We just finished watching a recorded LIVE performance of Il Trovatore by G. Verdi on medici.tv this morning. Performance was at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg Austria.
Leads were Placido Domingo and Anna Nebtrebko, current superstars in the opera world. Interested readers can look up the other credits on the Web. It had an astounding and beautiful set design, dramatic conception, costumes, orchestra and chorus. Of course, all Verdi operas demand the orchestra and chorus.
Opera in Europe had gone seriously downhill in recent years, with regietheatre style performances. That means the director takes liberties with every aspect of an opera – changing everything but the music and singing. Some performances in this style deepened your understanding and appreciation for the work. Others just were disgusting and stupid.
But the Salzburg performance was different. It was set in an art museum in the Renaissance section. There we saw replicas of paintings by Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci among others.
As the opera progressed, the walls of the museum moved, showing different paintings relating to the opera – Madonna and child, musicians, etc. The predominant colors were astounding Renaissance Reds. Museum guides and guards wore blue. Tourists, in mufti, wore beige and gray.
Later regietheatre productions seemed to be a competition between directors to see who could obtain the most boos from the audience. The opera companies in Europe are all are subsidized by their governments, including the Salzburg Festival, so they didn’t have to worry about angry, disengaged audiences. Those directors would have been proud to have played to empty houses – thus proving how lowbrow, ignorant, uncultured their populations were, as opposed to their own good and sophisticated selves.
Then, the Recession hit. Yay! Someone must have spoken sharply to the festival managers. Yes, they are still presenting biting satirical plays and depressing musicals, but they must be learning their lesson. Their operas are all sold out, as you will see if you surf around on the festival website.
IFO was going to post a New York Times review for your added enjoyment, but the reviewer totally misunderstood the production. His sneering review may be typical of the NYT, but is a true disservice to the performance, the performers and the festival itself. He is a total ignoramus, plus he apparently didn’t read the libretto before he started to write. Big mistake.
If you watch the production, which will be available on medici.tv for the next couple weeks, IFO promises you will never look at an art museum or its staff the same way again.
Final note: Mozart was born in Salzburg. Perhaps his benign, cheerful and calming influence has returned.