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I don't want to come off as totally disposing of Zeffirelli as a creative force. He was a dynamo when he started out in the 50s and his early opera productions were striking and innovative. His first Met production, Falstaff, was a masterpiece; I think the term is totally deserved here.

And many aspects were NON-tradtional and had conservative audiences on edge. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

True. And his production of Shakepeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' was revolutionary at the time.

I remember thinking at the time that his Romeo and Juliet was just a gorgeous film. I haven't seen it in many years though.

Even his Taming of the Shrew film with Liz and Dick turned out to have a lot of fun to it.

Move ahead 20 years though and see his Otello film where he sees fit to eliminate the great Council scene in Act 3 and then

Desdemona's Willow Song and you have to wonder what happened. And this is the man who is now giving interviews to any media that will not hang up on his phone calls that only he honors the composers' intentions.

Yeah, right. Frengo.

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I thought I'd heard the Met did not trash the Chagall Flute, but put it into storage with the idea they might trot it out occasionally for special occasions. Can anybody here remember or confirm?

I hadn't heard that but it would certainly be nice if that was the case.

A problem though is that none of these theatrical properties last forever. They are subject to hard use being trucked in and out of the theater.

And all kinds of things seem to happen in the warehouses. As I had mentioned, the Met revived Adriana Lecouvrer last season but when they

took the sets out of storage some of them were deteriorated beyond the point of refurbishing/repainting. They usesd the ones that were able to be salvaged and used projections for the rest.

Still, it would be great if they still had the Chagall. It's really something a bit beyond a typical group of theatrical sets.

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I thought I'd heard the Met did not trash the Chagall Flute, but put it into storage with the idea they might trot it out occasionally for special occasions. Can anybody here remember or confirm?

I hadn't heard that but it would certainly be nice if that was the case.

A problem though is that none of these theatrical properties last forever. They are subject to hard use being trucked in and out of the theater.

And all kinds of things seem to happen in the warehouses. As I had mentioned, the Met revived Adriana Lecouvrer last season but when they

took the sets out of storage some of them were deteriorated beyond the point of refurbishing/repainting. They usesd the ones that were able to be salvaged and used projections for the rest.

Still, it would be great if they still had the Chagall. It's really something a bit beyond a typical group of theatrical sets.

When I went to the movies to see the Liceu's Aida, the production's big selling point was the restoration of Mestres Cabanes' trompe-l'oeil paper (!) sets, originally painted in 1945. I have to say that the sets were pretty astonishing, very beautiful and looked terrific on a big screen in HD. That Aida gave me hope that the Chagall Flute could be revived in similar fashion.

http://www.opusarte.com/productGallery_ima...92407/aida2.jpg

http://www.musicweb-international.com/sand.../aida2_1024.jpg

http://www.musicweb-international.com/sand.../aida1_1024.jpg

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A propos the idea of clutter. According to a review of the new Covent Garden production of Tristan:

In The Perfect Wagnerite, Bernard Shaw said his preferred way to watch the Ring would be sitting with his feet up in a box with his back to the stage, to avoid the distraction from the music that the machinery and clutter of productions tended to entail.
Of course, that was circa 1898, when clutter WAS clutter. Especially in stagings of Wagner. :)

:D The review that contains this quote is full of praise for the "very uncluttered, stark version of Tristan and Isolde directed by Christof Loy and conducted by Antonio Pappano." The scenes are reimagined:

At the end of the Prelude, the light comes up to show Isolde (Nina Stemme) in a blindingly white wedding dress, wandering through the candelit tables of a huge and opulent dining room. There is no ship, just as in Act Two there is no garden in Cornwall, and in Act Three no lime-trees in Brittany.

The reviewer, Bernard O'Donoghue, credits the success of this reimagined production to the director's attempt to remain true to the heart of the story.

Everything about this production intensivies the meaning of the opera as well as its atmosphere. ... The symbolic centre is wonderfully sustained throught ... It will be a challenge to decide where the next experiemental Tristan should turn if it is to compete with this haunting triumph.

I wonder how the opening night audience at Covent Garden responded?

This long review is in the October 9 Times Literary Supplement, unfortunately not available online.

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Just got back from the encore Encore HD Tosca and must admit I'm at a loss to understand why the all the hooha about it. Looked good to me. No, it's not perfect: for one thing, I could do without the hookers with the gold wedgies -- more RuPaulic than Napoleanic (maybe they could trade in the shoes for some underwear). Some of the staging was awkward, but that can be fixed. Karita Mattila is, to put it delicately, a tad mature, but once she opens her mouth and lets loose with that voice, who cares? Loved Marcelo Alvarez's compelling and ardent Cavaradossi, and by far my favorite was George Gagnidze's eye-rolling Scarpia; definitely a whiff of Tony Soprano ("Cavaradossi's gonna sleep wit' da fishes.").

