Don’t Ash, Don’t Tell

You will only see select parts of this from the Family Circle.

All I wanted was to see a production of Guillaume Tell which didn’t become a major news event. But I went yesterday, and the performance ended without Act IV but with me giving interviews to both the Times and the AP.

The interruption and eventual cancellation was caused by, it turns out, an audience member scattering a late friend’s ashes into the orchestra pit. It was, obviously, utterly bizarre and ill-advised. You have to be a complete idiot not to realize that this was going to end with a counter-terrorism unit surrounding the besmirched timpani and an awful lot of your fellow opera fans justifiably angered by your idiocy. But opera fans often pride themselves for their distance from the modern world, and this is such a typical opera fan gesture: ridiculous, morbid, sincere, and anachronistic. So much of opera is about something that is lost, and grief is not reasonable.

So I have only three acts of Guillaume Tell to write about. This is disappointing. I didn’t get to hear the big tenor number or the final chorus, two of the best parts of the opera, and it’s highly unlikely that I will be able to return to the Met for another go at it. So let’s do this now. (Also, I missed Tristan und Isolde due to my Amtrak train running over two hours late. This season has been terrific so far!) But this production has a really great cast!

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Wolfgang Rihm’s Dionysos in Amsterdam

While in Amsterdam, I went to Wolfgang Rihm’s Dionysos and wrote about it for Bachtrack, and you can read it here.

This was tricky to write. It was a stellar performance of an excellent production of an opera with stunning music… and a libretto that I strongly disliked. I’m glad I saw it–I always like seeing something new to me, and the music really was good–but I personally had misgivings. Just not my style. And not just because I am suspicious of any work where the women consistently wear so much less clothing than the men. (That’s a bad indicator, though.)

The Gashouder, however, is a very impressive space. It’s a giant old gas storage tank located in the Westergasfabriek, a former factory complex in the northwest part of town that now hosts performance spaces, galleries, restaurants, that kind of thing. I wish I’d gotten a chance to look around a little more, but, as you can see, it was raining (this is a frequent problem in the Netherlands).

Production photo © Ruth Walz

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