Tagged: Opera 101

Opera 101: The Pie-Eating Contest

I just returned from the COC’s free Opera 101 event (for Der fliegende Holländer) at the Drake Hotel. There was a very interesting discussion on “interpretive/modern” productions of operas, whether opera is relevant in today’s world or whether it is a museum piece, and how to manage the unpleasant associations that are unfortunately part of Wagner’s legacy. Christopher Alden, the director of the upcoming Holländer, explained how in this (admittedly 14 year old) production he conceived of Senta as someone who, while part of the dominant social order, is obsessed with the plight of the other, the outsider, the oppressed. This seems to me to be a more interesting take than seeing her as someone wishing to be carried away by a sexy fairy-tale pirate, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this is expressed on stage. I’m also pretty sure I agree with Alden when he says that opera, while relevant, is an art form of the past (and I think that the sooner we admit this, the better).

He also related an anecdote about a production of Aida he directed in Berlin, roundly booed by the audience, wherein the triumphal procession was replaced by a pie-eating contest. It was part of his conception of Aida as being about religious fundamentalism; conductor Johannes Debus (also the COC’s music director) suggested that perhaps it would have gone over better with the Germans if it had featured curry sausages instead of pie.

I’m also quite delighted that Alden directed the audience to a youtube video of the production’s Dutchman, an extensively tattooed former Navy man named Evgeny Nikitin (Video here – embedding is disabled on this one). Be warned that it’s all in Russian. Even if you’re not Russian, the audio and visuals are worth it.

COC’s Opera 101: No Sexy Tenors

Attendees of Tuesday’s Opera 101 event at the Drake Hotel were deprived the sight of Clifton Forbis, slated to sing Otello. Since the concertmaster, Marie Bérard, had made particular note of his attractiveness (the women in the orchestra were definitely paying attention to him, she said) it was a bit of a disappointment not to be able to judge.

Fortunately, we have the internet to help us confirm/deny his sexiness:

Clifton Forbis
Clifton Forbis, slated to play Otello at the COC

Alexander Neef was able to step in to keep the discussion going (look, he has a blog!). There were oblique hints that next season may feature I Puritani.

Although the Opera 101 events are supposedly geared to neophytes, it felt and sounded more like an evening for the fans. The Q&A revealed plenty of opera buffs in the audience. To be honest, I’m not sure what a true “beginners evening” would be like. An explanation of the plot, perhaps, with reassurance about the surtitles? Perhaps a discussion about how Verdi’s music is different from that of other popular opera composers, or why the role of Otello is uniquely demanding.