Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Thank you to all who have made Salazar Opera Family Circle a success. We look to have an even more successful 2012. If you enjoyed this page and want to get all the latest updates join us on Facebook or Twitter.

Once again thank you for following us.

Here are some of the most popular posts of the year.
Salvatore Licitra 
Faust Review
The Enchanted Island Review 
Salzburg festival 2012  

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Enchanted Island opens tomorrow

The stunning new production by Phelim Mcdermott opens tomorrow. Sir William Christie leads an all star cast lead by Joyce Didonato, David Daniels, Placido Domingo and Danielle Di Niese.

To read more about the opera read our review linked here.

Here is a video courtesy of the Met Opera

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Met Dress Rehearsal Review: (Cliche/Pun Alert) "The Enchanted Island" is Enchanting!

By David Salazar (For December 28 Dress rehearsal)

Please keep in mind that this review is of a dress rehearsal, so there are many factors to consider when reading it, the first being that the performance started at 10:30, which is not a normal performance hour for singers. However, the rehearsal was conducted like a live performance, and for this reason I take the liberty of treating it as such and writing a review. I will also be unable to attend any of the other Enchanted Island performances, making it necessary for me to lay my thoughts out here.  

For the first time this season, Peter Gelb has finally held up his end of the "theater first" bargain when it comes to his new productions. And make note, this is one of the finest productions to grace the Met stage in years.

For those who do not know, "The Enchanted Island" is a pastiche: a narrative combination of diverse arias and ensembles from different works and composers of the baroque period. Back in the 18th Century, it was normal for singers to interpolate arias from different works to suit their needs, and thus the pastiche was eventually adopted on a regular basis. The Met usually does not present baroque opera (the hall is much too large in many cases), but it seems appropriate that this sort of approach would be taken to reinvigorate the style into the repertoire.

The story and libretto, written by Jeremy Sams, borrow heavily from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," with a twist on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" mixed in. "Balanced" is probably the most appropriate manner to describe Sam's libretto. At the center of the story is Prospero, an elderly tyrant who once loved Sycorax, the former ruler of the Island. He abandoned her, stole away her spirit Ariel, made her son Caliban his slave, and took control of the island. Sycorax withered away into an unpleasant looking hag seeking revenge. Prospero also has a daughter Mirando who he hopes to marry off to Ferdinand, a nobleman. So he promises to free Ariel if she will conjure a spell to bring Ferdinand to shore and make him fall for Miranda and she for him.  Courtesy of Sycorax and Caliban's sabotage, Ariel conjures up the wrong spell and washes up the wrong ship, which actually holds the four lovers (Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia, Helena) from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." When Ariel confuses the men for Ferdinand, and Sycorax attempts to take one of the ladies for her son, all hell breaks loose and we are treated to some arresting comedy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Enchanted Island Rehearsal Thoughts/ Review Coming Soon!

Just got back from seeing the Enchanted Island Dress Rehearsal this morning. Will post my thoughts at some point tomorrow. Just to leave a hint: I actually liked the production!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Enchanted Island has 44 numbers

The Met has released a list of all the numbers included in the new pastiche "The Enchanted Island."

Here they are:

George Frideric Handel: Alcina, HWV 34

Act I1. "My Ariel" (Prospero, Ariel) – "Ah, if you would earn your freedom" (Prospero)
Antonio Vivaldi: Cessate, omai cessate, cantata, RV 684, "Ah, ch’infelice sempre"

2. "My master, generous master – I can conjure you fire" (Ariel)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part I, "Un pensiero nemico di pace"

3. "Then what I desire" (Prospero, Ariel)

4. "There are times when the dark side – Maybe soon, maybe now" (Sycorax, Caliban)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"

5. "The blood of a dragon – Stolen by treachery" (Caliban)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 1, "O voi, dell’Erebo"

6. "Miranda! My Miranda!" (Prospero, Miranda) – "I have no words for this feeling" (Miranda)
Handel: Notte placida e cheta, cantata, HWV 142, "Che non si dà"

7. "My master’s books" – "Take salt and stones" (Ariel)
Based on Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Deuxième entrée: La Musique, Scene 7, "Aimez, aimez d’une ardeur mutuelle"

