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Thread: Difficult Scenes

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    Senior Member guythegreg's Avatar
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    Default Difficult Scenes

    Someone mentioned recently that the scene in Don Giovanni in which the Commendatore drags our hero off to hell is a very difficult one to stage. I was wondering: who here has seen that done well? And what scene do you think is the hardest, of the operas you've seen of course, to stage?

    It's always gratifying to see a difficult scene done well. The spear trick from Parsifal, for example - I think my favorite staging had a kind of strobe go off when the spear was thrown, and just blink - blink the spear was in our hero's hands. It was pretty effective.

    The disappearance of Olympia while she's dancing with Hoffmann seems to present problems for directors too. In the Met's version the stage fills up with alternate Olympias, which I think is kind of neat. In the San Francisco version she comes on stage on rollerblades and escapes him into a crowd.

    In Les Troyens I remember being kind of disappointed when the pyre at the end started smoking, and then the sun burst into flames. That seemed kind of weak. I didn't complain at the time - I was too blown away by the production as a whole - but in retrospect, it was a difficult moment to stage. Not that I really want to see Dido burn, of course, but it would be nice to have an awesome spectacle to recall! In my favorite - well, one of my favorite - Don Carlos, the one with Karita Mattila, when the impenitents go up in flames ash begins to drift down from the sky. I thought that was very effective.

    Well? What have you seen in the way of difficult moments done well, or not so well?

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    Quote Originally Posted by guythegreg View Post
    Someone mentioned recently that the scene in Don Giovanni in which the Commendatore drags our hero off to hell is a very difficult one to stage. I was wondering: who here has seen that done well? And what scene do you think is the hardest, of the operas you've seen of course, to stage?

    It's always gratifying to see a difficult scene done well. The spear trick from Parsifal, for example - I think my favorite staging had a kind of strobe go off when the spear was thrown, and just blink - blink the spear was in our hero's hands. It was pretty effective.

    The disappearance of Olympia while she's dancing with Hoffmann seems to present problems for directors too. In the Met's version the stage fills up with alternate Olympias, which I think is kind of neat. In the San Francisco version she comes on stage on rollerblades and escapes him into a crowd.

    In Les Troyens I remember being kind of disappointed when the pyre at the end started smoking, and then the sun burst into flames. That seemed kind of weak. I didn't complain at the time - I was too blown away by the production as a whole - but in retrospect, it was a difficult moment to stage. Not that I really want to see Dido burn, of course, but it would be nice to have an awesome spectacle to recall! In my favorite - well, one of my favorite - Don Carlos, the one with Karita Mattila, when the impenitents go up in flames ash begins to drift down from the sky. I thought that was very effective.

    Well? What have you seen in the way of difficult moments done well, or not so well?
    "Dance of the Seven Veils" in Salome. To my knowledge, only Karita Mattila has had the "artistic integrity" to do this scene as it was truly meant to be.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    The arrival of the horse in Les Troyens is hard to stage - but the ROH production did a great job with a huge menacing horse's head made of military components - guns and cannons and so on. It was terrifying, and when the nostrils belched fire I almost fell off my chair.

    But the hardest thing to stage is the dragon in Siegfried. Still to see one that is truly terrifying. I think the only way it would work is in a film directed by Peter Jackson.
    Natalie

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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    "Dance of the Seven Veils" in Salome. To my knowledge, only Karita Mattila has had the "artistic integrity" to do this scene as it was truly meant to be.
    I thought Maria Ewing and Catherine Malfitano also did quite a bit of stripping, at least above the waist in some productions.
    There was a picure of Ewing in Salome that really bared all but I think she may wore a body suit rather than being truely naked also.

    The most difficult to stage, I think the end of Catalani's La Wally where an avalanche came down and took the tenor away!
    Not sure what Catalani had in mind as to how to stage that.

