O don fatale: a holiday gift guide


Searching for an opera-related gift for someone? Here are some ideas. The Times suggests that you get them a Ring Cycle, a Ring Cycle, or a Ring Cycle, the so I’m not going to suggest that (er, is the “super-deluxe” Solti set really worth $318? Does it sound different from the $120 version that includes all the other mature Wagner operas too–which is probably a far better gift, though it may lack libretti?*).

I don’t get any $ from you clicking on these links and I know they are US-centric, but it’s the easiest way of doing it.

Stefan Herheim’s La bohème (DVD) (not pictured above): The Norwegian doyen of phantasmagorical Regietheater has been criminally neglected on video, but luckily that has begun to change. This is a deeply sad, very beautiful look at death and memory. Highly recommended, particularly for Christmas. You can now get his Eugene Onegin as well (which I wrote about here). (Bohème, Onegin)

Opera Glasses: Those dainty little ones work if you have fancy seats and want to see your favorite singer sweat, but if you’re stuck in the Family Circle these suckers mean business and still don’t take up too much space in your bag. (B&H Photo)

L’incoronazione di Poppea
(DVD): Monteverdi’s Nero gets away with murder, adultery, and more in an impassioned, lush, R-rated opera that gives Lulu a run for her money in depravity. This recent performance of David Alden’s vintage production, conducted by Harry Bicket with Sarah Connolly and Miah Persson, is probably the best video around. Hey, does anyone recognize this particular staging? (It’s in Alden’s Ballo “Eri tu.”) (Amazon)

Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker, A History of Opera (book): I am excited to see this book by two of the most important and provocative opera scholars around, which should be very interesting. I haven’t read it yet but am still recommending on general principle. (Amazon)

Tosca (DVD): Antonio Pappano’s fabulous conducting, plus the ideal cast of–bear with me–Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, and Bryn Terfel make this a Tosca not to miss. I know Angela and Tosca may not seem like a natural fit, but on this video at least she’s wonderfully musical and the voice sounds terrific, and her acting also convinces. Both the men are super. Only the Regie is a little bit lacking. (Amazon)

Karen Engelmann, The Stockholm Octavo (book): This entertaining historical novel is based around the historical assassination of Gustavus III of Sweden–i.e. the events of Un ballo in maschera. Only this version involves way more fans and, fortunately, no Oscar. (Amazon)

Prima Donna, Karina Gauvin (CD): Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin is unfortunately something of a best-kept secret among Baroque fans, but her silvery tone, impeccable phrasing, and vivid expression should work for everyone. This CD is one of those historic diva tribute albums, the diva in question being Anna Maria Strada and mixes some familiar music (Alcina) with less familiar. (Amazon)

Patrick Carnegy, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (book): This isn’t a new book, but I have to recommend it anyway because it’s absolutely terrific–overall, the single best opera book dealing with opera staging. You’ll learn a tremendous amount about stage technology, changing notions of operatic aesthetics, and landmark productions. It’s pricey but it’s a very substantial, well-illustrated volume. (Amazon)

La bohème (DVD): This is the Salzburg production with Anna Netrebko at her very best (the Act 2 consumerist frenzy is pictured at the top of this post). I enjoyed this one quite a lot, and would like to see it again with Piotr Beczala actually singing. I’m also hoping there’s a Special Feature from the crazy performance I attended. That’s what DVD extras are for.  (Amazon)

Also can someone get me a few of these and throw in a round-trip flight? Happy holidays and don’t forget to listen to some bombastic operatic Christmas music. I’ll be back from Beatrice di Tenda next week.

*Note to my mom: don’t get this for me. I have the Solti Ring already.

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1 Comment

  1. Patrick Carnegy's book is indeed a total gem. As a set and lighting designer for theater and opera, I found that not only does he know his stuff, but he nicely explodes the "composer's original intentions" mantra compellingly; if Wagner didn't like his own original intentions why should we?

    Carnegy's rational analyses of, and appreciation for, productions that fully utilize the advances in staging, design, acting and interpretation of operas that have occurred since Wagner's time, are both thought provoking and quite convincing. A must-read for any serious Wagnerian.