Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Opera and orchestra scheduling blues

[NOTE: Items with an * are YouTube clips that have the sound start when you click the link]

For at least the last ten years, starting in February I start scouring opera company and orchestras' websites for news about their upcoming seasons. Once I get the information, I enter whatever seems vaguely interesting in to an Excel spreadsheet. Around June, when the last stragglers have announced their seasons (for some reason, the Staatsoper Stuttgart is always the last major company to announce their upcoming season), I see if there's enough interesting stuff in a 7-10 day period to justify the expense and hassle of a trip to Europe.

The last two seasons of doing this has been really depressing. If it weren't for the Deutsche Oper Berlin doing a string of rarities, I don't think I would have gone to Europe in early March. Yes, the chance to tick another Schreker opera off my list of ones I've seen, Irrelohe, was also a big factor, but the bastards at Oper Bonn canceled it a few days before I was supposed to hop on a train from Berlin to see it and replaced it with Turandot. It's clear that economic woes both in the United States and Europe have caused arts organizations to retreat to the safe and easy options, i.e. 8,000 La Boheme's a season. Since I have zero interest in baroque or bel canto operas and for most orchestral music before Beethoven, it's tough out there for someone who's dying to experience another production of Lear* or Die Soldaten* or to finally see a production of The Mask of Orpheus, The Second Mrs. Kong and the remaining five Schreker operas (I'm not counting the revision of Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin) on my Schreker to-do list.

Case in point: the aforementioned DO Berlin. They're usually good for at least three or four interesting pieces a year; my favorite recording of my favorite opera, Die Tote Stadt*, is a pirate recording from the DOB with Stephen Gould as an excellent Paul and Christian Thielemann conducting the hell out of Korngold's glorious score. I got the 2011-12 DOB schedule on Monday and I almost fell off my chair at work at how bad it is.

Of the seven new productions, five are of 19th century Italian operas (three by Verdi) and three of those will be in concert form. Janacek's Jenufa and Wagner's Tannhauser round out the new productions. Wow, one whole opera written in the 20th century, the Jenufa, and barely at that (it was complete in 1902, first staged in 1904). A double-bill of Felix Weingartner's Die Dorfschule (1920) and Carl Orff's Gisei, which was completed in 1912 when Orff was 17 and only premiered in early 2010, is listed as "Weitere Höhepunkte" (other highlights), whatever that means, along with a concert production of Candide. The real shock is that of the 21 revivals, SEVEN will be by Verdi, for a total of 10 Verdi pieces in a season of 30 operas. This is insane, full stop, it's not even the Verdi bicentennial, that's still two seasons away in 2013!

I'm actually starting to dread the 2013-14 opera season, as it will be the season that the Verdi and Wagner bicentennial's will be celebrated. Since the Verdi operas I enjoy can be counted on three fingers and the Wagner operas that I still listen to on two and 1/3, it's a depressing thought for someone whose tastes are far outside the mainstream to begin with to contemplate. Yes, 2013 is also the Benjamin Britten centenary, but I'm certain that people will do the overplayed Peter Grimes and the chamber opera The Turn of the Screw and consider their duty done. I'm hoping against hope that the incredible Deborah Warner Death in Venice that I saw at ENO gets revived and that Gloriana is done somewhere.

Oh well. At least Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic will be doing the incredible Gruppen and the fab Rituel in Memoriam Bruno Maderna at the awesome Park Avenue Armory in June of 2012, though what on earth he wa$ thinking by $cheduling the Mozart in that cavernou$ $pace is a my$tery. In addition to that must-attend event, I'll finally get a chance to go to a production of Saariaho's incredible L'amour de Loin, at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. Mmmmm......Canadian guys........mmmmmm.


Perry said...

I saw Alan Gilbert and the NY Philharmonic in June. It was spectacular.

David Herter said...

Hello. I was looking for your email address and couldn't find it. Perhaps this will get to you.

I'd found your comments on another page re: Birtwistle's opera THE SECOND MRS. KONG. I've long tried to find a bootleg copy, and you mentioned you had one. Perhaps I could trade you some books/music for it?

I actually interviewed Russell Hoban back in 2000 regarding opera librettists, and he sent me the actual libretto. I'm also a huge Philip Langridge fan. So, the opera has been in my sights.


David Herter