THE BARBER OF SEVILLE & DAS RHEINGOLD

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MARCH 10, 2018

LOTS OF LAUGHS, GOOD ATTENDANCE

Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a performance of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. It was a good performance of Rossini’s arguably most popular comic opera.

That was evident by the crowd. It was one of the best-attended opera performance we have ever seen in Phoenix.  And as Elizabeth noted, there were many younger people in the audience.  It was good to see that. And they laughed heartily throughout the show.

Here’s our “official” red carpet photo (left), along with one take with my camera (right).

Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia (overture) – Sommernachtsgala Grafenegg 2012

As for the music, well, with exception of the famous overture, much of the rest was actually quite forgettable. Characters talked in lilting voices which were supposed sound like singing.  To me, that was the most comical part.

As Elizabeth put it after the show, “this opera in a class of its own.”

She may not have been aware of it, but indeed, the Rossini’s Barber has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comic opera – the opera buffa in Italian. Even after two hundred years, it remains a popular work.

But don’t take my word for it, if you’ve got 2 1/2 hours, here’s now a full performance of The Barber of Seville in 1999 at the famous La Scala in Milan.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia – Teatro alla Scala 1999

BACKGROUND

Rossini’s arguably most popular opera, The Barber of Seville, premiered in Rome in 1816. It was a flop, a disaster. The audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. The second performance, however, was a success. From then on, Rossini and his Il Barbiero never looked back.

Rossini’s opera recounts the events of the first of the three plays by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais that revolve around the clever and enterprising character named Figaro, the barber of the title. Mozart‘s opera The Marriage of Figaro, composed 30 years earlier in 1786, is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy.

The first Beaumarchais play was originally conceived as an opéra comique, but was rejected as such by the Comédie-Italienne. The play as it is now known was premiered in 1775 by the Comédie-Française at the Théâtre des Tuileries in Paris.

And now, here are some photos of Elizabeth and me at last night’s performance.


UPDATE APRIL 7. 2018

DAS RHEINGOLD

Elizabeth and I attended the Arizona Opera’s performance of the first of Richard Wagner’s four operas which comprise the famous Ring – Der Ring des Nibelungen. We had already seen Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) before. So we are now half way there in experiencing Wagner’s monumental creation based on Norse myths and legends (see Das Rheingold synopsis below).

By the way, The Valkyrie continues to be the number one or two on Elizabeth’s ranking scale of all the operas we have seen in this lifetime. And that’s now quite a long list.

Here are now some “red carpet” shots of us taken before last night’s performance. We are holding some props used in the opera.

The entire evening was a fun night except in one respect. This opera does not have an intermission – per Richard Wagner’s instructions. So we had to go for over three hours without a pee break.

Of course, we were not alone in need of one at the end of the show. So there was quite a run on the toilets while the ovations on stage were still going on.

That’s Wagner for you. Probably laughing from his grave at all the trouble he is still causing. 🙂


 

UPDATE APR 10, 2018

EMASCULATION OF THE MALE IN “RED CARPET” PHOTOS

I think our own ​photos were better (see DAS RHEINGOLD). This one seems overexposed (too much light).

​By the way, something else I’ve noticed. In all the red carpet shots with spears, there was not a single one in which a man pointed the spear at the woman he was with. But look at all these women trying to spear their mates.




 even this child at her (presumed) mother!

Mockingly? Sure. But also, ​a Hollywood stereotype these days.  What does that tell us about who the aggressors are in our society? And about emasculation of the male?

Also see my Dec 2005 column WHEN GENDERS COLLIDE…  from where this lion emasculation scene comes,

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DAS RHEINGOLD Synopsis

SCENE 1

At the bottom of the Rhine, the three Rhine maidens, Woglinde, Welgunde, and Flosshilde, are playing together. Woglinde begins an innocent song whose melody is frequently used to characterise the Rhine maidens later in the cycle. Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf, appears from a deep chasm and tries to woo them. Struck by Alberich’s ugliness, the Rhine maidens mock his advances and he grows angry. He chases them and tries to catch them in his arms, but they elude him, tease and humiliate him. As the sun begins to rise, the maidens praise the golden glow atop a nearby rock; Alberich asks what it is. The Rhine maidens tell him about the Rhine gold, which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic ring which will enable its bearer to rule the world, but only by someone who first renounces love. They think they have nothing to fear from the lustful dwarf, but Alberich, embittered by their mockery, curses love, seizes the gold and returns to his chasm, leaving them screaming in dismay.

SCENE 2

Wotan, ruler of the gods, is asleep on a mountaintop with Fricka, his wife. Fricka awakes and sees a magnificent castle behind them. She wakes Wotan and points out that their new home has been completed. The giants Fasolt and Fafner built the castle; in exchange Wotan has promised to give them Fricka’s sister Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty and feminine love. Fricka is worried for her sister, but Wotan is confident that they will not have to give Freia away, because he has dispatched his clever servant Loge, the demigod of fire, to search the world for something else to give the giants instead.