8. Quartet: "Days of pleasure, nights of love" (Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Semele, HWV 58, Act I, Scene 4, "Endless pleasure, endless love"

9. The Storm (chorus) – The Calm
André Campra: Idoménée, Act II, Scene 1, "O Dieux! O justes Dieux!"

10. "I’ve done as you commanded" (Ariel, Prospero)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, "Di rabbia indarno freme"

11. "Oh, Helena, my Helen – You would have loved this island" (Demetrius)
Handel: La Resurrezione, oratorio, HWV 47, Part I, Scene 2, "Così la tortorella"

12. "Would that it could last forever – Wonderful, wonderful" (Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, "Prendi, prendi"

13. "Why am I living?" (Helena)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act II, Scene 1, "Dolce riposo")
"The gods of good and evil – At last everything is prepared" (Sycorax)
Jean-Marie Leclair: Scylla et Glaucus, Act IV, Scene 4, "Et toi, dont les embrasements… Noires divinités"

14. "Mother, why not? – Mother, my blood is freezing" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Il Farnace, RV 711, Act II, Scene 5 & 6, "Gelido in ogni vena"

15. "Help me out of this nightmare" – Quintet: "Wonderful, wonderful" (Helena, Sycorax, Caliban, Miranda, Demetrius)
Handel: Ariodante, HWV 33, Act I, Scene 5, recitative preceding "Prendi, prendi"

16. "Welcome Ferdinand – Wonderful, wonderful," reprise (Prospero, Miranda, Demetrius)
"All I’ve done is try to help you" (Prospero)
Vivaldi: Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, motet, RV 629, "Longe mala, umbrae, terrores"

17. "Curse you, Neptune" (Lysander)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act III, Scene 6, "Dopo un’orrida procella"

18. "Your bride, sir? "(Ariel, Lysander, Demetrius, Miranda) – Trio: "Away, away! You loathsome wretch, away!" (Miranda, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part II, "Away, ye tempt me both in vain"

19. "Two castaways – Arise! Arise, great Neptune" (Ariel)
Attr. Henry Purcell: The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island, Z. 631, Act II, no. 3, "Arise, ye subterranean winds"

20. "This is convolvulus" (Helena, Caliban) – "If the air should hum with noises" (Caliban)
Handel: Deidamia, HWV 42, Act II, Scene 4, "Nel riposo e nel contento"

21. "Neptune the Great" (Chorus)
Handel: Four Coronation Anthems, HWV 258, "Zadok the priest"

22. Who dares to call me? (Neptune, Ariel)
Based on Handel: Tamerlano, HWV 18, "Oh, per me lieto"
"I’d forgotten that I was Lord" (Neptune, Chorus)
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act II, Scene 3, "Qu’a server mon courroux"

23. "We like to wrestle destiny – Chaos, confusion" (Prospero)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 5, "Pena tiranna"

Act II24. "My God, what’s this? – Where are you now?" (Hermia)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 3, "Where shall I fly?"

25. "So sweet, laughing together – My strength is coming back to me" (Sycorax)
Vivaldi: Argippo, RV 697, Act I, Scene 1, "Se lento ancora il fulmine"

26. "Curses, a fresh disaster" (Ariel, Demetrius, Helena, Caliban) – "A voice, a face, a figure half-remembered" (Helena)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act III, Scene 4, "Hanno penetrato i detti tuoi l’inferno"

27. "His name, she spoke his name" (Caliban)
Handel: Hercules, oratorio, HWV 60, Act III, Scene 2 "O Jove, what land is this? – I rage"

28. "Oh, my darling, my sister – Men are fickle" (Helena, Hermia)
Handel: Atalanta, HWV 35, Act II, Scene 3 – "Amarilli? – O dei!"

