Thursday, 23 December 2010

Xmas broadcasts - Glyndebourne Don G, ROH Tannhauser

If the Pope's Thought for the Day isn't enough and the Queen isn't likely to say what she thinks, there's still plenty to listen to to enjoy. One of the best Xmas presents I ever had was childcare the year two complete Ring cycles were broadcast back to back. That was in the days before video, far less DVD, so missing  them would have been heartbreaking  We take for granted how much easier things are these days. Now we can record privately what we can't hear live.

Naturally plenty of hymns and church services because that's what the holiday is ABOUT, never forget. But Xmas Eve, the big treat on BBC TV2 at 1445 will be Glyndebourne's Don Giovanni from summer 2010. I much preferred this to the Glyndebourne Billy Budd because it showed some understanding of Mozart's sharp wit and pace. Billy Budd looked nice, but it's not a love triangle. Wonderful performances but no concept of the inner moral dilemmas. Please read about Glyndebourne's Don Giovanni and Billy Budd by clicking on the links.

Then at 1800 on Christmas Day there'll be a broadcast of the current Royal Opera House Wagner Tannhäuser. This should be international online, too, but I'm not sure it repeats. Listen, whether you've already been or are planning to go. Tannhäuser  isn't the easiest of operas to understand, perhaps because Wagner himself was more conflicted about it than might seem at first. That's all the more reason to do homework and think carefully about what the opera means. It's certainly not a love triangle either.  Tannhäuser is torn between easy self indulgence and spartan conformity, yet even these two poles aren't the whole story. His dilemma is that he's tasted emotions so intense that they wreck him for normal life. None of the Wartburgrers can understand - except the holy Elisabeth. A lot of disinformation has been written about this production, so listen carefully and read the libretto and background.  Without the visuals it might be easier to appreciate what a difficult part this is to sing as well as to interpret. I've done an analysis of its meaning and images, and there's a review HERE.

The picture above is Paul Cézanne, Young Girl playing the Tannhäuser Overture. It's a great illustration. Compare the hardworking older woman who seems to be listening to what the young woman's playing. But is she? The older woman sits on a red chair but it's hard and severe. The young woman looks demure and repressed, but she feels the music only too well. All around her the wallpaper patterns swirl and fabrics clash. This girl perhaps knows what Tannhäuser is really about. Perhaps she'd like to escape the confines of that stuffy parlour.

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