Damiano Michielleto has directed Rossini at Pesaro several times - La Cenerentola, La scala di seta, Sigismondo, and this revival of La gazza ladra, first seen in 2007. He has also directed productuons at La Scala, Theater an der Wien and Salzburg, mostly Italian repertoire. Chances are, he knows his métier,better than the London press who savaged his Guillaume Tell at ROH because he dared to respect Rossini's own stage instructions about the humiliation of women in war. What were they expecting, Walt Disney? Please read my piece Audience back Gesler, not Tell What's wrong with audiences who are more upset by two seconds of tit but not the idea of a sadist regime which forces a man to shoot at his own son?
That scandal distorted any real analysis of the opera,and of the deeper ideas in the production. One critic, known for his own nastiness, screamed against the gala new production of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, which the Royal Opera House is presenting at Christmas. If he doesn't want to go, I'll take his ticket thank you, even though I've already purchased one, the high cost offset by fairly cheap Chabrier L'Etoile and Haas Morgen un Abends Intrigued by what Michielleto might do with Cav/Pag, I did the unthinkable. I actually watched and listened to as much as I could All performances are someone else's point of view. In normal life, we communicate by listening to people whether we agree or not.
La gazza ladra opens with a gorgeous, lively overture. Sure, we could watch the orchestra, but some would complain about that, too. In Michielleto's staging, we see an adolescent playing with silvery tubes. Is he/she putting together a kind of puzzle ? The plot is so convoluted that you can understand how an innocent might wonder at the proceedings. Later the silver tubes become a backdrop which adapts to whatever action is going on. Do the silver tubes suggest the stolen cutlery (which, we discover at the end has been present all along). The tubes turn over and become tunnels, perhaps even a cathedral looming high? Why should visual images only have to represent one thing? Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant. One feels the tail, the other the trunk. But neither "get" the elephant.
Each of the two acts is monumental, and in the second, the stage is dominated by a walkway above which the chorus parade in judgement. Given the importance of their music, not at all a bad idea. I'm less sure about the rain and water, but maybe that's the presence of nature, in a drama otherwise tied up with "indoor" ideas of possessiveness and material values. The adolescent watches, as a magpie might, bemused. The contrast is telling. Magpies like shiny things but they aren't avaricious. Now maybe we can understand why Michieletto uses young people, like Jemmy in Guillaume Tell to bring out a fresh perspective and sense of imagination. Without imagination, what is art ?
So I'm glad I'm going to the Royal Opera House Cav/Pag double bill. Consider what those operas mean and why they get done at Christmas when the idea of "peace and goodwill" might be relevant.
On Thursday 8th October, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting Rossini La gazetta live from Pesaro. It's a satire on newspapers. Hahaha!