trouble not thinking of Gallagher.

Fortunately, there was nobody my age there aside from me. There was nobody younger. I actually got called "young man" by another patron. This isn't the only reason I go to the opera, but it is a bonus.

Tomorrow -- back home, and I'll finally advise you on filling out your pesky Oscar ballot!
albadger: (Badger exercising)
Ground Zero. Only three things today, but they were important:

  1. National Gallery of Art. I spent many hours here when I lived in the DC area 40 years ago. They have my three favorite paintings in the world, which I will share here without comment
    1215484022_large-image_rubens001lgForest of FontainebleauIsabella Brant

  2. We Are Proud to Present... Okay, this one wasn't quite as important, but I did want to touch some slightly more edgy theater while I was here. Fascinating playing space, but the play, meh; most of the way a good ride, alternating between dead-on parody of actor's workshop game-playing and an exploration of an under-reported atrocity in Namibia under German rule... and then goes off the rails at the end and turns into a clumsy reenactment of good ol' USA racial atrocity, which doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with what went before. Worse than that, the ending had nothing for the splendid Dawn Ursula, herself reason to sit through the show (at least until she disappears). This baby's not getting produced much, but I'd go see anything with Ms. Ursula in it.

  3. ...and then, Ground Zero! Verdi's il Corsaro, the last of the 26 original Verdi operas that I'd never attended a performance of. This one's not getting produced much either, in spite of some magnificent music, because

    1. if you have the resources to do it, you have the resources to do il Trovatore, which more people will come to, and

    2. there are two leading ladies; Gulnara (Tamara Wilson today) is by far the meatier part, but the big final trio is all about Medora (here sung by Nicole Cabell), who drank poison only seconds before learning that her boyfriend wasn't dead after all. Cat fight a-brewin'!

    Tenor Michael Fabiano was great, as were both Wilson and Cabell, but I got the distinct impression that the two ladies weren't speaking to each other. Drama!

Flying out to Tampa tomorrow, with all DC goals accomplished (except impulse-buy goals I thought up while I was here so they don't count). I may have finished the Verdi 26, you're thinking, but what about the Verdi 28? I'm way ahead of you -- that's why I'm flying to Tampa. Enjoy.
albadger: (renaissance)
Balmy, balmy tropical weather, FINALLY! I swear, it got up to 50 Fahrenheit yesterday, so I did my outdoor activity, taking in as much of the western Mall as I could, to wit:

  1. Einstein Memorial: Just a statue of the guy; unlike a lot of the bronzes from the 1970's, it doesn't look like a bunch of chewed bubble-gum wads stuck together, but more like a lava flow on the Big Island happened to cool into the form of the great man. Not sure about the pose; he looks lazy. As I was leaving the spot, a short bus discharged a gaggle of priviliged middle-schoolers. "Albert! I've missed you so much!" yelled the most enthusiastic of them as he led the charge.

  2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial: the Wall, and it's as profound now as it was when it opened. This seems to have been a major focus of the CPAC crowd this weekend; lots of people in their POW/MIA shirts (guess that fantasy isn't dead yet). And, nearby...

  3. The Do-Over Statue I'm old enough to remember the "controversy" when the Wall design was selected: stupid, vicious, and quite openly racist. To mollify the proto-teabaggers, a statue of three soldiers, designed by a runner-up in the competition, was added as an afterthought. Fortunately, it's placed far enough away from the Wall to be ignorable, but it still pisses me off. It only exists because a cadre of angry white men couldn't deal with a Chinese woman winning an important commission, and were too dim to understand the point. The Wall isn't a celebration of sacrifice, it's an apology. This statue, on the other hand, says "Thanks for letting us steal your lives for no reason, men of all races that matter to the ruling power structure as of 1984!" There are few memorials that piss me off quite this much.

  4. Vietnam Women's Memorial: Yet more me-too-ism, yet another group statue, this one says "Women are Sad when Men Die." Purports to celebrate Woman's contribution to that war, but comes off (in spite of being female-designed) as a bit sexist. Unnecessary, but understandable.

  5. Lincoln Memorial: I don't need to tell you anything about this baby, though I will save you some trouble; if you're looking for clues to Lincoln's sexuality, there's nothing here. NOTHING. Thanks a lot, cowardly memorial designers.

