Opera on Screen
I Due Foscari: La Scala
Here is Plácido Domingo’s latest conquest: the leading baritone role of Francesco Foscari in Verdi’s darkly atmospheric, melodically generous early opera, based on Lord Byron’s play. (Italian with English subtitles, 2:09)
May 7 & 10
In 1987, ten of the world’s most creative and celebrated directors were each given the same brief: to choose a piece of opera music and then present a visual interpretation of that music with complete artistic freedom. Music was sourced from the massive RCA Red Seal catalog to feature some of the world’s best opera singers, to accompany performances by the likes of Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Bridget Fonda in her very first movie role. The result was one of the most unique cinematic experiments of the last 30 years. Sexy, violent, thought-provoking and funny, ARIA is now coming back to cinemas for its 30th Anniversary. (Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge, Julien Temple, 1987, 1:30, R)
Tosca: Zurich Opera House
June 4 & 7
Giacomo Puccini's Tosca is melodrama at its purest, a festival of lush melodies and dramatic outbursts that remains one of this composer's most popular works to this day. It is also a genuine "action opera," a realistic crime story, complete with torture, betrayal, murder, sex and suicide. And in the production from the Zurich Opera presented here, it is a gripping, heart-stopping psychosexual study of three tragically and fatally interwoven figures.
As rendered by Emily Magee, Tosca is the veritable incarnation of a prima donna, a striking beauty, strong yet vulnerable. Magee fully inhabits the role, casting her tender moments with her lover Cavaradossi in warm, full-bodied phrases, and her tense confrontation with the chief of police Scarpia in outbursts of raw passion. With his imposing stage presence and eloquent delivery, U.S. baritone Thomas Hampson raises the often one-dimensionally evil Scarpia to the level of a gentleman criminal and elegant seducer, who fascinates until his parting breath.
Confirming his exceptional position as one of the most versatile, sensitive, warmly lyrical tenors of our day is Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi. Whether indulging in playful banter, bristling with passionate indignation or glowing with romantic ardor, Kaufmann is always comfortable in his masculinity and unfailingly assured in his shaping of his part's every nuance. The press was unanimous in praising his "darkly hued, dazzling and robust tenor … Puccini lyricism with a wealth of shadings practically unknown since di Stefano and Callas" (Badische Zeitung). Never before has the warhorse "E lucevan le stelle" been interpreted with such intimate, heart-rending poignancy as when Kaufmann bares his soul to a hushed audience in an account that makes time stand still. (running time 2:05)
Cosi fan Tutte: Paris National Opera
June 25 & 28
Prompted by Don Alfonso, a cynical old philosopher, two young idealists decide to put their lovers’ fidelity to the test. But love will teach them a bitter lesson: those who believe themselves phoenixes and goddesses will discover the desires of the flesh… In 1790, one year after the French Revolution, in what would be their final collaboration, Mozart and Da Ponte conduct a scientific investigation of love. The music of Così fan tutte is truly extraordinary – complex in its symmetry, jovial and yet infused with an almost sacred melancholia. An extraordinary score where each note seems intended to make us accept a loss – lost paradise, lost youth, or a lost loved-one – and portray a world where all is in a constant state of flux. This laboratory of eroticism could but inspire choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who excels in revealing a work’s innermost geometry on stage. With six singers doubled by six dancers, she depicts the desire which unites and separates human beings, like the interactions between atoms that, once broken, make new bonds possible. (3:28)