Sunday, 15 March 2015

Gaelic orientalism

Rossini La Donna del Lago (Mariotti cond. Met Orchestra, Met cinema relay)

The Met relay of Rossini’s La Donna del Lago  takes Scott's story of the Lady of the Lake and makes it shine. Yet this is a gloomy production. It’s grim up north (Scotland), and even the tartan and flowers seem grey. Everything other than the final scene seems to be in the dark. The opening scene and its lake is set against a mountain photograph at sunset/rise and it looks like a Colin Prior photograph.  Paul Curran’s production played it down, but felt very much like a Met production. The dry barren earth (as if – which part of Scotland was this mean to be exactly?) with forlorn flowers sticking out of it. What is it about false shrubbery that excites New York’s set designers so very much? The gloom might have been atmospheric but made it all rather hard to see at times – Duane Schuler’s lighting probably worked best in New York. Mariotti’s conducting brought to the score to life effortlessly. For Joyce and company, this is was a superb demonstration of what Bel Canto does: provide a setting for superb singing. Emotion, story, certainly; but above all, demonstration of the singer’s art.  Apparently Flórez and DiDonato are champions of the work and have cooperated on these roles before, and it shows; the chemistry worked, and the final scene really was very funny as Elena searched in vain for the King, until she realises it was the stranger whom she befriended.

If Malcolm (Daniela Barcellona) is meant to be a trouser role “pants role” than does the label apply if it is a kilt? This was straight down the middle, just like Andrea Chenier at the ROH recently. Yet it painted everything as tartan and highland. The final scene, when the king in his infinite mercy was revealed. Scott himself would have bene only too thrilled with the whole thing – the Scotland as highland, and the king is bling at the end. It was basically what he did for George IV after all.
Yet somehow, I was left feeling that it uncritically presented Scott’s view of Scottish history, and flattened the whole thing out. But then much like Die Entführung aus dem Serail, it might not be all that palatable in what it says, the way it says it is so beautiful. And the final scene in the court is pretty exciting, even when you know the plot.
The only really horrid or strange bit was the chorus appearing when a group of male singers, dressed in blue outfits partly covering them – it seemed like a load of gogo dancers dressed as Rhinemaidens. Was it the promise of the ring? It really let down an otherwise gloomy and obvious but successful.
Overall: bel canto glittering brightly against a dull production. Joyce & co on top form.

Some details here.

Cast and crew:
ELENA - Joyce DiDonato
GIACOMO V - Juan Diego Flórez
MALCOLM GROEME - Daniela Barcellona
SERANO - Eduardo Valdes
DUGLAS D’ANGUS - Oren Gradus
RODRIGO DI DHU - John Osborn
ALBINA - Olga Makarina
BERTRAM - Gregory Schmidt
CONDUCTOR - Michele Mariotti
PRODUCTION - Paul Curran
LIVE IN HD HOST - Patricia Racette

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