As to the production, it looked fine, a little bleak in the first act, but once you got used to it, the characters came into focus without being overwhelmed by scenery. Great costumes too.

The camera work was generally pretty good, although the power of the Te Deum was undercut by the too agitated camera movements; as one of the intermission interviewees said about that part, Puccini does all the work. I think it would have been more effective to leave the camera still so you can get the full effect of the music and the entrance of the priests, et al. Minor point, but that's one of my favorite scenes and I hated the distraction.

Speaking of the intermission interviews, does Susan Graham have to read from a script? The woman memorizes whole operas, she can't remember half a dozen questions? And wasn't Mattila hilarious?

All in all, loved it.

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Just got back from the encore Encore HD Tosca and must admit I'm at a loss to understand why the all the hooha about it.
So far, those of us who've seen it seem to be in agreement on that point. If I were a regular Met attender, I'd actually look forward to seeing different casts, the real test of any production intended to have long life.
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Just got back from the encore Encore HD Tosca and must admit I'm at a loss to understand why the all the hooha about it.
So far, those of us who've seen it seem to be in agreement on that point. If I were a regular Met attender, I'd actually look forward to seeing different casts, the real test of any production intended to have long life.

I'm not so sure that the Met management sees this as a production that will have a long life. I see the Met moving in the direction of the European opera houses which mount productions as a package with a director, maybe revive the production once or twice, and then discard it or sell it.

Personally I don't see this as a bad thing, I like a tightly directed, (hopefully ) well prepared performance and that only seems to come these days with the premiere of a new production. Revivals tend to be more casual with less musical and stage rehearsal with a more generic blocking taken from the production book.

It still seems to me a bit wasteful that the only way to get this kind of extended rehearsal is with an entire new production, you'd think that it should be possible to take an older production and give it 4-6 weeks of rehearsal but that just doesn't seem to happen.

New productions have a lot of box office appeal and in the Met's case, that's music to Peter Gelb's ears. As long as he has the financing behind him, I'm guessing that's the direction he will be going in.

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Well, well, look at this: The Met Weighs the Return of Zefferelli's 'Tosca'.

“There’s a strong possibility, but there’s a possibility it won’t come back,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, speaking of Mr. Zeffirelli’s lavish production. “It’s certainly been talked about.”

Mr. Gelb stressed that the possible return of the Zeffirelli “Tosca” was unconnected to the response to the Bondy production. A final decision will be made by the time the Met’s 2010-2011 season is announced in late February, he said.

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And then there's

The debate flared up briefly last week, when a performance of the Bondy “Tosca” was broadcast on PBS stations. Reviewing it in The San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman largely defended Mr. Bondy’s interpretation, despite “some directorial bad decisions.”

“But so what?” he continued. “None of these are extensive or integral to the production. When they are corrected, what’s left will be a bare-knuckled exploration of political and sexual power, unimpeded by fussiness or luxury.” He called New Yorkers angered by the production “a big bunch of weenies.”

Weenies. Now there's a technical term.

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The last few paragraphs, where Zefferelli makes his long-awaited entrance and sings his aria (with a response from Gelb) are priceless. The article gives hints of ego and power struggles that are worthy of ... an Italian opera.

Helene, we were posting at the same time. Is it possible that "weenies" in an opera context is an obscure, opera insider's reference to the audience at the Staatsoper in Vienna: "Wien-ese"? Surely no one from San Francisco would ever think of insulting a New Yorker. Would he?

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Ha, ha. Let's see what happens here.

But this is not totally surprising, Gelb did say that the old Tosca production was going to be put into storage for possible revival.

Frankly, I saw the Tosca HD when it was shown on PBS last week and didn't really like it much.

I'm fine with non-traditional, minimal, or even (some) "Konzept" productions, but this staging didn't work for me. If a director is going to make a statement and not go with a safe approach, first and foremost I want to see his take on the characters and how they fit into the plot. And they have to bring the story to life and engage me.

And I didn't like what Bondy achieved here. Tosca and Cavaradosi had little chemistry in Act 1, both seemed to inhabit their own separate worlds. And Mattila was more annoying that usual with Tosca's first scene. Maria Callas noted that in the first act, "Tosca is a nervous, silly girl". And that's usually the case but here her emotional state was more like hysteria.