    For Don Giovanni, I always like the Commanditore's scene as done in Salzburg's production with Karajan, Ramey, Furlanetto, Tomowa-Sintow, Varady, Battle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    "Dance of the Seven Veils" in Salome. To my knowledge, only Karita Mattila has had the "artistic integrity" to do this scene as it was truly meant to be.
    that's funny ... not QUITE the kind of difficulty I had in mind, but I suppose it can be hard to convince an actress to take off her clothes - harder with some than with others, I imagine!

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    Quote Originally Posted by guythegreg View Post
    that's funny ... not QUITE the kind of difficulty I had in mind, but I suppose it can be hard to convince an actress to take off her clothes - harder with some than with others, I imagine!
    Why not? Difficulty is difficulty!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    The arrival of the horse in Les Troyens is hard to stage - but the ROH production did a great job with a huge menacing horse's head made of military components - guns and cannons and so on. It was terrifying, and when the nostrils belched fire I almost fell off my chair.

    But the hardest thing to stage is the dragon in Siegfried. Still to see one that is truly terrifying. I think the only way it would work is in a film directed by Peter Jackson.
    I can imagine. I've never seen Siegfried, but isn't there a horrible monster in Das Rheingold? I remember thinking the Met's version seemed pretty tame. Looked rather like a deupholstered couch, in two pieces, one on the left and one on the right (we were supposed to imagine a kind of wraparound dragon, I think). It didn't work. Be pretty neat if you could get it to pop out at the audience like a jack in the box - add some effectiveness if you could do that, I imagine ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by suteetat View Post
    I thought Maria Ewing and Catherine Malfitano also did quite a bit of stripping, at least above the waist in some productions.
    There was a picure of Ewing in Salome that really bared all but I think she may wore a body suit rather than being truely naked also.

    The most difficult to stage, I think the end of Catalani's La Wally where an avalanche came down and took the tenor away!
    Not sure what Catalani had in mind as to how to stage that.

    For Don Giovanni, I always like the Commanditore's scene as done in Salzburg's production with Karajan, Ramey, Furlanetto, Tomowa-Sintow, Varady, Battle.
    And how did it go in that scene? (I haven't seen it.) Did they have six or seven imps in black jump out and carry the poor guy off stage?

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    Quote Originally Posted by guythegreg View Post
    And how did it go in that scene? (I haven't seen it.) Did they have six or seven imps in black jump out and carry the poor guy off stage?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8adtCIfnXMI

    Here it is.

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    Because there are so much of difficult scenes in operas, let's just make movies out of them! Especially the Ring I would LOVE to see as a movie version. But please don't remind me of the budget!

    The ride of the valkyries is actually very difficult to stage, if we think what it should be: eight armored women flying with horses. Sorry, what??? That would be possible only in a goood movie. So that's why directors always ease it as they're own vision of the second possibility.

    Das ist kein Mann!

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    Finding the right director for the Ring would be difficult. The sort of Peter Jackson figure who would make a good go of things like the Ride of the Valkyrie and the assorted dragons and toads, would find the more introspective sections - when characters are mulling over past events - difficult to cope with.
    Natalie

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    I think the final scene from Götterdammerung is very difficult to execute on stage. Also when Albreich is transformed into a frog.

    The problem is that these composers were really ahead of their time. These scenes (as well in Don Giovanni) have som much action that they should be in film rather than on stage.

    Also opera singers aren't the best actors. Few of them had excellent acting skills (Peter Hoffmann and Callas come up to my mind). The music have it all... even when staging/acting fails. That's why i prefer CDs rather than DVDs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dionisio View Post
    The music have it all... even when staging/acting fails.
    I'd like to politely take exception to this. Opera was invented at the turn of the 16th century because the music does not "have it all"

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    Best Don G/Commandore final for me is this (final scence of Don G in hell not on youtube is priceless)




    Many scences in the Ring are vast and technically difficult, a perfect place for use of creative projected images as demonstrated to great effect in Valencia Ring (if only silly spaceman costumes could be removed)


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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    ...if only silly spaceman costumes could be removed...
    Question of trivia, but speaking of removing clothing/costumes, have there ever been any completely au naturel opera performances in history? I don't remember any, but that doesn't mean there were none--for example in Europe in the 60's, etc.

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