Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Technologically flows the Rhine

Yesterday in Malvern we watched Rheingold. There were some glitches, the prompt was audible, but there wasn’t a single duff voice and Alberich was definitive. Yet when the performers took their bows half the Malvern audience clapped and half didn’t. Why? Because although the performance was live it originated at the Met in New York. I for one felt foolish clapping a cinema screen.

Technology was rampant. The high definition TV link meant I was able to admire Wotan’s (ie, Bryn Terfel’s) orthodontics and, had I wanted, his uvula. Despite heavy make-up Freia had an indifferent complexion. The sound was gigantic.

But the most impressive technology was on the stage. There a 45-ton device consisting of a hundred connected and manipulatable planks, affectionately referred to as The Machine, allowed scenes to be changed remotely. The plank edges could be made to ripple, to create staircases and to form precipitate underwater cliffs down which the Rhinemaidens (not without trepidation) disported themselves on wires, flicking their feet flippers and blowing heat-generated bubbles.

Ingenious and monstrous The Machine allowed performers to be positioned for high drama but wasn’t without drawbacks. Loge emerged, wire-supported, walking backwards up a 75 deg incline. He never looked happy. The Rhinemaidens, later occupying geometry impossible to interpret visually, had to take great care that their wires – made more obvious by HD TV - weren’t tangled. On the other hand Fasolt, killed by brother Fafner on a horizontal part of the stage, slid eerily into oblivion as the stage was slowly inclined.

We’re down for Lucia di Lammermoor in March and Walküre in May but will add Nixon in China and Capriccio. All by the Met and all with stratospheric casts.

5 comments:

Avus said...

Your penultimate paragraph had me grinning broadly, BB. Rheingold will never be the same again!

marja-leena said...

Interesting and entertaining to read about your experience seeing the Met opera in a movie theatre. We love opera too but haven't yet tried that option which we have available here in Vancouver. All that onstage technology, however, sounds a bit scary for the performers, even the audience who may fear some dreadful accident. Just curious, was their English captioning as well? Our live opera offers it for the operas sung in non-English languages

Hattie said...

You have got to read Maureen Dowd on this production.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/opinion/10dowd.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=rheingold%20dowd&st=cse
marja-leena: at the Met there are little screens on the back of the seat in front of one that have English captioning.

Rouchswalwe said...

Rheingold ... that's the second time in a week I've heard the term. So it's a production. Are we talking Wagner? Sounds like it might be turned into a theme park next.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Some of the byproducts of this high-tech production were unintentionally hilarious. Musically, though, I couldn't fault it.

M-L: Translation panels are more or less standard with opera in the UK. Many argue that they should also be used when the libretto is in English. With Rheingold very superior (and clear) sub-titles were used.

Hattie: Our daily and Sunday papers (The Guardian, The Observer) come with a partial facsimile of the NYT and I was aware of The Machine beforehand.

RW (zS): Rheingold is the first of four operas that form Wagner's Ring cycle. If you're unfamiliar with opera and are contemplating a plunge try something a little more digestible first - say Puccini's La Boheme of WAM's Marriage of Figaro. By the time you're ready for Wagner it may well be available as a theme park.