In line with the excellent work I have heard at Tanglewood, was the Fellows’ vocal concert. Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins was masterfully led by mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, Nuno Coelho, conductor, with Nicholas Muni as director. Mr. Muni’s direction was not fussy, and it tapped into the knife-edged nature of the show without excess. Ms. Barron gave a masterful performance. Not only was her voice beguiling in every way, she moved decisively, and somehow naturally, through the opera. Each of her skills contributed to a larger convincing performance in this ice-cold piece.
At first, music and baseball might seem to have little in common. But don’t tell that to sports diehards and opera buffs in upper New York State. At least not in July and August, when a multitudinous group of fans from across the US converge at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. This year’s annual induction ceremonies were held July 20–23. Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road, devotees of vocal aspirants flocked to the Glimmerglass Opera to hear and see them “play ball.”
Should Art be merely an escape or refuge from the realities of our difficult times? In the 1940s, the debate heated and divided artists, musicians and scholars. In Wallace Stevens’s essay “The Noble Rider and The Sound of Words,” the twain are resolved in the idea that art, even “abstract” art can assume the role of social commentary only through innate and ineffable transformations of reality rather than by any explicit agenda dogmatically imposed by the creator. Great art could not be manhandled ideologically. How this solution might apply to opera of the past becomes the task of the director and musicians in balancing the surprisingly diverse elements of the music’s intent, the libretto’s intent, the historical context, and, yes, the composer’s objectives, if any. It is not surprising that Stevens regarded that an artistic creation had its own life apart from the creator’s wishes. Thus, we have the license for interpretation and deconstruction that has become the hallmark of Regietheater in our times.
The mood of the audience during intermission was particularly subdued. As I wandered in the dark among Tanglewood’s enormous pines, I overheard the same conversation at least three times:
“What did you think of it?”
(Pause) “It’s okay…”
It is possible to be more specific than that. The Tanglewood audience on the whole isn’t young. Most of these mostly affluent people are old enough to have some acquaintance with the politics of the left, but the annual TMC opera is hardly workers’ theater. As audiences crowd into the wonderful, atmospheric Tanglewood Theater to enjoy it, they are there in the spirit of what Brecht called “gourmet’s opera” (kulinarische Oper) in his essay about Mahagonny, in which he admitted that he and composer Kurt Weill had not totally eliminated this traditional element from their opera in their attempt to create a democratic epic opera. In the TMC production these operatic gourmet elements faired better than its Brechtian aspects, partly through the flaws of the dramaturgy itself, and partly through Doug Fitch’s slapdash staging and his and Yoshiaki Takao’s hideous design.