  6. Korean War Veterans National Memorial: Me-too-ism strikes again! And again, the design is retrograde, and confusing. Nineteen statues of soldiers are marching... towards... excuse me? This is a memorial for yet another pointless, stupid conflict, and the statues are marching towards a point. A literal POINT. Also, the stainless steel lends a creepy feel to the statues, exacerbated by the Diane Arbus expressions. I'm not sure the heads are the right size for the bodies.

  7. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial: Now, this is how you design a memorial! A mountain of stone, with a slice taken out of the middle, forms the entrance; once you're in, you see that the slice has been displaced, and a huge sculpture of MLK is emerging from it. Wings on either side of the "mountain" have some of the guy's best quotes; my only quarrel is those quotes, actually. They're all aphorisms -- splendid ones, yes -- but MLK also wrote great in long-form, and it would be nice to see, say, the entire speech he gave from the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln & Jefferson got full speeches on their digs, why not King? A nice touch; Martin is looking across the Tidal Basin at the memorial for slave-owning, slave-boinking Thomas. With just a touch of disdain on his face.

  8. FDR Memorial: Leaving the MLK Memorial, I was thinking of all the ways that it could have failed, all the design errors they could have made. I didn't need to waste a moment thinking about that, because the FDR Memorial has every possible design error on full display. Cluttered, misshapen and condescending. Worst of all was the statue of Eleanor, which didn't look that much like her and has posture problems.

  9. Jefferson Memorial: "You only come here because the Lincoln Memorial is too crowded," pouts Thomas Jefferson in perpetuity. Another classic from an era when the ruling class had no doubts about how these things are done. I never realized there's a basement in the thing! Rest rooms and gift shop. I bought a magnet -- no, I bought 4, because I'd missed all the earlier gift shops.

  10. Planned but not visited: the George Mason Memorial, a few steps off my path but just enough extra steps at a time when my legs were giving out. Based on photos, his statue makes him look lazy too, so why should I put the effort in?


And then back to the hotel to switch from my sweaty tourist garb into my nice shirt, slacks & necktie, for the night's opera! Except the hotel's power was out, and the elevators weren't working. Happily, I had slipped the opera ticket into my jacket, so I didn't need to go upstairs, but I was definitely the worst-dressed person at the opera. These DC people are snazzy dressers, let me tell ya. And snazzy perfume-wearers too. I didn't get a shower but I wasn't the stinkiest person there by a long shot.

The show was Moby Dick, which I'd seen in San Francisco 2 years ago -- I actually liked it better on a second exposure, one of the best post-WW2 operas that I'm familiar with. Alas, what was wrong in SF is still wrong, the completely inadequate staging of the climax -- at least they don't have some guy come out in a whale suit, but the boats and the ship seem to disintegrate for no reason; I've read the book and I still found it confusing.

Today, Ground Zero for the trip -- il Corsaro, the only one of Verdi's 26 original operas I've never seen a performance of. Kick-ass cast too, and for an appetizer, the National Gallery of Art and the Wooly Mammoth Theater Company. I may take the Metro to Maryland just to say I did. Or visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial, which is only steps away from my hotel. Unfortunately, LOTS of steps. Up. Nah, I'll skip that.
albadger: (Yukon Cornelius)

Jean-Francois-Borras-Tenor-518x344
Met's New Werther

Tonight at 7:30 pm

Richard Eyre's new production stars Sophie Koch as Charlotte, who "brings a plush, strong voice and aching vulnerability" to the role (NYT). Jean-François Borras makes his Met debut in the title role, replacing Jonas Kaufmann, who is ill.
So, here it is. I'm going to go to my car, and sit in my car, or maybe drive around so I don't look quite so skulky, and listen to the Met live broadast on Sirius Channel 74. And I'm doing this because the lead tenor is mind-bogglingly woofy.

But IT'S RADIO...
albadger: (B. J. Lang presents)
Catching up on the week:

Wednesday -- drive to the South Bay with [livejournal.com profile] scottasf, first stop at the Rosicrucian Museum, a little corner of weird magic in the middle of San Jose sprawl. Sadly too rainy to explore the grounds, but the museum was as spiffy as I'd remembered from the 1980's. This was Scott's first trip but I think not his last, as he seemed taken both with the Egyptian exhibits and the Rosicrucian philosophy.

