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Thread: Our own reviews of operas we've attended

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    *The actual cave where Odysseus was held captive by Calypso is on this island. I've been there, and I think they may be wrong about it, but kudos to the marketing genius who thought of the idea.
    Odysseus is completely my favourite character from ancient literature. I'd visit the cave, for sure. I spent a few summer holidays in Ithaca too, enjoying the sky and wine-dark sea.
    Natalie

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  3. #17
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Otello
    Astra Opera Theatre
    Gozo, Malta
    24th October 2013

    Two weeks ago I was at the Aurora Theatre, this time I'm at the Astra Theatre on the same street, hosted by La Stella Philharmonic Society. Very warm, but not sweltering hot as last time. Dress code once again is gala although a minority are rather more casual. I settle for jacket and open neck shirt. (I reserve ties for funerals, and the highly improbable events of getting married in a church or meeting the queen).

    In common with the Aurora, The Astra Theatre is a sprawling building (see photo) complete with snooker tables in the lobby. Clearly the design of the building doesn't have much backstage area as the various costumed chorus and spear holders are is a glass fronted holding area easily visible and accessible from the lobby. These are local people, members of the La Stella Philharmonic Society.

    The theatre dates from 1968 and holds at a rough count 1200, with a large stalls area and a 9 row balcony. A few slip boxes complete the seating.

    If you read my previous review you'll detect a theme to what comes next. In fact you can probably guess what I'm about to say. I start the evening in the balcony. The acoustics are clearly very good to judge by the tuning and warm up from the pit. Resonant with good volume, woody and a little dry. The orchestra strikes up 10 minutes late and many people are still not in their seats with light down. Our row had to stand up to let a latecomer take his seat during 'Esultate', which was rather irritating. It pains me to say...THIS WAS THE WORST AUDIENCE I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN 30 YEARS AND MORE THAN 500 VISITS TO OPERAS! Latecomers, mobile phones texting, videoing, constant talking. During Iago's Credo a guy comes back in distributing crisp packets (potato chips) to people in various rows. Then a mobile phone is dropped and clattered all the way down the wooden steps of the balcony seating. The singers would have loved that one!

    Needless to say I switched to a stalls seat after the interval and sat next to two charming ladies who sympathised with my balcony hell having endured the same the previous year. Acts 3 and 4 were therefore much more enjoyable and I was able to concentrate on the performances... except when the neighbour lady's phone rang, loudly and for some considerable time as she fumbled to retrieve it from her handbag!

    And so to the production and performances. The staging, considering it was done locally, mainly by volunteers, was very good indeed. As well as large constructions for the ship and castle walls they made excellent use of moving projections onto translucent scrims. I'd guess the designer was inspired the effects in Life of Pi. You could want for no more if you saw this staging in any provincial house.

    Desdemona was performed by the experienced homegrown diva Miriam Cauchi and a fine job she did. Another Maltese talent was Cliff Zammit Stevens as Cassio, recently touted by Opera Magazine as showing exceptional promise, I'd be more than happy to see him take on some lead tenor roles. The hired guns from oversees were Badri Maisuradze and Alessandro Pagliaga as Otello and Iago respectively. Neither impressed me. Otello's tone was a dark as his complexion was light, and his acting seems to indicate that he had a previous career as a doorman - standing still, legs apart, arms folded and a facial expression that said 'you're not coming in'. He even used this signature pose in the Act 4 bedroom scene. Iago's voice was generally too light and crumbly for me, but he was clearly comfortable in the role, and in Iago's de-rigeur leather trousers. Is it compulsory that Iagos must always be clad in black leather trousers and boots these days?

    The stage direction and movement was often lacking, notably in the final scene where the remaining characters enter the bedroom, except that they were just getting to their marks on stage with no regard to the actual scene.

    Ballet music: Yes, played, mainly with images on the front scrim until the last segment when dancers did their thing. Like many of Verdi's ballet pieces, the music isn't bad at all, I just wish it would be confined to separate programs instead of breaking the flow of the opera.

    And so, at around 11:30, the opera ends. They work all year on this production, so what's the point of hurrying the evening?Thankfully there are some nice bars nearby open late and I had a swell time drinking and chatting to various people involved in the production and got back to my hotel many hours later. (I have a rather sore head right now, time now for hair of the dog I think.)

    Despite my gripes, I thoroughly enjoyed my two-part operatic odyssey to Gozo, and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for an October adventure next year.

    Tickets: €50-€70. Recommend you go for mid stalls. You can reserve by phone.

    Questions for Otello fans:
    Ballet music, yes or no?
    Blacked up Otello and blonde Desdemona, yes or no? (Neither here)
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Oct-25-2013 at 17:36. Reason: typos, omissions, revisions

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    And here's the photos. You'd barely guess from the rooftops (taken from the Citadel ramparts) that there was such a pretty theatre below.