29. "I knew the spell" (Sycorax, Caliban) – "Hearts that love can all be broken" (Sycorax)
Giovanni Battista Ferrandini (attr. Handel): Il pianto di Maria, cantata, HWV 234, "Giunta l’ora fatal –Sventurati i miei sospiri"

30. "Such meager consolation – No, I’ll have no consolation" (Caliban)
Vivaldi: Bajazet, RV 703, Act III, Scene 7, "Verrò, crudel spietato"

31. Masque of the Wealth of all the World
a. Quartet: Caliban goes into his dream, "Wealth and love can be thine"
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour"
b. Parade
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Tambourin en rondeau
c. The Women and the Unicorn
Rameau: Les fêtes d’Hébé, Troisième entrée: Les Dances, Scene 7, Musette
d. The Animals
Jean-Féry Rebel: Les Éléments, Act I, Tambourins I & II
e. The Freaks – Chaos
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, Act I, Tonnerre
f. Waking
Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Act III, Scene 7, "Tendre amour," reprise

[there is no No. 32]

33. "With no sail and no rudder – Gliding onwards" (Ferdinand)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act II, Scene 1, "Io ramingo – Sussurrate, onde vezzose"

34. Sextet: "Follow hither, thither, follow me" (Ariel, Miranda, Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander)
Handel: Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, oratorio, HWV 46a, Part II, Quartet: "Voglio tempo"

35. "Sleep now" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Tito Manlio, RV 78, Act III, Scene 1, "Sonno, se pur sei sonno"

36. "Darling, it’s you at last" (Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, Helena)
Vivaldi: La verità in cimento, RV 739, Act II, scene 9, "Anima mia, mio ben"

37. "The wat’ry God has heard the island’s pleas" (Chorus)
Handel: Susanna, oratorio, HWV 66, Part III, "Impartial Heav’n!"

38. "Sir, honored sir – I have dreamed you" (Ferdinand, Miranda)
Handel: Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi, cantata, HWV 197, "Ma se l’alma sempre geme"

39. "The time has come. The time is now" ("Maybe soon, maybe now," reprise) (Sycorax)
Handel: Teseo, HWV 9, Act V, Scene 1, "Morirò, ma vendicata"

40. "Enough! How dare you?" (Prospero, Neptune) – "You stand there proud and free – You have stolen the land" (Neptune)
Rameau: Castor et Pollux, Act V, Scene 1, "Castor revoit le jour"

41. "Lady, this island is yours" (Prospero, Caliban, Ariel) – "Forgive me, please forgive me" (Prospero)
Handel: Partenope, HWV 27, Act III, Scene 4, "Ch’io parta?"

42. "We gods who watch the ways of man" (Neptune, Sycorax, Chorus)
Handel: L’allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, HWV 55, Part I, "Come, but keep thy wonted state – Join with thee"

43. "This my hope for the future" (Prospero) – "Can you feel the heavens are reeling" (Ariel)
Vivaldi: Griselda, RV 718, Act II, scene 2, "Agitata da due venti"

44. "Now a bright new day is dawning" (Ensemble)
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus, oratorio, HWV 63, Part III, "Hallelujah"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Die Walkure from the MET

A few days ago the Met's production of Die Walkure was uploaded. I wanted to share this as it has yet to be presented on PBS and there is still no talk of a DVD release.

I'm sorry if the link does not work any longer. The Video was removed by the user. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

What does Howard Shore have in common with Wagner?

In preparation for my annual film awards I was listening to the haunting score to David Cronenberg's new film A Dangerous Method written by Oscar winner Howard Shore. As I was listening I came across very familiar music that is accredited to Shore. For music lovers most will cringe or question this. However the music is from Wagner arranged for Piano.

Can anyone guess where this melody comes from?


Let me give you a hint. Lepage just finished the third installment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gheorghiu's latest conquest

Diva Angela Gheorghiu is recording a rock song with the Romanian rock band Holograf. From the clip it sounds like music in the vane of Bon Jovi.

This is the latest Diva to crossover. A year ago Anna Netrebko recorded a pop song with the Russian star Phillip Kirkarov. The song went on to win numerous awards.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Linda di Chamounix will open tomorrow in the Liceu

Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez make their role debuts in this highly anticipated new production of Donizetti's Linda Chamounix.

The opera will be part of the live in HD from the Liceu of Barcelona.

It was just brought to my attention that the HD of Linda has been cancelled. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Open Dress Rehearsal for The Enchanted Island

There is an open dress rehearsal on December 28th for the Enchanted Island open to the public. Tickets will be distributed tomorrow December 17th at noon.

A Preview of the Enchanted Island will come soon!

