Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

"Death in Venice" (opera by Britten)


  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 silvy

silvy

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 485 posts

Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:44 AM

Hi

I saw on the Teatro Colon website (Buenos Aires - Argentina) that the above opera will be put on the stage soon.

I must confess I have never heard about it :( and I would like to know your opinion about it (I have already read the plot,but specifically I would like to know how enjoyable it is, or not).

My exposure to a whole evening of opera is rather slight: only Mozart's Don Giovanni, Verdi's Aida and Traviata, Puccini's "Madama Butterfly", Villa Lobos's "Yerma", Bizet's "Carmen", and I would very much like to start to get more acquainted with this art form.

Thanks so much
Silvy

#2 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,516 posts

Posted 13 October 2004 - 03:39 PM

It's a thorny piece, from late in Britten's career. I'm not sure if it's the best introduction to his work. (I'd recommend "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Billy Budd," or "Peter Grimes.")

#3 Anthony_NYC

Anthony_NYC

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts

Posted 13 October 2004 - 06:56 PM

As you may already know if you've read the plot, it's got a prominent part throughout for a male dancer, so you may want to see it just for that if the choreographer or dancer interests you. (When it was last done here in New York, dance fans flocked to it because Tadzio was danced, beautifully, by Jeffrey Edwards, a real treat.) I love the opera, but agree with dirac that for most people it isn't the best introduction to Britten--that's probably Peter Grimes, Britten's first and still most popular opera. Myself, I wouldn't call the score to Death in Venice thorny, but spare, all in shades of grey, in a haunting, exquisite, and wretchedly depressing way.

#4 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,516 posts

Posted 14 October 2004 - 02:13 PM

That's a lovely description, Anthony_NYC. Ashton did the choreography for the original production. I have the opera on LP, with the libretto with many pictures (Oh, how I miss those books you used to get with vinyl records!), and it has several photographs of the dancers. I forget the boy's name, but Deanne Bergsma appeared as Tadzio's mother.

#5 oberon

oberon

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 843 posts

Posted 16 October 2004 - 05:17 AM

Bryan Pitts of NYCB played Tadzio at the Metropolitan Opera premiere of DEATH IN VENICE with Peters Pear & John Shirley-Quirk as principal singers.

I went to one of those performances and confess I left during the intermission, finding it pretentious and tedious. As my friend & I were crossing the plaza, a couple emerged from NYC Opera and offered us their ticket stubs to see the final act of TOSCA...we went in; Domingo was having one of his earliest conducting gigs and the orchestra was all over the place...third-rate soprano & tenor were belting. But after the dry, creaking vocalism of Pears, it seemed like a revelation.
My friend turned to me and whispered: "THIS is opera!!"

Later I came to appreciate DEATH somewhat though I never went to see it again; to my mind, BILLY BIDD is Britten's masterpiece followed by RAPE OF LUCRETIA and TURN OF THE SCREW. GRIMES can be fascinating with the right tenor (Vickers & Langridge were exceptional) though the character roles are too often played for laughs. MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM has some wonderful music but an over-long third act. OWEN WINGRAVE is much under-valued, in my view.

#6 Helena

Helena

    Senior Member

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 150 posts

Posted 16 October 2004 - 11:28 AM

I think Death in Venice is a masterpiece, but it isn't easy, and isn't what most people expect opera to be. It's very complex and introspective, and the audience has to concentrate and listen, not just expect it to wash over them. There is some very beautiful orchestration. There's a lot of recitative, which is very difficult for singers who aren't experienced in that sort of singing. Pears was a superb Bach singer, and the recits were entirely modelled on his style. I confess I'm astonished by oberon's reaction to Pears. I thought his performance an overwhelming experience. Perhaps he was tired that night - he was not exactly young when the part of Aschenbach was created for him (63, I think), but no-one else has quite the same effect. Most singers just imitate him.

I think, though, that for most of us in England who grew up with Britten as a sort of musical figurehead, it is impossible to disconnect Death in Venice from Britten himself. It was his last opera, and he was very ill when he was writing it. He was, in fact, too ill to go to the premiere. It has a sort of poignant symbolism for us, and that makes it hard to be objective.