And then in Act 2, Tosca and Scarpia didn't seem to be really sparring , Gagnidze's Scarpia was more a sleazy flasher type than a true depraved villain but Mattilla seemed already defeated soon after her entrance in the act. There wasn't much of a real struggle. And ultimately, I didn't care much about this Tosca

and the predicament she found herself in. That's a pretty negative situation.

There were some clever and creative staging bit, I liked how one of the henchman tripped after bursting through the trapdoor onto the Act 3 set.

But other parts looked clunky and even amateurish. I'm no fan of later Zeffirelli , but if one aspect of his production worked for me, it was the finale to Act 1.

I loved how the procession groups on the stage with Scarpia in the forefront, dominating the massive ensemble. Bondy lumped the singers and extras in an awkward clump like each person decided where he was going to stand while waiting for someone to direct them.

Though it all comes back to the director's thoughts about the piece and his or her execution of them. Bondy's characters didn't engage me or even repulse me, what he had the singers do on stage didn't add up to a whole. But I'll repeat what I thought when I saw the old Zeff production more than 20 years ago for the first time. While Bondy more or less failed (in my eyes) the challenge of enabling the singers to bring the characters to life, Zeffirelli ignored it, letting the singers do their own thing, brought in from other stagings in other houses while he concentrated his attention on showy effects.

While I did admire Zef's Act 1 finale, his opening of Act 3 was ridiculous and unmusical, having Cavaradossi sing his scene in a basement cell and then having the stage elevator drop that set to reveal a second one, the roof of the Castel Sant'Angelo. Cavaradossi had to run up a flight of visible stairs while the scene changed. That cheap, showy effect lasted until Pavarotti did the opera at the Met. Like Caballe, Pav didn't "do" stairs and so the stage elevator scene change was dropped.

The Met has a premiere of a new Carmen production coming up next week , staged by Richard Eyre. This new production will also replace a Zeffirelli extravaganza. For opera fans, iIt'll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

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Not well received, evidently. Would be interested to hear from BTers who see the production.
It’s not only public discourse that has become coarser. Police chief Scarpia paws a statue of the Virgin Mary in Act 1 and is serviced by hookers in Act 2. The fiery diva Tosca looks like she might play the bugle at a Salvation Army concert. Isolated laughter changed to loud booing for the production team at curtain call.

IN the HD broadcast, they cut out the most grotesque part of the scene where Scarpia is serviced by hookers. ON the broadcast, they focus on Scarpia's face, so that the camera was not picking up what was happening below his waist (where one of the hookers has her head between his legs). I thought the pawing of the Virgin Mary was ludicrous and disgusting. Also, the camera quickly cut away from the very last scene where a Tosca life sized doll "jumps" off the building. My friend told me it evoked laughter at the opera house. I haven't seen it live yet (going in April).

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I had read the controversy about the Bondy production and finally got a peek on PBS. I couldn't listen to the entire production though I had it on. The tempi were tooooooooooooo slow for my taste and the sets and staging in the first act looked like it was taking place in a Con Ed sub station or an industrial warehouse on the waterfront.

What was that "kiddie pool" in the middle of the "church"?

I can't see this production surviving and it deserved all the condemnation it received. I'll welcome back the recently retired Zef production.

The interior of Scarpia's office looked like something from the Wiemar republic. It was interesting, but I could not relate it to what I imagined it might have been like in Rome at the time. Did that look out of place to anyone else?

My one word review: YUCK

(push Mr. Gelb off the Castillo metaphorically of course)

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The Met Opera brought back Tosca last week for a run of a few additional performances with a complete cast change from the Fall. (Matilla was to have sung these Toscas, but she withdrew.) Our new Tosca is Patricia Racette, Scarpia was sung by Bryn Terfel and Cavaradossi was sung by the dashing Jonas Kaufmann. This cast is winning raves in the press. I had the privilege of seeing it last week, and bumped into 2 ballet talkers there (nysusan and faux pas). This was my first time seeing the new production. The new production was awful, but the singers were wonderful. I think this cast will be broadcast on the Saturday afternoon radio broadcast this coming Saturday, if anyone is interested.

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Thanks, abatt, for reviving this thread. Here's the link to the NY Times review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/arts/mus....html?ref=music

Tommasini addresses the question of how a more appropriate cast can change the way we look at a controversial and mostly unpopular production.

It's interesting that Racette, a couple of seasons ago, was also a replacement for Mme Butterfly, which was one of the Met HD/Live performances. She was, as you say, wonderful.

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