For more information Click here 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hansel and Gretel opens Tonight!

Richard Jones' creatively charged production returns to the Met with a stellar cast that includes Kate Lindsey and star soprano Alexandra Kurzak

For more information read the Hansel and Gretel Preview linked here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

La Fille Du Regiment opens tonight

Lawerance Brownlee and Nino Machaidze star in Laurent Pelly's exciting production of the Daughter of the Regiment.

For more information click here 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Act 1 of Don Giovanni at La Scala

A few Days ago I published an article about the Scala Don Giovanni with a few clips. Today I have the complete first act for you.


 The Second Act will be coming soon.

James Levine cancels the rest of the Met Season or NEXT SEASON

It has been announced that James Levine has withdrawn from the remainder of the season and the 2012-2013 season:

Music Director James Levine will not conduct at the Metropolitan Opera for the remainder of this season, or during the 2012-13 season, in order to allow for a full recovery from the spinal injury he suffered last August. After falling while on vacation last summer, Levine underwent emergency surgery that forced him to withdraw from his performances in the first part of this season.

Due to the severe injury to his spinal cord, Levine’s doctors have said that his post-operative recovery will be a long-term process. Since September he has been at a rehabilitation facility, which he will be leaving shortly. While his condition has greatly improved in recent months, it is uncertain exactly when he will be fully recovered and able to return to conducting.

Following recent consultations with Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager, Levine has decided not to conduct for the remainder of the current season, or for the entire 2012-13 season. Although he might be ready to start conducting sooner, the decision about next season had to be made now in order to secure the services of replacement conductors for the works Levine had been scheduled to lead. The Met’s 2012-13 season and casting will be announced this coming February.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don Giovanni at La Scala

Today was the opening night of Teatro alla Scala di Milan. The season opened with a highly anticipated production of Don Giovanni by Robert Carsen. The Production conducted by Music Director Daniel Barenboim starred Anna Netrebko, Bryn terfel, Barbara Frittoli, Giuseppe Fillianoti,
Peter Mattei and Anna Prohaska.

 Here is a video of Anna Netrebko

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Top New Productions of the Gelb Regime (Yes I do like the guy)

By: David Salazar

A reader recently sent me a message telling me that I do a lot of "Peter Gelb bashing" and asked if I liked anything that he has done over the years. I'm not going to lie and I say that I was unaware of how negative some of my remarks have been toward the Met's General Manager. But considering that we are now five years into his tenure, I think it is a good time to reflect on him a bit.

Certainly there are a few things that I thought Joseph Volpe (the last General Manager) did better, most notably the respect he commanded from his singers and his unwilling to tolerate misbehavior. He fired Soprano Kathleen Battle after diva-like behavior. By comparison, Gelb has allowed Soprano Angela Gheorghiu to cancel NEW productions left and right with no penalty for her behavior.

However, Gelb has had his own fair share of successes and shown potential for growth in some areas, most notably his ability to market the Met's new image around the world through his Live in HD series. In fact, he has changed the world of performing arts with the Live in HD in general. Every time I go to the movie theaters, Fathom events is always promoting some sort of live performance in movie theaters whether it ranges from Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theater or Rock Concerts. This was virtually non-existent 5 years ago but is a major component of the movie theater and performing arts business as we now know it. And it's all because of Peter Gelb.

But the need to write this article has come up because of my constant criticizing of Mr. Gelb's strategy to bring in theater directors instead of opera directors to direct his new productions. I just want to set the record straight: I don't dislike the strategy and appreciate the desire to evolve this wondrous art form. The world of opera should not be a museum; it is a living breathing art form that needs to co-exist with its times. But opera does not need a revolution; it needs evolution. Compared to Europe's revolutionary stance on opera, Gelb has taken a more evolutionary route and I certainly applaud him for it. But with trial and error undoubtedly comes error and we have unfortunately seen a great deal during the past 5 years (and if you've kept up with my reviews this year you know a lot of error has occurred this season).

But there have been a great deal of surprising successes as well. So if any of Mr. Gelb's friends or fans are reading this, this is my opportunity to set the record straight with you.

So without further ado here are the honorable mentions followed by My Top 5 New Productions under Peter Gelb.