I wouldn't like to nominate Britten's "greatest" opera. Peter Grimes is superficially the easiest, because it has most of the Italian opera conventions - big arias, duets, choruses. (I thought Jon Vickers absolutely wrecked it, missing all the subtleties - Britten hated his performance - agree Langridge was good.) Midsummer Night' s Dream is fun, and very beautiful in parts. Billy Budd is profound, and so is Turn of the Screw. Lucretia is emotionally harrowing in the right performance, and has some exceptionally lovely music. The reason I'm so keen on Britten is that one can spend a lifetime pondering the deeper significances - I almost have!

The Tadzio in the first production was Robert Huguenin, from the Royal Ballet School.

#7 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,516 posts

Posted 18 October 2004 - 04:12 PM

Peter Pears is very much an acquired taste, for me anyway (never had the privilege of hearing him live). I’ve gotten used to his voice over the years and appreciate him more than I once did, but the reediness oberon mentions sometimes grates.

I’m reminded of the parody of a Britten/Pears recital that Dudley Moore performed in “Beyond the Fringe.” Accompanying himself on the piano, Moore sang what purported to be Britten’s adaptation of “Little Miss Muffet” in an unforgettable strangled wail: “Liiiiiiiitle Miss Muffet/Saaaaaaat on her tuffet/Eating her curds/Eating her curds/Eating her curds and WHEEEEEEEEYYYYY.” It’s a stitch.

#8 Helena

Helena

    Senior Member

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 150 posts

Posted 19 October 2004 - 09:29 AM

I have to admit, dirac, that the Dudley Moore parody was very funny - though I believe Britten was furious about it!

I know some find Pears's voice hard to take - it's certainly unusual. In my opinion, though, he has never been equalled musically. Quite unique.

#9 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,516 posts

Posted 19 October 2004 - 09:43 AM

Helena, I think you're right -- Pears took the joke in stride, but Britten was annoyed -- he was inclined to be thin-skinned, especially where Pears was concerned. A remarkable partnership, in all respects.

#10 zerbinetta

zerbinetta

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 680 posts

Posted 28 October 2004 - 06:55 AM

Silvy, I'm afraid you may have been discouraged by some of the replies here & would like to suggest that you do go to this opera. First of all, it will be conducted by Steuart Bedford, who is a noted Britten interpreter & worked closely with the composer. Secondly, the opera is so rarely performed (outside of England, anyway) that you might not get another chance to hear it live.Thirdly, it happens to be a great opera.

Some preparation is probably in order. If you could start with recordings of Britten's orchestral pieces with voice, say Serenade for Tenor, Horn & trings &/or his War Requiem. You will get a feel for the composer, his temperament, style & soul. Then proceed to a recording of Death in Venice itself. You may have to buy the libretto separately. Follow the recording with libretto in hand.

Then you will be ready to buy your ticket .. I hope.

#11 Anthony_NYC

Anthony_NYC

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts

Posted 28 October 2004 - 02:10 PM

Excellent recommendations, Zerbinetta. My advice too would be: Go. It is a masterpiece, and so at the very least you're sure to find something in it of beauty or interest. But even if you do then decide that this one's not quite your cup of tea, don't let that keep you you from exploring Britten's many other masterpieces.

#12 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,516 posts

Posted 26 January 2005 - 05:06 PM

silvy, I neglected to add to an earlier post that if you do go (or maybe you already did) we would love to hear back on the production!

#13 silvy

silvy

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 485 posts

Posted 27 January 2005 - 03:38 AM

I finally did not see the production at the Colon, because I travelled to Buenos Aires on another week, where I did see Don Q ballet by the ballet of Teatro Colon.

#14 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,332 posts

Posted 27 January 2005 - 08:54 AM

Please tell us about the Don Q you saw!

#15 silvy

silvy

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 485 posts

Posted 27 January 2005 - 09:57 AM

Following Hockeyfan suggestion, I have just written a small review on the Don Q I saw in Buenos Aires- it is under "ballet companies- recent performances"


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):