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OperaNow! #237: Boo or Boo-urns?

ENO Chief steps down...Opera booed for rape scene...San Diego ends season in the black...Katharine Jenkins to perform "full" Carmen...Police on the lookout for opera hold-up man.

In Oliver's Corner: Rinaldo, part 3 -the perfect hero for our time. Part man, woman, and child.

Guess Who Died?'

This week features Michael, The OC, and Mike Mayes.

Reader Comments (9)

Much as I criticise ENO, I'll be sad to see John Berry go. The productions there were often great, it's just that they struggle to fill such a big house. I'm sad Edward Gardiner is going as well, although he will no doubt move on to other things. To answer Oliver's question - no they don't have tweet seats, but they do have "Access All Arias" (geddit?) which is a good scheme to get cheap tickets for younger people.

As for the William Tell thing... hmm. I was at the ROH a couple of days before this happened (to see a Birtwistle double-bill, but that's unrelated...) and then man behind me, who really loved William Tell and had seen it all over Europe in different versions, was talking effusively about how good and intelligent he thought the production was, after seeing it in rehearsal. He made absolutely no mention of the rape scene, so I was very surprised when I heard about it later in the week - it actually made quite a lot of headlines here in the UK, to the extent that I wondered if it was a really cynical PR stunt. I believe the scene has been toned down since the first night. However, I attended a contemporary opera at the ROH last year which had quite a lot of sexual violence in it, and there were plenty of warnings given beforehand, so I'm baffled as to why that didn't happen this time, especially now that "trigger warnings" are much more widely used and discussed. I disagree with the idea that you can't do something with the staging just because "it isn't in the music". Rather, I would say that it is precisely because the brutality is NOT represented in the music that it needs to be shown in the staging. As Mike pointed out, this isn't a new idea - think of the "Singin' in the Rain" scene from A Clockwork Orange for example. However, I think there are certainly more obvious operas that you could use to talk about war and propaganda - Aida, for example.

My Welsh pronunciation is not great, but I think LLangollen Eisteddfod is pronounced Hlan-goh-hlen Eye-sted-fod. And an Eisteddfod is a festival, not a place. But you knew that... just like you knew that Bryn Terfel isn't Scottish...

(P.S. I don't like Jon Vickers. Sorry.)

July 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMenuet alla Zoppa

Could Oliver post the list of arias played during his Oliver's corner. Some where so impressive, especially the last two. Thanks a lot
Keep the good work, your podcast is excellent!

July 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLouis

Nathalie Stutzmann
Cara sposa (studio recording - Hanover Band, Roy Goodman, dir.)

Philippe Jaroussky
Cara sposa (Live - Ensemble Matheus, Jean-Cristophe Spinosi, dir.)

Sonia Prina
Venti turbini (Live - Orch of the Age of Enlightenment, Ottavio Dante, dir.)

Philippe Jaroussky
Venti turbini (Live- Spinosi, dir.)

Franco Fagioli
Or la tromba (Live Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colón -Martin Haselboeck, dir.)

July 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterThe OC

More Mayes and his f-bomb passion, please. "That's all we fucking do is warn people ahead of time!"

July 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Great to hear Mike Mayes back on the podcast - is that him glowering out at us in all those Wreckers ads that seem to be on every webpage I visit these days? He looks like Ethan in Penny Dreadful (greatest series ever!!!)
Don't want to just agree with you guys, but I think you hit the nail on the head about the protests and booing at Covent Garden. Didn't see the production, so hard to comment, but from what I've read I think people were uncomfortable because of the issue the rape scene raised. The horrors of war; a by-product of war [as Mike mentioned] that is not discussed enough perhaps. This idea of showing the point of view of the victims of war raised similar ire in the COC's last production of Aida by Tim Albery a few years back. Instead of a glorious parade of the spoils of war in the so-called "Triumphal Scene" what we got instead was Aida's flashback to the Egyptians conquering her nation and the ballet became a macabre dance of death. It was the most effective staging of this opera I'd ever encountered but much of the audience hated it. It's still the poster child for most-hated production here in Toronto. We're getting there, but many in the opera audience [and I include younger members of that group - they can be just as theatrically conservative] simply want to be reassured; to encounter beautiful music; sentiment; cry a little maybe. Many don't want to be confronted with a challenge when they attend opera - especially in the "bigger" houses.
Loving the OC's traversal of Rinaldo - might be my favourite baroque opera.
BTW - what ever happened to Doug Dodson???

August 1, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergianmarco

oops - just noticed Doug is back on the latest podcast - YAY!

August 1, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergianmarco

The interruptions of each other, especially of Oliver, were particularly annoying in this episode.

August 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Wells

@larry they can't all be winners

August 11, 2015 | Registered CommenterMichael Rice

Olivers Corner:

I learned something in a completely different vein from Oliver's Corner this week... I experienced exactly what Oliver suggested some people might experience with the effect of Nathalie Stutzmann's voice.. Her voice hit my ears with a piercing effect that was jarring... almost painful. Yikes. Me not likey. My brain experienced her singing like a sharp shrill that sent me scurrying out of the room for a minute. Aaaaaagghhh! I have to admit that the rest of the clips that were played from Act III had a somewhat similar effect. I don't think I'll be running out to see/hear Rinaldo anytime soon.

Depiction of Rape on Stage:

Artistically, it's always appropriate to depict a rape scene if it helps carry the story -- which is essentially the director's call. But of course we all know that there's a difference between an effective depiction and a gratuitious depiction. And, based on the readings of William Tell that I've read (at least two or three over the years), I don't recall there ever being any refernce to a rape in the literal sense. So, if the rape was a device used to perhaps represent foreign invasion (war). In my opinion, especially since such a scene/device is not represented in either the score or the libretto, the inclusion of a rape scene as a metaphor for invasion/war is a bit of a stretch. The fact that the rape scene was graphically depicted including on stage nudity...I've gotta say, that seems pretty darn gratuitious to me. The depiction served no purpose to carry the actual story and had no relevance to the score/libretto...I think that makes it gratuitoius. The nudity was absolutely gratuitious, plain and simple.

All of that said, where the conversation really went wrong is that it was two heterosexual and one gay man talking about the depitcion of a rape scene in a production they did not see based on a very weakly written article. None of you could actually talk to the situation credibly since you hadnt't seen it yourselves, and given that you know there's no rape in the score/libretto, someone should have quickly commented that you didn't have enough information to effectively comment on it and moved on. Where it got ugly was when the discussion turned to banter and failed humor.. about rape... never funny. Anytime the topic comes up and only men are in the room, it's not going to go well. Again, my comments are a year late and not meant as a scolding but offered as a learning experience for future podcast hosts, directors, and readers of these comments.

And Michael Mays, you were an F-bomb machine tonight...what up? But I'm with you, love bluegrass!! :)

August 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss

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