Honorable Mentions (no particular order):

"From the House of the Dead" by Leo Janacek
Directed by Patrice Chereau

"La Fille Du Regiment" by Gaetano Donizetti
Directed by Laurent Pelly

"The Nose" by Dmitri Shostakovich
Directed by William Kentridge

5. "La Damnation de Faust" by Hector Berlioz
Directed by Robert LePage

This Faust is technically not an opera, but has been staged as such in recent times. LePage took advantage of the work's structural freedom and magical themes to create some truly revelatory moments on stage. His use of the video technology and its ability to interact with the singers was truly mesmerizing and innovative. I had a few issues with the lack of depth on stage and some of the malfunctions of the production, but it was all forgotten as I watched Faust swim underwater and the horses race across the stage through video projections. The winning moment of the night however may have been Marguerite's aria about her passion for Faust, portrayed by a flame that matched the singer's intensity to the the tee. If the volume and strength of the voice increased, so did the size and intensity of the flame.

LePage went on to the largest undertaking possible at the Met (The Ring Cycle), but this is his best work by far.

4. "Carmen" by Georges Bizet
Directed by Richard Eyre

This was a controversial production for many critics and apparently was too violent for some audience members. I don't understand the critics problems (some thought it was conservative, some thought it claustrophobic, others too violent, etc.) and I don't know why the audience found it too violent (for tasteless violence take a look at Calixo Bieto's vulgar borderline torture porn over at the Liceu). Eyre's production was a tremendous upgrade from Zeffirelli's safer approach. It plays on that idea of evolution that I mentioned. It is still "traditional" in the sense that it tells the same story with no major alterations. However, it pushes the material into a more physical dimension that has not been previously seen at the Met. Yes it is violent, but certainly not to the point of vulgarity. Eyre brings out both the sexual tensions and allows them to simmer until they reach their boiling point. There are some nods here to past interpretations of Carmen, specifically cinematic ones: Francesco Rosi's metaphor of Carmen and Jose's battle being like a bullfight; an entire dance sequence (without music) to begin Act 2 that is clearly inspired by Carlos Saura's film based on the opera. The production eases conservative audiences into more uneasy territory while also appealing to youthful audiences with its drive and energy.

The opening black curtain has a red line across it, almost looking like it was slashed across the curtain. It adds to the violent nature of the work and prepares us for what is to come. The stage is used brilliantly throughout: the woman from the cigarette factory come up from below the stage to demonstrate not only the hell they live in but their inferiority; the soldier's base is a small space all the way downstage and separated from the center of the stage by walls and fences, emphasizing their isolation and distance from the common folk and their problems. The second act's grotto is extremely picaresque and attuned with Spanish folklore. The mountains of the third act are cavernous and menacing, while the final act actually gives us an opportunity to enter the bullring at the very end to reveal the slaughtering of the bull.

I saw this production twice and both times with different casts. From watching the performers it was clear to me that the singers completely understood their relationships on stage and with their environments. The production was clearly well thought out and the concept so clear that it crossed over from one season and cast to the next with little difficultly or detriment.

3. "Il Trittico" by Giacomo Puccini
Directed by Jack O'Brien

Another example of evolution over revolution. O'Brien essentially "updates" the setting of Puccini's trio by setting them in the twentieth century. Unlike the other productions mentioned on this list, this one is more in the vein of the traditional set that Met audiences expect with lavish sets and fine costumes. But O'Brien doesn't do lavish for the sake of lavish and visual splendor: this style has substance. "Il Tabarro" has a massive boat as its centerpiece with a gorgeous "recreation" of the Seine that is so real it almost makes you feel like you were there in that time period. But despite that initial excitement of seeing this intense realism on stage, the overall set has a grimy feel to it. The boat is corroded, the streets in the port are likewise dirty and all of the wardrobe matches this ambience with its rustic look and feel.

"Suor Angelica" is set in the garden of a convent with three walls on each side of the stage emphasizing the claustrophobic and implacable nature of the environment. The lighting has a blue hue throughout giving the work a cold and oppressive feel. This is further supported by O'Brien's direction of all the characters that Suor Angelica interacts with. Not only does the Princess reject her, but the nuns do as well, walking about like lifeless zombies (adding to the despair of this work). The final revelation takes place all the way upstage as the door in the back opens to reveal the child. It is sublime in its execution and matches the emotional intensity of Puccini's music.

