As you may have noticed, I’ve been out of commission a lot over the last two weeks for reasons I am certain that you really do not want to hear about. The worst of these tribulations, however, has resulted in my eighty-sixing my New York sojourn this December, so I will not have the originally promised coverage of a number of items including the Met Opera’s revival of Pelléas et Mélisande
under the guidance of Simon Rattle. So instead, over the next few weeks I’m going to highlight some of the best and worst of 2010 leading up to the Out West Arts top ten music and theater events of the year. To kick things off, I’d like to highlight two of the more notable DVD releases of this past year, both from Los Angeles Opera
. The company has had a huge year artistically, although admittedly not without its controversies. One of the more notable fruits of their recent labors are a pair of DVD’s produced as part of music director James Conlon’s “Recovered Voices” series. Conlon has helmed several productions of operas from composers adversely affected by Germany’s Third Reic,h and two of these shows have made it to video for those of you who may have missed them.
First is a 2008 double bill
featuring Viktor Ullmann’s brief comedy Der zerbrochene Krug
and Alexander Zemlinsky’s far more substantial Der Zwerg
. The latter features outstanding performances from Rodrick Dixon and Mary Dunleavy in a striking and quite affecting production inspired by Diego Velazquez’ Las Meninas
. Conlon’s advocacy for Zemlinsky’s score is evident, and this is an excellent addition to the available recordings of the composer’s work. The other “Recovered Voices” project now out on DVD is a 2009 production
of Walter Braunfels’ Die Vögel
. Another operatic rarity, Braunfels’ fable proves to be musically substantial under Conlon’s attention, and the performance features a rising-star in Brandon Jovanovich. Like Der Zwerg,
the production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, but this time around he is markedly less successful. Hampered by the steeply raked set for the concurrently running production of Achim Freyer’s vision of Wagner’s Ring
cycle, Tresnjak creates a rather cloying, kitschy world for his mythological characters. Still, this is beautifully played and such a rarity is worth owning even if not in an ideal staging.
Labels: Best Of, LA Opera 10/11