    Astra_from_top.jpgAstra_front.jpgAstra_inside.jpg
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Oct-25-2013 at 17:30.

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    Senior Member deggial's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    Latecomers, mobile phones texting, videoing, constant talking. During Iago's Credo a guy comes back in distributing crisp packets (potato chips) to people in various rows.
    sounds like they were going for the theatre atmosphere from the time Otello was written

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    Senior Member Cavaradossi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    And next Thursday I have the second part of my operatic odyssey* when the Philharmonic Society on the other side of the street are performing Otello.

    I've often mused that there should be a Verdi equivalent of the ring cycle consisting of his later works i.e. Aida, Requiem, Otello and Falstaff. If a city ever did these in a week, I would surely pay a visit!
    Great reviews! Thanks for putting this on the radar. I'm a big fan of opera in exotic locales.

    We were treated to MacBeth, Otello, and the Requiem here in Chicago for the bicentennial week, but it might be another 200 years before that happens again.

  8. #21
    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    Questions for Otello fans:
    Ballet music, yes or no?
    Ballet music optional.

    Blacked up Otello and blonde Desdemona, yes or no? (Neither here)
    Browned up a bit (he's a Moor, not a Masai). Desdemona just must be a contrast. Main thing is that Otello should look different, a bit of an outsider.
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Oct-25-2013 at 19:28.
    Natalie

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  10. #22
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Thanks for the kind comments about my travel/opera reviews. I'm surprised there aren't more reviews on this thread.

    I'd love to read more reviews/experiences, particularly with any background to the buildings, cultures, getting tickets etc.

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    Thanks for the kind comments about my travel/opera reviews. I'm surprised there aren't more reviews on this thread.

    I'd love to read more reviews/experiences, particularly with any background to the buildings, cultures, getting tickets etc.
    I'm seeing Wozzeck at ROH on Thursday & will post a review.
    Ann

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    Member Rackon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavaradossi View Post
    Great reviews! Thanks for putting this on the radar. I'm a big fan of opera in exotic locales.

    We were treated to MacBeth, Otello, and the Requiem here in Chicago for the bicentennial week, but it might be another 200 years before that happens again.
    And thanks to the internet and WFMT, many outside Chicago were able to share in some of these Verdian riches from the Windy City.

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    Senior Member Cavaradossi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    Thanks for the kind comments about my travel/opera reviews. I'm surprised there aren't more reviews on this thread.

    I'd love to read more reviews/experiences, particularly with any background to the buildings, cultures, getting tickets etc.
    Alexander, you'll probably enjoy this thread from last year:
    Opera trips

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  17. #26
    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    And next Thursday I have the second part of my operatic odyssey* when the Philharmonic Society on the other side of the street are performing Otello.
    .
    Someone has posted this on YouTube

    Natalie

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Yep that's the very one. Thanks for finding it!

    I saw they had a few cameras there but assumed it was just for their archive. Didn't think they'd put it on the net. I'll enjoy revisiting the whole thing online when I get a chance.
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Nov-06-2013 at 22:29.

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  20. #28
    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexander View Post
    Yep that's the very one. Thanks for finding it!

    I saw they had a few cameras there but assumed it was just for their archive. Didn't think they'd put it on the net. I'll enjoy revisiting the whole thing online when I get a chance.
    It looks like it was filmed from the audience.
    Natalie

  21. #29
    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    I'm seeing Wozzeck at ROH on Thursday & will post a review.
    So while I'm writing, you are listening ! Very interested in your review. I just watched this introduction



    and



    Interesting stuff. Mark Elder is fantastic. I could listen to him for hours.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Ariadne auf Naxos at Virginia Opera

    I saw my first ARIADNE today without having prepared for it sufficiently, as the Giuseppe Sinopoli recording I bought didn't come with a libretto. The fact that the Prologue was sung in English made it more "relatable" for me and, I think, for the rest of the audience as well. The Prologue had a modern setting, but this didn't really bother me as at least the direction clarified rather than obscured the action. The voices were all good Strauss voices, Stephanie Lauricella (the Composer) and Christina Pier (Ariadne) being the standouts. Ric Furman as Bacchus sometimes sounded awkard, but then I don't think Strauss wrote very gracefully for the tenor voice anyway, and this seems like a particularly thankless role. As for the opera itself, I can see why it's not a hugely popular crowd-pleaser but rather more of a "connisseur's opera"; it's pretty intellectual and the characters in ARIADNE (as opposed to the Prologue) are not meant to seem "real." I love the music the Composer sings; for me Strauss was one of the greatest melodists of all time. One criticism I would make is that the Bacchus/Ariadne duet seems to go on forever and could probably have been abridged.

    Does anyone know where I can find a libretto for this opera online?

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