Saddened to read this, Pliable, but not at all surprised. I've commented several time on S&F about the slow death of the blogosphere due principally to the rise of the likes of Facebook (which I refuse to join) and Twitter (which I did join mostly to link to new entries on S&F) and have toyed with the idea of closing down S&F as well. Instead, I simply post far less there than previously as the blog serves primarily as my personal vehicle for letting off steam as explained in its About entry. Your informed writings on Overgrown Path will be missed by me as well as, I'm certain, by many others.Atque in perpetuum, "On an Overgrown Path", ave atque vale.
Russell Thomas, speaking to Anne Midgette [here]: "The conversation about blackface is a distraction. It’s not about whether or not Mr. Antonenko was painted dark. It’s also not about whether whites should be allowed to sing Porgy and Bess. It’s about this: Why aren’t the stages representative of the communities in which they are located?"Answer: Because it's unimportant, no pressing matter, and "a distraction". What matters on theater stages, the ONLY thing that matters — whether what's being presented is straight drama, musical comedy, opera, or what have you — is the excellence of the presentation and performance of the artwork being staged. Period. Full stop. Everything else — everything — is but of ancillary importance and only a hypersensitive, corrupted postmodern sensibility would argue otherwise.
Seeing "Otello," I tried to imagine how I would have responded if I hadn’t known the story before. Would I have felt something was missing without the makeup? And no, I don’t suppose I would have. What I did miss, in the production’s first half, was any sense of what set Otello apart. Aleksandrs Antonenko, in the role, tended to blend into the crowd in the early scenes. Even a red scarf, anything, to set him apart might have helped relieve that black-and-gray canvas, and something to indicate that he had come from a culture different from the one he now inhabits.How about markedly darkened skin (but not grotesquely darkened as in "blackface") that would instantly have shown Otello to be "from a culture different from the one he now inhabits" — you know, just as Shakespeare intended? You think that might have done the trick? Of course it would have, you mealymouthed twit. It's not for nothing, you know, that Shakespeare didn't title his play merely Othello but Othello, the Moor of Venice.
What damage, if any, would be done to world culture were it the case that in no competent public venue (competent meaning they've the wherewithal, talent, and facilities to do the job properly) could the plays of Shakespeare be seen presented fully true to the way Shakespeare set them down using his own settings and plots and in his own language (Werktreue presentations to use the handy German term which translates literally as "work-true" meaning "faithful to the original")? Appalling damage would be the informed consensus; damage so appalling as to be virtually unthinkable.According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, it would seem the barbarians are at the gate, and so it begins. Now, where did we put that Uzi?
We've had occasion to say something about this [new 2015] production in a prior S&F entry based on a live audio stream of the premiere by BR Klassik Radio as well as on act-by-act production photos and verbal descriptions of the physical action and this new HD video [of the entire production] held no surprises for us as far as the staging is concerned. We previously called that staging sophomoric and sophomoric is what it proved to be, from the conceit of Act I's blatant if only tenuously symbolically apposite allusion to M.C. Escher's impossible staircases leading nowhere, to the bizarre sci-fi futuristic prison of Act II (yes, this is a Regietheater staging — what else? — and Act II is set in a prison run by the henchmen of this production's tyrannical König Marke wherein Tristan and Isolde are held captive along with Kurwenal), to the imagined symbolic rightness of Act III's utterly black, all but featureless blank stage and background with its reappearing, floating, Isolde-filled triangles of light (perhaps a reference, if reference they indeed are, to the tent-like structure Tristan and Isolde jerry-rigged in the prison of Act II to hide them from the searchlights of König Marke's henchmen, but given Katharina's sophomoric Regie mentality we shudder to think what else those triangles might be a reference to), not to again speak of the imbecile close of the music-drama in this staging wherein Isolde, at the close of her Verklärung, is ripped away from Tristan's corpse and dragged off by König Marke very much alive as if she were mere chattel (as indeed she was originally intended to be). Finally, after having seen the full production, to all the above we now feel compelled to add how appalling the disconnect is, emotional and intellectual, between this staging and the nonpareil transcendent work created by Katharina's great-grandfather more than 150 years ago in what proved to be an ironic attempt to compose an opera that could be mounted quickly and easily even by theaters of modest means. We do, however, have to give Katharina credit for cleverly and neatly doing away with the magic love potion thing upon the magic of which potion even those who ought to know better are still wont to lay blame for the lovers' out-of-control passion for each other.If you think this all quite horrid we assure you the actual witnessing of this Regietheater staging is a full order of magnitude more painful than is the reading about it. Currently, following Bayreuth's lead, Regietheater Wagner can be seen on the stage of almost every major opera house worldwide, New York's Metropolitan Opera, arguably the world's most important opera house, included,** which opera houses are the only established opera venues with the wherewithal, talent, and facilities to stage Wagner's stageworks properly. And so, to restate the opening question, What damage, if any, would be done to world culture were it the case that in no competent public venue could the stageworks of Richard Wagner be seen presented true to the way Wagner set them down with their hallmark, artform-defining organic unity of music, text, and stage picture that's the unique and special genius of Wagner's art? For an informed some, ourself included, the answer is manifestly clear: appalling damage; damage so appalling as to be virtually unthinkable. Curiously and inexplicably, the jury of the opera world is still out on the question even after some 43 years of accumulated hard evidence arguing against Regietheater Wagner as Werktreue Wagner and so the unthinkable threatens perennially to become appalling, permanent reality worldwide. This may seem a thing of concern only for dedicated Wagnerians who are but a small minority of audiences for opera. But a moment's reflection will reveal just how tragically myopic is such a view. For absent the existence of genuine Werktreue presentations of Wagner's stageworks, opera audiences, existing and new, will be denied the essential fundamental references necessary to understand and assess the value and worth of those stageworks as well as the value and worth of their creator and the impact of both on the shaping and development of the artform, not to even speak of being denied the sheer, soul-enriching pleasure of experiencing the full sense and spirit of the stageworks themselves as their creator imagined them experienced. Appalling damage indeed and no small matter as we're certain most, if not all, will agree.
