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Les Journaux

Music and art news from the European press.

Film director Zhang Yimou is heading up the Beijing Olympic ceremonies, and he has enlisted the help of composer Chen Qigang -- not another certain prominent Chinese composer -- as related in an article (Race to the opening ceremony, February 9) by Ken Smith in the Financial Times:

Chen’s main concern, though, was Tan Dun, the Oscar-winning composer whose First Emperor, directed by Zhang for the Metropolitan Opera last season, was seen by many observers to be a year-long lobbying effort for the Olympic post. Chen says, with a touch of bemusement: “I asked, ‘Isn’t Tan Dun doing this?’ and Zhang only said, ‘I can’t give you an answer’. Of course, he’d already given me his answer by asking me in the first place.”
Shirley Apthorp has nailed Calixto Bieito, that Regietheater bad boy of the opera world, in a review of his production of The Flying Dutchman in Stuttgart (Financial Times, February 13):
Calixto Bieito reportedly found inspiration for his Stuttgart Flying Dutchman while waiting for a delayed flight to Zurich in a European airport. Surrounded by men in suits, bored and lonely, he felt like a Flying Catalan, comparing the experience to Wagner’s stormy escape from Riga to Paris via Norway. Bieito’s public relations hype does not reveal at which airport he waited. I have yet to find one that houses a brothel, a sandpit, a lifeboat, or a music hall, and I haven’t ever seen a delayed flight incite businessmen to self-mutilation, rape or violence. But Bieito presumably sees behind the evil façade of bad capitalism to the rot that every pin-striped suit implies. God help us all. On paper, his view of the Dutchman as a jaded drop-out from the capitalist fast lane reads reasonably. In reality, Bieito falls back on the same sex-and-gore clichés that have characterised almost every one of his opera stagings, and it is only a matter of time before his wage slaves are dry-humping the properties and hacking bits off one another. It might be shocking if it were not so tedious.
She is also, almost certainly, the only critic ever to combine the words "gay transvestite dwarf prostitute bride" in an opera review. In other news, George Loomis actually liked the production.

Gerard Mortier, set to take the reins of New York City Opera in the 2009/2010 season, spoke to Caroline Gourdin (Dans les "bureaux" de l'Opéra de Paris, February 6) for La Libre Belgique. Part of it sounds good: half of the seats in Paris cost less than 60 euros, they have 20,000 young subscribers, and the average age of opera patrons is only 45 (he claims that is compared to 70 at the Met). Does he think there will be challenges, moving to an opera house with a minor-league budget, a mid-level orchestra, and an acoustically deficient hall? "I no longer want to lead a major machine," he said (my translation). "I am very nostalgic for La Monnaie in Brussels, which I took over with a mediocre orchestra and little money. This is a comparable adventure in a different sociopolitical context." I am sure that the NYCO orchestral musicians appreciate the Valentine.

So many unknown 20th-century operas getting produced around the world -- Othmar Schoek's Penthesilea, Alexander Zemlinksy's Der Zwerg, Viktor Ullmann's Der Zerbrochene Krug -- and not a damn one here in Washington. J'accuse!


jfl said...

She is also, almost certainly, the only critic ever to combine the words "gay transvestite dwarf prostitute bride" in an opera review.

In unrelated news: Ionarts Google hits just increased by 20%!

I hope to catch that production in March... one has to see what it is all about, after all.

Charles T. Downey said...

Heh. An unintended consequence. ;-)