Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Report on the Opera

It was an interesting experience to say the least. Picking out the seat when I bought my ticket online from my hotel, I did not realise how the seating was arranged. How extremely raked were the rows. I was up in the nosebleed section, just two rows from the very top. Here is a shot from there:

By curtain time, the house was 95% full. Moses und Aron was sung in German, with sur-titles in Spanish and English, so easy to follow. But the work itself is recondite. A good deal of the text is about how God is indefinable, inexpressible and unknowable. There are long instrumental sections that provided the producer the opportunity to do some interesting choreography and imagery. Yes, a 1500 kilo bull, sedated, was led on stage and appeared with a naked woman. A great deal of black ink was poured on the stage and various actors. Most amazing, a whole section of the stage was taken up, revealing what looked exactly like a lap pool in which characters would enter, dressed in white, at one end, then descend beneath the water (yes, real water) and emerge at the other end all in black.

Here is another photo from the production:

The Guardian has an interesting review with this summary of the first act:
Castellucci staged the first act almost entirely on an all-white stage, fronted by a translucent white screen: Moses and Aron materialised in an infinity of nothingness, recalling the detail-obliterating environments of the artist Doug Wheeler. The chorus of Israelites, whose male and female members concealed themselves under white lace veils, appeared through the scrim as a formless, throbbing singularity that enveloped the two prophets like a cloud. Moses’s staff takes the form of a white, gleaming, hi-tech spinning and levitating machine straight out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The newly dawning world of monotheism, governed by what Moses calls “a God unique, eternal, omnipresent, invisible, unrepresentable,” is for Castellucci an unforgiving place...
Yes, that was magically done. The use of the scrim to turn all the stage action into ghostly images was brilliant, though one reviewer referred to it as seeing everything though milk of magnesia. Oh, and instead of stone tablets, the word of God seems to come down to Moses in the form of long lengths of magnetic tape, spooling off a floating reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Here is another photo from the production:

At the end I had only the foggiest idea of the general outlines of the story and even less idea of the significance of the imagery in the production. But it was fascinating nonetheless. A very modern and professional production of what must be an extremely difficult work. The chorus has an immensely difficult part to sing and they seemed to do it very well. Some of the individual singing showed a bit of strain, but pretty well done--these are very difficult parts.

Yes, it is a 12-tone work, but the music throughout is given a lot of distinctive character of the surreal Viennese variety.

The audience seemed to regard the production as an entire success as the applause was long and loud and there were no boos that I could hear. Mind you, a fellow seated to my left just walked out after the first act.

Now I am going to have to study the score a bit and see if I can figure out just what they were trying to get across with this production.

The Teatro Real is a gorgeous building, by the way. Here is a shot of the lobby:


Marc Puckett said...

Presuming that the nose-bleed has stopped, it sounds to have been a wonderful spectacle!

Bryan Townsend said...

Oh yes, quite interesting. And someday I hope to figure out what it was all about.