The set of "Gianni Schicchi" does not have the same powerful impression of realism that "Il Tabarro" does but it is large and finely detailed. However, despite the lavish nature of the mansion, it is in disarray and filled with imbalanced structures, creating a fantastic juxtaposition for this incredible comedy.

The production is not only incredible to look at from a production stand-point. Both times I saw it, the different casts (with some like Alessandro Corbelli reprising roles) were equally engaged. The energy that emanates from the differing sets and O'Brien's trust in the material clearly transferred to the casts that made these two "Triticco" performances some of the most of memorable I have seen on the Met stage.

2. "Madame Butterfly" by Giacomo Puccini
Directed by Anthony Minghella

This production opened Gelb's tenure at the Met and remains one of the finest that he has released. The set is minimalism at its finest, blending some Asian theatrical tricks with western theatrical staples. Magic is at the center of this production's concept as Minghella and crew gave this work an ethereal nature to support Butterfly's fantasy of having a real family with Pinkerton.

The set is one large mirror that combined with incredible use of props and supreme lighting creates moments that of sublime nature. Take the famous love duet, one of the opera's major dramatic and musical centers. China balls and other globes emanating light fall from the ceiling and scatter across the stage. The stage lights are minimal, relying mainly on the effect of the lights coming from these globes. This creates a glorious feel of night, but a night that is taking place in a different dimension for the two lovers. Their playing a game of hide and seek through this maze of globes adds to the playful nature of the scene, but also emphasizes their getting lost in this world of bliss, if only for one night.

Butterfly's entrance all the way upstage in the midst of other geisha's clad in lavish attire also adds to the magical aura of this character. We hear the singing off stage and slowly getting closer. Where are they coming from? Suddenly from upstage we see the geisha's rise from below and dominate the stage.

At the start of the second act, we see Butterfly serving something for her lover Pinkerton as he sits in what is likely their living room. Suddenly a door sweeps by and takes Pinkerton with it. It was all a figment of her imagination. Moments such as these, may seem simple, but they are extremely effective in their execution.

And I have yet to bring up the puppetry that has gained a great deal of attention over the years. Instead of taking risks of putting a real baby on stage, Minghella turned to the art of puppetry to create one of the most memorable characters in any Met Production EVER. Cio-Cio San's (Butterfly) baby boy as executed by a fine team of 3 puppeteers is simply unforgettable in how he makes you forget he's a puppet; he just reads as a real child. The prelude of Act 3 also utilizes Puppetry as Butterfly imagines a different and happier life.

The final scene in which Butterfly kills herself is also electric with red lighting and extended silk robes representing Butterfly's blood. With Cio-Cio San silhouetted, one can almost see the form of the disappearing butterfly on stage giving the tragic ending a transcendent quality that seems more at home with Isolde's "Liebestod" than Butterfly's death. However, there are no complaints here as the effect does not lessen the feeling of remorse. This truly mesmerizing death juxtaposed with the moments of watching the baby blindfolded on stage left while Pinkerton arrives just a tad bit late from the downstage right are breathtakingly moving.

Most importantly, like the others on this list, Minghella trusts the text and source material and simply finds new ideas and themes from within. His theme of Butterfly living out a fantastical existence is a fascinating insight that sheds new light on a repertoire staple. And it is because this insight is founded within the confines of RESPECT for the source material that this production appeals not only to new, but also traditional audiences. These are the kind of new productions of canon works that the Met has been dying for recently and that Gelb needs to keep on bringing.

1. "Satyagraha" by Phillip Glass
Directed by Phelim McDermott

I absolutely love Minghella's Madama Butterfly production. And to give another production my top honor simply emphasizes just how moving this Satyagraha is. The production is so clear in its intent to engage its audience in a dialogue throughout. In my review of this year's performance of Satyagraha I spoke of Wagner's philosophy of the "Gesamtkunstwerk"  being achieved to perfection in this production.

