Friday, 23 March 2012

Change of scene

Well-intentioned, but... pigtails?
So much for German punctuality: I had a work thing in Berlin yesterday which veered so widely off schedule I couldn’t make it to Dresden in time for Achim Freyer’s Zauberflöte. But I’m here now and will be reporting from the Semperoper over the next couple of days. The highlight, on Sunday, is one of the toughest operatic nuts for Regie to crack, Lulu. Reimagining Berg’s stage directions and detailed understanding of the tone rows are more or less an inseparable thing, though Stefan Herheim probably doesn’t need telling that… I’m also curious to see what our very own Cornelius Meister makes of the score. No doubt the loss is all mine, but tomorrow’s premiere of what is billed in these parts as Schwanda, der Dudelsackpfeifer didn’t appeal, and so I’m off to Leipzig for their Parsifal. Tonight I went to my first staged American opera in a good few years, Dead Man Walking. A review – mostly negative, I’m afraid – will be up tomorrow or on Sunday.

This has nothing to do with Dresden, but Alex Ross has posted something thoughtful on Bruckner 9 which you should read. For a Bruckner edition to ruffle so few factional feathers is very rare, though I think this strength, if we should call it that, is also SPCMs fatal weakness. I can only add to AR’s comments that while only composing thirteen bars of new material avoids yes, speculation, this timid finale sounds composed by committee.* I think that methodological eclecticism is a good thing and so am inclined to take completions as they come – the studied, self-effacing approach gave us Schubert’s Tenth (Newbould), the sparseness of which works well I think, whether Schubert intended to leave it like that or not. Levin’s Mozart Requiem may be more rigorous than the modern alternatives, but I don’t find the writing convincing and have always preferred Süssmayr (do the blunders really justify throwing the baby out with the bathwater?). A modernist completion of Bruckner 9 would make for an interesting project – Georg Friedrich Haas the obvious candidate – but between this and the overly cautious latest SPCM revision there is room for a daring imagined glimpse of how Bruckner might have surpassed himself.

*I wasn’t at the Berlin or New York concerts, but did listen to it in the BPO’s Digital Concert Hall.


  1. Schwanda/Svanda is a wonderful piece, at least based on recordings - have you seen it? It is on my list of works I MUST see some day.

    Can understand that it would not always appeal, though.

    1. I find that the music has its charms but the opera itself isn’t something I’d get on a plane to see staged. Leipzig also worked out more conveniently as I had another work thing there in the morning and stayed for the Thomanerchor in the afternoon.

  2. On reflection, a three hour work thing, heavy on the ‘Philologie’, a big choral concert and Parsifal on the same day followed by a Herheim production on the next is NOT a schedule I will be repeating in the near future…