SebaSM Comics Digest, Weeks of Mar. 10th and 17th

SebaSM-Comics-Trio-MarchI missed my weekly update last week because I was out of the country, but I did have two normally scheduled SebaSM Comics during my trip, and two more new comics this week too!

Today’s update is Bizarro Twins appropriate, since it’s vaguely inspired by Donizetti‘s Lucia di Lammermoor, which I saw this week at the Metropolitan Opera.  Not based on any of the big iconic moments really, just some old school relationship stuff as seen through a 21st century lens, of course…2015-03-26-R-99 Here’s a clip from the Met’s production in a previous season with Natalie Dessay:

What a Selfish Turk

Juilliard Opera, Rossini's Il Turco in ItaliaIn honor of Juilliard‘s performances of Rossini‘s 1814 comic opera Il Turco in Italia this week (glowingly reviewed at Parterre), here are some famous depictions of Turkey in opera.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of them wound up revolving around harems, ha ha…

Maybe the most famous opera set in Turkey, Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail follows the European hero as he tries to rescue his girlfriend from the Turkish Pasha’s harem.  I don’t know how she wound up there either…

Yet another opera partly set in a Turkish Pasha’s harem is Verdi’s 1848 Il Corsaro, depicting a war between the Pasha and some Pirates, with the Pasha’s favorite Gulnara, below, stuck in the middle…

And in a variation of the first story, here’s another opera about a Turk holding a Western woman captive (Oh, those dastardly Turks!), the first act of Rameau’s globe-trotting anthology opera Les Indes Galantes, aka Le Turc Généreux!  You can see the whole opera below, or click on the upper left hand corner to get to the fourth video, where the Turkish segment begins.

Ah, good old fashioned Orientalism!

I Guess Opera can still Shock…

This weekend, the Met Opera gave it’s last performance of what became the hot button cultural event of the season here in New York, John Adam‘s 1991 Death of Klinghoffer.

Death of Klinghoffer premiere at La Monnaie, photo by Baus Hermann J.

Death of Klinghoffer premiere at La Monnaie, 1991, photo by Baus Hermann J.

The opera is about the the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front, during which a 69 year old Jewish American passenger was murdered.  As you might imagine, controversy has dogged the work since it’s premiere at La Monnaie, in Belgium, just six years after the original events.  That being said, the reception in New York seemed especially strong compared to other recent productions in the US.

Having seen the piece myself last week, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on its merits.

Musically, the opera is known for its choral pieces, which are mostly quite lovely/striking, ranging from peacefully meditative to distressingly aggressive.  Besides the choral music though, I found the music pretty flat at the beginning.  The second part had more diverse music though, from agressive expressions of anger to one weirdly 90s commercial jingle interlude…  All in all though, that diversity I thought included stronger music and made for a more interesting musical experience.

Textually, the libretto by Alice Goodman alternates between poetic and more concrete language, which I found problematic…  Given the reality of not just this particular hijacking and murder, but of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, any time someone’s given obtuse poetry to recite feels like a missed opportunity.  Furthermore, it seemed that the Jewish characters were more frequently given poetic lines than the Palestinians, so the Palestinians had more concrete things to say, while the Jews were just harder to understand…

All that said, I don’t think the opera is antisemitic or glorifies terrorism, two critiques often thrown at it.  It obviously depicts hatred, and I think that’s done heart-wrenchingly well.  While Palestinians are given a voice in the choruses, and allowed to express their grievances as displaced people, the terrorists aren’t really sympathetic.  But that comes to another critique, about humanizing the terrorists…  And of course, they are indeed human, not pure avatars of evil, so I think that aspect was pulled off alright…  Despite some glimpses of underlying shared humanity, their actions are never sugarcoated.

All in all, a  gutsy albeit ultimately imperfect attempt to analyze an unapproachably taboo subject through opera…

Now for some totally inappropriate emotional whiplash!

In an infinitely more light-hearted case of operatic culture clash, Juilliard is presenting Rossini‘s 1814 comic opera Turco in Italia starting this Thursday (tickets $30).  Below, the full opera from Zurich Opera in 2001:

Sleepwalk with the Met Tonight

La Sonnambula Illustration

La Sonnambula Act 2, by William de Leftwich Dodge

Tonight’s the season premiere of Bellini‘s La Sonnambula at the Met Opera, and it’ll be live-streamed starting at 7:30.

The illustration at left, by American painter and muralist William de Leftwich Dodge, shows the climactic moment when the protagonist, Amina, sleep walks atop a rickety old mill bridge, very dramatic.

That’s sort of the defining moment in the opera, and apparently sopranos known for their Aminas would be painted with mills in the background as a shorthand…

Anyway, lots of lovely music in the opera, so enjoy the live-stream!

Diva to Casta Diva

When she’s not watching non-stop Catholic mass on TV, my grandmother sometimes watches the news from Spain, which is how I learned that today is Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé‘s 80th birthday!  To celebrate, here is probably her single most famous performance, in Bellini‘s Norma at the 1974 Orange Opera Festival.

Additionally, here’s an interview with her in 1970, where she discusses the role of Norma four years before that legendary performance (Part 2 here).

Religious Rossini

The second half of NYC Opera‘s current season is fast approaching, and I’m seeing their posters everywhere lately, even my local pizza shop!   So here’s a preview of the video projections designed by Beehive studio for Michael Count‘s production of Rossini‘s 1818 opera Mosè in Egitto.


Rossini’s Moses in Egypt – Trailer from Beehive.tv on Vimeo.

And for some more background on the creation of these animations, here’s Beehive founder Ada Whitney:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPeL9fw5oHE&w=350&h=300]

So get yer’ tickets, for Mosè in Egitto and Offenbach’s La Perichole!  Right now you can get 10% off tickets for both operas with Promo Code 10678 when buying tickets online!