Freia rushes onstage in a panic, followed by Fasolt and Fafner. Fasolt demands payment for their finished work. He points out that Wotan’s authority is sustained by the treaties carved into his spear, including his contract with the giants, which Wotan therefore cannot violate. Donner (god of thunder) and Froh (god of spring) arrive to defend their sister Freia, but Wotan stops them; as ruler of the gods, he cannot permit the use of force to break the agreement. Hoping Loge will arrive with the alternative payment he promised, Wotan tries to stall.

Loge finally returns with a discouraging report: there is nothing that men will accept in exchange for feminine love, and, by extension, nothing the giants would accept in exchange for Freia. Loge tells them that he was able to find only one instance where someone willingly gave up love for something else: Alberich the Nibelung has renounced love, stolen the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. A general discussion of the ring ensues and everyone finds good reasons for wanting it. Fafner makes a counteroffer: the giants will accept the Nibelung’s treasure in payment, instead of Freia. When Wotan tries to haggle, the giants depart, taking Freia with them as hostage and vowing to keep her prisoner forever if the gods do not obtain, and give them, the Nibelung’s treasure, by evening.

Freia’s golden apples had kept the Gods eternally young; in her absence, they begin to age and weaken. In order to win Freia back, Wotan resolves to travel to Alberich’s kingdom under the earth, in pursuit of the gold. Loge, who knows the underground kingdom, will act as Wotan’s guide.

SCENE 3

In Nibelheim, Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves with the power of the ring. He has forced his brother Mime, the most skillful smith, to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm’s power by making himself invisible, the better to torment his subjects. (The Tarnhelm can also change the wearer’s shape, and teleport him long distances.)

Wotan and Loge arrive and happen upon Mime, who tells them about Alberich’s forging of the ring and the misery of the Nibelungs under his rule. Alberich returns, driving his slaves to pile up a huge mound of gold. When they have finished, he dismisses them and turns his attention to the two visitors. He boasts to them about his plans to use his gold to conquer the world. Loge asks how he can protect himself against a thief while he sleeps. Alberich says the Tarnhelm would hide him, by allowing him to turn invisible or change his form. Loge says he doesn’t believe it and requests a demonstration. Alberich complies, turning into a giant snake. Loge acts suitably impressed and then he asks if he can also reduce his size, which would be very useful for hiding. Alberich transforms himself into a toad. The two gods quickly seize him, tie him up, and drag him up to the mountain top.

SCENE 4

On the mountaintop, Wotan and Loge force Alberich to exchange his wealth for his freedom. They untie his right hand, and he uses the ring to summon his Nibelung slaves, who bring the hoard of gold. After the gold has been delivered, he asks for the return of the Tarnhelm, but Loge says that it is part of his ransom. Finally, Wotan demands the ring. Alberich refuses, but Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. Alberich is crushed by his loss, and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it should return to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner.

The gods reconvene. Fasolt and Fafner return, carrying Freia. Reluctant to release Freia, Fasolt insists that the gold be heaped high enough to hide her from view. They pile up the gold, and Wotan is forced to relinquish the Tarnhelm to help cover Freia completely. However, Fasolt spots a remaining crack in the gold, through which one of Freia’s eyes can be seen. He demands that Wotan fill the crack by yielding the ring. Loge reminds all present that the ring rightly belongs to the Rhine maidens. Wotan angrily and defensively declares that he will keep it for his own. The giants seize Freia and start to leave, this time forever.

Suddenly, Erda the earth goddess, a primeval goddess older than Wotan, appears out of the ground. She warns Wotan of impending doom and urges him to give up the cursed ring. Troubled, Wotan calls the giants back and surrenders the ring. The giants release Freia and begin dividing the treasure, but they quarrel over the ring itself. Fafner clubs Fasolt to death (the orchestra repeats the “Death-Curse” leitmotif). Wotan, horrified, realizes that Alberich’s curse has terrible power. Loge remarks that Wotan is indeed a lucky fellow: his enemies are killing each other for the gold he gave up.

At last, the gods prepare to enter their new home. Donner summons a thunderstorm to clear the air. After the storm has ended, Froh creates a rainbow bridge that stretches to the gate of the castle. Wotan leads them across the bridge to the castle, which he names Valhalla. Fricka asks him about the name, and he replies enigmatically that its meaning will become clear when his plans come to fruition.

Loge, who knows that the end of the gods is coming, does not follow the others into Valhalla; he tells the audience that he is tempted to destroy the gods and all they have deceitfully acquired. Far below, the Rhine maidens mourn the loss of their gold and proclaim that the glory of the gods is only an illusion.

 

 

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