In Anne Midgette's review of the Met's _Otello_ for _The Washington Post_, she writes: === Begin Quote ===
Before the opening, the Met announced it was dispensing with the usual dark makeup, a wise decision because it didn’t affect the drama a bit....
=== End Quote === I, of course, didn't see the production but if what Ms. Midgette wrote is really true, there's something terribly — fundamentally — wrong dramatically with this production. With an un-made-up Caucasian Otello it's not possible theatrically to establish and maintain what is absolutely essential — absolutely central — to this tragic drama: Otello's "otherness" as I put it some two months ago [i.e., in our above S&F entry] as outwardly signified by his blackness (or "Moorishness"). Absent that outward constant signifier of Otello's otherness, which otherness "drives his every action and reaction in the drama", we're left with nothing more than a half-demented, murderously jealous brute blindly acting out his mad rage. Hardly a tragic hero. ACD
———————————————Dennis ______ wrote: >Otello's blackness is the essence of his standing as a Romantic hero. >That blackness is vital to the character and all that stems from it to >form the action of the opera. It may be subtly suggested, or it may be >overtly shown; but it needs to BE THERE. It simply cannot be ignored: >forcing Otello's "blackness" to be a product, merely, of the opera >goer's imagination is a totally modern approach. It's a perfectly valid >approach in SOME works, as Paul _______ notes in his post; but it is >one totally inappropriate to an opera steeped in Romantic tradition. Good points all. I would only further suggest that anyone who imagines Otello's visible blackness (or "Moorishness") is anything other than essential — central — to both the character and the opera should ask himself why Shakespeare made his wholly fictional Othello, from which character Boito's Otello is taken as is, of course, Boito's libretto taken from Shakespeare's play, a black (a Moor). Does anyone seriously imagine Shakespeare did that willy-nilly just for the hell of it or, just as bad, to be true to his fictional source (a story titled "Un Capitano Moro" by Italian novelist Giovanni Battista Giraldi ("Cinthio"))? The very idea is, of course, thoroughly preposterous. Shakespeare made his Othello a black (a Moor) in an all-white society because Shakespeare saw in the device powerful and tragic dramatic possibilities and a perfect outer signifier of his character's otherness — an otherness that underlies and drives his Othello's (and Boito's Otello's) "every action and reaction in the drama", as I've previously put it, which is to say it's absolutely central to the character and to the drama both in Shakespeare's play and Boito's libretto and MUST be shown *explicitly*. ACD
Listening to Bayreuth _Tristan_. What the fuck is Thielemann doing!? Can only guess he's adjusting the music to K's imbecile staging.We, of course, had no idea at the time what Katharina's staging was or even looked like. We simply assumed it was imbecile; had to be imbecile to force Thielemann to go so markedly off-center. And we weren't far wrong as regards both Katharina's staging and the reason for Thielemann's reading of the score of that first act. Here's a Bayreuther Festspiele production shot (© Bayreuther Festspiele/Enrico Nawrath) of the Act I staging:
Act III T&I done. CT on his superlative game again. Singers made it through in good voice. Marke again splendid. Overall, an adequate T&I.Ah well. At least the staging wasn't grotesque Eurotrash. The Castorf Ring is also on the menu this Bayreuth season and that's more than enough Eurotrash grotesque for any single opera season anywhere. Here are links to two eyewitness accounts of the production, one from The New York Times and one from The Guardian.
I challenge @alexrossmusic to defend (or at least explain) promoting this "music" by giving it notice.The Twitter ID "@alexrossmusic" belongs to Alex Ross, one of the nation's most prominent and respected classical music critics, a best-selling author (The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century), and the classical music critic for The New Yorker, one of the nation's most prominent and respected journals, and the "music" referred to is this; something only a Cagean or Stockhausean fundamentalist gone off the deep end would or could mistake for music. Mr. Ross's responding tweet — deleted by Mr. Ross almost as soon as it was posted and which tweet we didn't think to make a verbatim record of simply because we never imagined it would be necessary — was brazenly and uncharacteristically arrogant and self-important and made no attempt whatsoever to either acknowledge or answer our challenge. As Mr. Ross is hardly the only classical music critic, print and/or digital, professional or amateur, guilty of promoting cacophonous noise (literally noise) masquerading as music under cover of being "performed" by legitimate musicians and being declared music by one or more classical music critics, one might imagine we're here picking on Mr. Ross for personal reasons but in so imagining one would be wrong. We singled out this particular instance because it's so off-the-chart egregious and because Alex Ross is Alex Ross who in his intensified zeal to promote new music (a perfectly honorable, necessary, and, especially for one in Mr. Ross's position, obligatory enterprise) since the publication of his above noted bestselling book has here done all classical music a grievous disservice. No matter how illustrious one's professional stature, one cannot hope to convince or persuade a potential audience for classical music, whether classical music of the new or canonical sort, by treating that potential audience as if it were made up of tone-deaf idiots who can be persuaded that actual noise is actually music simply on the say-so, explicit or implied, of an acknowledged expert. It's time, long past time, that classical music critics of all statures within the profession embarked upon a searching, brutally frank, no-holds-barred reassessment of their professional selves and the effect of their work upon classical music audiences both existing and potential.