Then on to our evening event, the Threepenny Opera, in a superb rendition, the cast great from top to bottom, bristling with energy and sincerity. I think it got extended, so if you're in the area, go.

Friday night was with [livejournal.com profile] bigjohnsf and [livejournal.com profile] progbear seeing Marga Gomez performing her new solo show, Lovebirds at the Marsh in SF. Only 75 minutes or so, not a huge number of characters (7, including one named Marga Gomez, wink wink) -- but there was something about the piece, and her warmth and joy, that made it feel epic in scope even as it sped by.

I could never be a professional critic. I like stuff too much.

This morning I took in the Metropolitan Opera's telecast of Prince Igor, only a few miles away from my house at the Century Hayward. It's not a real substitute for being in the opera house, but it's still great, given that I won't be getting to NYC to see this one live. Eric Owens looks better with the beard, and why was he so goldarn nervous? He didn't need to be, everything went off without a hitch.

Next time: I'll tell you which movies to vote for on your Oscar ballot! I waited until after the deadline, you see, so I wouldn't unduly influence the outcome.
albadger: (B. J. Lang presents)
I may not have read much last year, but I saw a ton of shows, which break down into 5 categories (category 6 was sadly retired a few years back).
  1. "Straight" theater, non-Shakespeare:
    Bookkeepers, No Man's Land, Our Practical Heaven, Sherlock Holmes - the Final Adventure, Sometimes Cloudy - Sometimes Clear, the Haunting, the King Stag, the Spanish Tragedy, the Tenth Muse, the Woman in Black, Waiting for Godot.
  2. Shakespeare:
    Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline, King Lear (twice), Macbeth, the Taming of the Shrew, the Tempest, the Winter's Tale.
  3. Opera:
    • LOTS of Verdi: i Lombardi, i Due Foscari, Giovanna d'Arco (twice), Alzira, i Masnadieri, la Battaglia di Legnano, la Traviata, Falstaff.
    • Lots of Wagner too: die Feen, das Liebesverbot, Rienzi, the Flying Dutchman, die Meistersinger.
    • also l'Incorinazione di Poppea (twice), Admeto, Cosi Fan Tutte, Maria Stuarda, le Troyens, Faust, Mefistofele, the Tales of Hoffman, Andrea Chenier, Ariadne auf Naxos, the Turn of the Screw, the Gospel of Mary Magdalen, Dolores Claiborne.

  4. Musicals:
    110 in the Shade; Kinky Boots; the Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder; the Landing; 1776.
  5. Rap, Hip-Hop or Folk Act:

    • Golden Girls Live! Guys in dresses acting out Golden Girls episodes
    • Kinsey Sicks 20th Anniversary at the Castro Theater
    • Trolley Dances -- site-specific dance performances in San Francisco
    • Pet Shop Boys in concert
    • Magic acts at the "Magic Garage," a cool performance space that a magic aficionado made in, yes, his garage in Cupertino
    • Driven Bananas, a one-woman show, part of SF Fringe

Best & Worsts?

  1. Hard to pick a favorite non-Shakes non-singing performance - international stars Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in Godot or Bay Area star Julian Lopez-Morillas in Spanish Tragedy? Tiebreaker goes to Julian, because like me he won 2 days on Jeopardy! No worst, loved all of it.
  2. OSF's Lear was amazing, but, hey, I saw Tempest at the Reconstructed Globe in London, so that wins. On the other extreme, SF Shake's Macbeth was a campy howler, not to be missed for the wrong reasons.
  3. I loved getting to travel & see opera productions in other countries, & in particular to check off my to-do list the last Wagner operas I'd never seen, and all but one of the early Verdi works; but the single best production was right at home, SF Opera's Mefistofele, a brief respite in the company's slide... because they also supplied the worst opera I saw; not the 2 still-born "world premieres" but a listless and ramshackle Tales of Hoffman. Turns out Hoffman isn't as idiot-proof as I'd thought.
  4. Worst musical I saw is easy, the Landing, Kander's first post-Ebb work, not hateful bad but weak and sickly, so I feel sorry for it. The rest were all great, but Gentleman's Guide is the one I'm telling people to go see, superb work but it might not get the press it deserves.
  5. Everything in Category 5 was wonderful and great and they're all the Best and nobody is the worst, because I don't go to enough rap, hip hop or folk acts.
Next - exciting recaps of the places I went and the times I had my car's oil changed! I can't wait! Can you? Yes. You can.
albadger: (Vitruvian Badger)

