I have suggested before that it is time for Washington National Opera to produce a Baroque opera. The latest proof that Baroque is hot comes from an article by George Loomis (Opera: A lusty production of 'Calisto', May 19) for the International Herald Tribune:
With six Handel and two Monteverdi operas included in its repertoire next season, the Bavarian State Opera sets the pace of major opera houses for Baroque opera. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, it had never performed an opera by the 17th-century composer Francesco Cavalli until last week. Among Baroque opera composers, Cavalli attracted attention early on as a candidate for modern revivals. Seminal productions of his operas appeared at Glyndebourne in the late 1960s, and later in Santa Fe; these companies offered Cavalli even before turning to Handel. [...]Note the reviewer's comments about the importance of the edition used in Munich, by Álvaro Torrente, as opposed to that prepared by René Jacobs. For more information on La Calisto, you can download the .PDF version of the issue of TAKT dedicated to the production, all in German, including an interview with Sally Matthews (who "sings Calisto enchantingly and looks ravishing in a leopard-print swimsuit," according to Loomis). I take one look at the photographs of this crazy production (by David Alden) and wish again that American opera audiences (Washington's, in particular) were not so damned conservative.
But Cavalli operas can be immensely enjoyable, as Munich's lively new production of "La Calisto" makes clear. The producer, David Alden, has no trouble bringing out the humor of this story about Jupiter's lust for the nymph Calisto, who is eventually turned into a bear by his jealous wife, Juno. Paul Steinberg's sets have Cavalli's woodland setting looking like some kind of whimsical hotel lobby, with garish zebra-striped walls and curved laminated wood paneling. A neon sign reading "L'Empireo" suggests that we are in the domain where Jupiter rules. It is hard to generalize about Buki Shiff's wildly diverse costumes, which range from a metallic business suit for Mercury to bloated, furry attire for the god Pan. [...]
The excellent conductor Ivor Bolton, the linchpin of Munich's Baroque revivals, followed a new edition of the score by Álvaro Torrente. As with Bolton's Monteverdi performances, the edition favors a leaner, more literal approach to the sketchy source material than does that of the Baroque specialist René Jacobs, who is freer in spinning out instrumental textures. But the playing sounded excellent, and counts as something of a milestone, since it marks the first time the Bavarian State Opera's orchestra plays entirely on period instruments. It is a demonstration of versatility that other orchestras would do well to emulate.
The Bayerische Staatsoper will soon be going through some big changes, as Intendant Sir Peter Jonas and Music Director Zubin Mehta will both retire in August 2006. It was announced that Klaus Bachler, currently Director of the Vienna Burgtheater, will become Intendant in September 2008. Between Mehta's departure and the appointment of a permanent music director, Kent Nagano will be acting Director.