Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sir Andrew Davis, Deborah Voigt as Isolde

This season Tristan has returned as a vehicle for Deborah Voigt, who sang her first Salome in the house two years ago. She appears in the production by David Hockney originally conceived for the Los Angeles Opera in 1987. The artist’s creation of child-like fantasy worlds can be effective in an opera like Turandot. But there is no more adult work in the repertoire than Tristan, and Wagner’s drama was not well served by these sets and costumes. The saturated primary colors, the cardboard cut-out swords, the Christmas pageant king – I found all of it a fourth grade distraction from the musical and philosophical seriousness of the piece.

Bard Music Festival 2009 – Wagner and His World – August 14-16 and August 21-23, 2009

Of all the events in the year, I can’t think of anything I anticipate quite as keenly as the Bard Music Festival, which is dedicated to exploring the life and works of major composers in the broad context of the culture in which they lived. The organizers accomplish this through the most diverse concert programs, as well as a series of symposia and colloquia involving prominent specialists not only in the composer in question, but in whatever tangential subjects are thought to be relevant. The Music Festival, which will celebrate its twentieth anniversary this year, has been part of a larger enterprise, Bard Summerscape, for some years, which brings in dance, theater, film, and cabaret performances, the latter in the Festival’s popular Spiegeltent.

James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Perform Simon Boccanegra

Strained relations. Wagner’s Ring cycle was once famously described (by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, I believe) as a family quarrel. At least it’s more than that, which might not be true of the plot to Verdi’s troubled, vexing, and beautiful Simon Boccanegra. Like several other operas in the Verdi canon, it comes to us as a late revision of a failed early work. Yet even though the revision called upon the considerable talents of Arrigo Boito, who coaxed the aged composer to write Falstaff and Otello by supplying him with irresistible words, Boccanegra is indecipherable. If your child can solve Rubik’s cube, give him this story to untwist. More of that anon.

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