Richard Wagner, Das Liebesverbot, after Shakespeare, Glimmerglass Opera

From the sprightly start of the overture, you know this is not Bayreuth’s Wagner. The Glimmerglass Opera, as part of its Shakespeare-themed season, presents the North American fully-staged premiere of Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), Wagner’s own topsy-turvy adaptation of Measure for Measure. It was only his second full-length piece (the first was Die Feen—the Fairies—another rarity), initially staged in 1836. The overture sets up the quarrel to follow between somber ascetic and antic carnivalesque impulses. If you know Shakespeare’s play you think you know who wins, but Wagner makes some significant alterations.

Gustavo Dudamel leads the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra at the Proms

Wunderkindfest. Unless you are a stubborn opinionator, performances can confuse you at times. I was flummoxed last night at the Proms by Gustavo Dudamel and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, in a concert I was expecting to enjoy, though not to the utmost. The Berlioz Symphonie fantastique wore out its welcome many years ago, and only a brilliant performance can redeem it for me. That Dudamel did not deliver. Sparkling as he is in the bright media limelight, the skyrocketing young Venezuelan has to have the goods, too. In this case, his reading was flat, disjointed, and plodding, with a drawn-out Scene aux champs that lasted long enough for Madame Defarge to knit a quilt. The guillotine movement that followed was coarse and blatty, which is how the whole reading went, either in slow mo with exaggerated emphases or sped up recklessly. Dudamel’s inability to sustain tension in soft passages, one of the most blatant failings in a bad conductor, shocked me.

Shakespeare’s Othello, directed by Tony Simotes, Shakespeare and Company 2008

Othello stands out in an almost indefinable way among the tragedies of Shakespeare. It seems to take its entire color and fabric from the extravagant imagination, behavior, and language of its exotic hero. This conforms perfectly well to Shakespeare’s methods in Hamlet, Coriolanus, and Lear, for example, but Othello’s outlandishness (to use the original sense of the word as well as its more current metaphorical connotations) imparts his character and his language with an open-ended quality which effect us as pure color and emotivity—the famous musical quality of the play.

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