Tonight, I Lombardi, the last of the 3 early Verdis being presented by Hamburg Opera. I think I get the overarching theme of the productions now; this is supposed to be in the ruins of a bombed-out La Scala in Milan, our plucky performers playing not characters in an opera but 1940s performers playing characters in an opera being put on in defiance of all odds etc. etc. etc. Thus the choirloft/elevator thingy, the front of which is styled to look like the La Scala boxes, and random ruins scattered about in front of the back wall. That you have the added advantage of cutting down on prep time for the chorus, in works that will NOT join the standard rotation, a mere coincidency bonus.

Actually, this production was far and away the best of the three, largely because (after the first few scenes) the choristers escaped from their elevated jail and made their way to the main stage, which is good since the chorus is a huge part of the piece, mostly as bloodthirsty crusaders. Plus we had some real color to break up the gray, with red and blue in the costumes and a big white sand dune for the second half.

But most of all we had Elza Van den Heever in the female lead, who completely dominated the show. Didn't hurt that she's about 2 feet taller than any of the men in the cast.


And I did get to the waterfront today, as advised, to find it completely socked in, so foggy a boat ride would be pointless. Instead I went to a great show at the Bucierus Kunst Forum, which I'd apparently walked right in front of yesterday without noticing -- a show about Dionysus, lots of great ancient & modern paintings & artifacts. The ticket girl loved my passport photo.

Last night in Hamburg -- off to Cologne tomorrow. I will probably tour the Dom there (their huge church) but mostly rest & work on memorizing the damn lines for the damn play I damn well agreed to do. Wish me luck on that.

albadger: (Leprechaun Merle)

Friday night, during the dingy gray production of la Battaglia di Legnano, I found myself thinking, why didn't they use THIS production for tomorrow night's opera, i Due Foscari, which is ITSELF dingy and sad? So you can imagine how unsurprised I was to see Saturday night's curtain go up on more or less the same dingy, sad gray set, complete with chorus elevator. Actually it was even dingier -- in addition to the bleak concrete, we got mildewed, peeling green wallpaper. Thugs slithered through the shadows. Women were mysteriously abducted and just as mysteriously stumbled out of wardrobes later in the evening. Darkness reigned.

Which, for i Due Foscari, is just about right. It's based on a thingy by Lord Byron, and it has effectively no action aside from the destruction of the title father/son duo. If Battaglia fails because it can't keep its ducks in a row, Foscari fails -- for most people -- because it only has one duck.

Me? I like it, especially the husband-wife prison duet in Act II that had me crying last night, and the big climaxes of the crowd scenes are quite moving, even when the crowd is being dangled 20 feet in the air. The final scene of the Doge's disgrace and death is a gift to a singing actor, so it's no surprise Placido Domingo staged this for himself in Los Angeles last year.

Well done all round tonight. And, tomorrow night for i Lombardi, I fully expect to see the same dingy gray and green walls, and the same hydraulic choir loft, used to represent a medieval Italian castle, a sultanate's harem, and a hermit's cave.


Oh, also, I actually went out during the day! I took the U-1 to the Hopbahnhof Sud station and then the U-3 to the Rathaus. That's one hell of a big Rathaus!

albadger: (Krusty's Terrified Audience)

Back from la Battaglia di Legnano at the Hamburg Opera. Mission Accomplished! Goal Met!

That said, I don't really like la Battaglia di Legnano all that much.

Oh, it's okay, and it has its delights; the overture is a pip, and there's a little tune for the baritone that I often find myself humming & wondering where it's from. But this (the very last product of Verdi's "galley years") was a piece d'occasion and it shows. The scenes are either a cookie-cutter domestic triangle, or rousing agit-prop -- the two sides don't seem to work together at all. Not helping were directoral choices, such as setting the whole thing in what was either a dingy hospital, a dingy church or a dingy bus terminal. Gray overwhelmed, even the elevatored balcony that bounced up & down 20 feet over the singers' heads; the male chorus sang from there (with books, like a church choir!) in the first half, but it got put to better use at the end, when it became the tenor's apartment from which, driven mad by patriotism, he jumps into a moat. You can look it up if you care further.

