Hansel and Gretel Give Thanks Too

In honor of Thanksgiving sort of, a couple of new black and white horror stories, aka fairy tales, one dealing with classic German frightening forests and witches, the other with dictatorships and boarding schools…

Toon Books' new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Toon Books’ new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Hansel and Gretel’s enduring popularity might obscure the horror of the original telling, when the parents agree to “lose” their children in the woods since they’re unable to feed them, but modern fabulist Neil Gaiman brings back that heart-wrenching element in his latest telling of the tale put out by Francoise Mouly‘s enterprising new Toon Books imprint of adventurous comics and illustrated adaptations designed with the current pedagogical needs of school-age children in mind…  Hunger and desperation are at the center of this story, and the dark tone is clear from Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattoti‘s moody, inky drawings.

Another stark story about unfortunate children is Arcady’s Goal by author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin.  This book’s protagonist is separated from his parents when they’re deemed enemies of the state by the Soviet Russian government and is sent to an isolated school for other such political orphans.  Seems like a similarly mature situation, and one the protagonist has to try and improve on his own…

Children pulling themselves up by the bootstraps has a long literary history, from fairy tale protagonists to Dickens’ street urchins to gangs of mystery solving kids, and, like these two books, these stories can take a dark turn with kids abandoned and orphaned, comforts we take for granted cruelly stripped from them, and normalcy a very big bootstrap-pulll away if that…  At any rate, this seemed somehow relevant to Thanksgiving…  In that it’s, like, the total opposite…

Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin

Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin

As long as we’re talking about Hansel and Gretel, let’s end with a bit of German composer Engelbert Humperdinck‘s charming 1893 operatic adaptation!  Besides the sort of macabre inverse-relation to Thanksgiving as the holiday of plenty, this opera is also very popular around Christmas-time, so it’s extra-holiday appropriate!  Also, there are sure to be several performances popping up this time of year (including at the Met Opera where the below clip is from)…

The opera of course also deals with the themes of hunger and need, and this production in particular is centered around food, both its absence and excess, as demonstrated here when Hansel and Gretel’s wildest dreams are shown to revolve around a sumptuous banquet.

Live-Streamin’ some Strauss

Whoops, forgot to post about this earlier, but today you can watch Richard StraussAriadne auf Naxos online, the first live-stream of the 2013 Glyndebourne season at 1:55 east coast time.  I’ll be more on top of subsequent webcasts from Glyndebourne (also, this is my first Strauss post?  yikes!).

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne, 2013

Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne, 2013

If you’re aching for more, and more modern opera, after that, you can catch up with all the 2013 InsightALT festival events here.

Happy Bicentennial Birthday Wagner!

Today is the 200th birthday of everyone’s favorite German marathon opera composer, Richard Wagner.  I know I’m kind of ready to move on after all the Wagner-festivities of the past season…  To celebrate his first centennial, in 1913, German film pioneer Carl Froelich directed this silent autobiographical movie:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_9PzkzsQxc&w=350&h=300]

Interestingly, to avoid royalty fees for using Wagner’s music, they instead commissioned Italian-born, German-based composer Giuseppe Becce to create the original, Wagnerian-ish score.  As if that wasn’t enough, Becce even played the title role!  Such an auspicious omen for an aspiring composer, literally stepping into the role of a great predecessor, but doesn’t seem to have rubbed off too much onto Becce.

Scandal in Belgium and Bavaria

From the continent, two exciting new opera productions for your viewing pleasure.

Berg’s Lulu at La Monnaie

La Monnaie in Brussels has a well-received new production of Alban Berg‘s powerful, pioneering, second, final, and incomplete opera Lulu.  Based on the plays of Frank WedekindLulu is sort of a femme fatale, so much scandal to be had…  It’ll be up for a month, and the rest of La Monnaie’s streaming schedule for the season is up here.

And in the other corner, the plucky young contender, Bavarian State Opera‘s world premiere performance of the young German composer Jörg Widmann‘s Babylon.  Who knows when your next chance to hear this opera about everything will be since it’s only up until Sunday, so if you’re feeling adventurous you might want to start here…

Widmann’s Babylon at Bavarian State Opera

Der Sturmy Weather Continues

Presumably I’ll still be locked up at home when this goes up, possibly internet-less, scraping cans of beans in order to survive the annual NYC Hurricane Season, so this seemed appropriate:

Frank Martin’s Der Sturm, streaming performance from Opera Today

Edmund Dulac The Tempest illustrationImage by Edmund Dulac

Frank Martin was a Swiss composer, and Der Sturm (ie, The Tempest), premiered in 1955, was his sole opera.  Opera Today features opera reviews from around the world, but they also have an amazingly diverse selection of full, free recordings of live opera performances (though they are streaming, meaning you need to stay internet-connected to listen).

Here’s the full German libretto, if you’re into that, and the multi-award winning Hyperion recording, if you’d like to support the many people it takes to make such a recording possible.

A Burning Ring of Fire, Live from London

At long last, the final opera in Wagner‘s Ring Cycle live from London’s Royal Opera House, courtesy of BBC Radio 3Götterdämmerung, aka “The Twilight of the Gods”!

Arthur Rackham Ring illustration #51

Image by Arthur Rackham

Not to be outdone, the world basically ends in this one.  So yeah, try to top that.  And no more sequels either…  The live-stream will start at 10:45am for the East Coast of the US, and will be available here for a week after.

A full Ring Cycle is sort of a benchmark for any operaphile, but it can be trying.  Wagner can be a bit much for me, though he certainly has his moments…  Hope you enjoyed, and keep your eyes on BBC Radio 3: Opera on 3 for future operas!

Big Ring Keeps on Turning, Live from London

NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Your friendly reminder that BBC Radio 3 will be continuing their live stream of Richard Wagner‘s complete Ring Cycle from London’s Royal Opera House tomorrow, with the 2nd, and perhaps most beloved, opera in the series, Die Walkürie.

Image by Arthur Rackham

Tomorrow’s performance starts earlier than last time, so if you’re an East coaster like me remember to tune in at 11:45am here to hear it live.  Also, like all other BBC3 Opera streams, the Ring operas will each be available on BBC’s website for 7 days;  meaning there are now 4 operas available right here.

(Also, you can check out Rackham‘s full series of Ring Illustrations here or by clicking the image above.  They’re really lovely.)