The entire work does not have a typical narrative, but instead makes historical references to Gandhi's creation of the Satyagraha movement. Supporting the opera's break from traditional narrative, McDermott does the same with the production, utilizing every theatrical trick in the book to create numerous abstractions that support the material. Massive puppets and skyscraper cutouts dominate over Gandhi, emphasizing the power of the western world attacking him and his people; The Indian Opinion newspapers stretch all across the stage from left to right, up and down, and even up toward the ceiling portraying Gandhi's message reaching across all cultural and even mystical barriers. A magical flame announces the baptism of the moment. Text that projects across the set also adds insight to the philosophy of the text. Video projections emphasize the protests of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, connecting Gandhi's movement to Martin Luther King's, here believed to be the heir and perpetuation of Gandhi's legacy.

The best production decision of all? No subtitles. There simply is no need. The production is so focused and engaging that there is no reason to look away.

However, despite all the philosophy and symbols packed into the production, McDermott does not forget that people go to the opera for visceral experiences; to understand and feel the emotions of characters larger than themselves. Gandhi is definitely one of those larger than life characters and despite the dense subject matter McDermott makes it a point to provide his audience with ecstasy and catharsis. To simply quote my enthusiastic review:

 "It was in Act 3, the scene with the least visual activity, the power and message of the work really touched me. We see Martin Luther at the center of upstage, his back to the audience up on a high podium preaching. The set is closed off in an oval shape save for the opening through which we see King speak. Gandhi (played beautifully by Richard Croft) is downstage and has just lost all of his supporters and friends and is alone. He turns toward King and the stage opens up around the podium revealing a cloudy sky, giving off the sense that King is preaching to the infinity. At this moment Gandhi walks over to the podium and puts his hand over it, like King his back to the audience. The music changes its direction at this moment and begins a sequence of ascending repetitions. It is a magical moment and one that really brought across that feeling of human transcendence and unity that the opera hopes to send.  Moments later, after singing a gorgeous pleading ascending line time and time again, Gandhi turns around and comes face to face with King: the acknowledgement of that human transcendence, and absolutely cathartic moment.

For its ability to combine and stimulate human imagination, reason, and emotion this production represents one of the great milestones in Gelb's tenure as Met Manager. I am truly grateful of his desire to expand the repertoire and introduce modern works in ways that can stimulate all audiences. This Satyagraha certainly represents his best example to date. Here's hoping he keeps them coming.

I would like to reiterate that these are my opinions and impressions. I would love to hear other people's own lists and any comments whether they agree or disagree with me.

Madama Butterfly Opens Tonight

Anthony Minghella's astounding production opens tonight starring Lipang Zhang under the direction of the great Placido Domingo.

For more information here is a link to my preview:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Met Opera Review: McAnuff blows up "Faust"

By David Salazar (For the 12.3.2011 Performance)

Saturday night's performance of Charles Gounod's "Faust" proved a peculiar evening for numerous reasons. Usually a night at the opera is punctuated by what is going onstage and how it seems to affect the audience. However, this time it was the other way around. For those wondering, there were no boos (though I am sure some would have loved to have done that had Des McAnuff and crew shown up for curtain calls). No, the uneasy moment that reverberated throughout the night was an unknown man's battle cry of "Occupy Wall Street" that rang throughout the hall moments before the start of Act 3. The result was a mix of boos and cheers that lasted for almost 2 minutes. Safe to say this ovation/jeering lasted longer than any ovation for any of the performers for the rest of the night. From my perspective, this moment (whether it actually had any affect on the singers or was just a coincidence) emphasized a great restlessness that permeated the evening.

Politics may very well have been the presiding theme of the evening (though not modern US politics). The production represents one of Peter Gelb's latest attempts to establish his artistic voice and standing in the world of opera. He has long stated the need to evolve the art form and bring in "real " directors to get rid of the pageantry that has long "bogged down the art form (take that for what you will)." The Met needs to compete with the rest of the art forms in New York and in the US, so it is natural that from a political standpoint, "Change that We Can Believe In" has been HIS Battlecry for the 5 years of his tenure. So this "Change" sees its latest ramification in McAnuff's political (to some degree considering its inclusion of World War 1 & 2 and the atomic bomb) "Faust."