But, with all that, I now have seen it performed, and I'm down to only one of Verdi's 26 original operas (that's il Corsaro, which nobody likes either, and I have a ticket to see it next March in Washington DC). Singers & orchestra acquitted themselves well, my new seat location (row 18 seat 1) only blocked half the supertitles, and the poor lady sitting to my right had no excuse or opportunity to move to another seat at the interval. Place was sold out! Probably a lot of people marking it off their to-do lists.

Tomorrow I promise to get out & see some of this great sprawling city outside the short walk to the U-Bahn station & the short walk from the Opera U-Bahn to the opera house. I swear. Maybe... maybe... I'll go see Rocky: das Musical. It has a matinee!

albadger: (Hank with Welcome Basket)

Last night was the first show at Hamburg Opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, brilliant on every level -- all soloists perfect, orchestra amazing, set & concept engaging, funny and profound. And I got a special bonus! My set was on the Parkett level (in America the Orchestra), Row 22, seat 1 -- aisle seat, not too close, not too far back, but far back enough that being on the aisle didn't set me too far out to the side. Special bonus came from the opera house's design; it's a modern house, so instead of horseshoes for the balconies (what they call "Rang"), there are blocky cantilevered concrete protrusions. Probably good sightlines for them, but I don't care about that, what I care about is that a balcony section completely blocked the supertitles! Stage was completely clear, so it was best of both worlds (since my German is piss-poor & getting poorer, the text would only distract). The elderly German gentleman to my right was mightily irritated, and at intermission recamped to an empty seat he had spotted in the middle. My paradise was thus complete for the second half.

I seem to have an issue with great opera (and some other art) not unakin to Stendhal Syndrome. When the work reaches an apotheosis (or whatever you'd call it), I can completely zone out -- eyes may be open or shut but I can't move or speak, even thought I'm completely conscious of the sounds. This happened to me last night during Zerbinetta's big solo. I'm pretty sure I was drooling a little. So I'm doubly happy that the seat to my right was empty. I hope this doesn't reduce the chance of any of you attending the opera with me someday.

Today I took it easy, just hanging around in my room, going to the lobby to let the maid get her work done, buying a take-out pizza from the shop next door (this will serve as lunch, dinner & late snack). Nothing's going to interfere with la Battaglia di Legnano, one of only 2 original Verdi operas I haven't seen performed yet. Ground Zero for this trip, you might say! Wish me luck! Also, wish luck to the person in the seat on my right.

albadger: (Bear and Trainer)

This is technically only Day 2 of this Germany trip, which I find hard to believe, as I've already fit a lifetime in. A mayfly's lifetime, perhaps, but a busy one. Originally I was going to stay in Frankfurt one night to recover from the plane trip, but my friend pointed out that you can get a tie-in train ticket from Lufthansa, only 49 Euros to go anywhere in Germany after your flight... and leaving from the Airport train station, so you don't even need to go downtown! Then I find out that the city of Bielefeld is doing my bestest favoritest early-Verdi, Giovanna d'Arco, that very night, so I consider going there... until I read about the BIEFELD CONSPIRACY, and, well, that settled that. i'm goin' ta Bielefeld.

Biefeld does exist, unless I've been compromised & am now part of the conspiracy. Its old downtown, what was inside the medieval walls, has been converted to a maze of pedestrian shopping streets -- it's actually quite charming. And the show was great -- orchestra and chorus scrappy, but all three leads in amazing shape. This time, instead of a teenage virgin who saves France in drag and is then burned alive, Joan is a human rights campaigner who finds herself turned into a celebrity by the hungry media, and worries that she is letting her love of fame distract her from the well-being of the people of Bosnia. Or something. Who cares, with those tunes. I blissed out and hope I wasn't too annoying for the hausfrauen surrounding me in Rinks 8.

This morning, the impossible happened and my brain exploded: a German train was late. Fortunately, my connecting train was also slightly late, so I got to Hamburg in time, where I walked about 2 miles trying to figure out the .5-mile distance from the train station to the A&O hostel/hotel where I'm staying (Biefeld has no A&O so I had to make do with a fancy-pants Mercure hotel with actual tubs in the bathrooms). Tonight's the first opera here, Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos I've been told the Hamburg Opera house is a sight in itself, so I'm looking forward to it. More later!

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