Thursday, 5 April 2012

Not so tall tales

Director William Friedkin doesn’t put a dramaturgical foot wrong in his Theater an der Wien production of The Tales of Hoffmann and yet doesn’t challenge, or even engage with, any of the opera’s Romantic positions. Did the notion that serious artists aren’t entitled to live life, for instance, ever have much currency outside of the 19th-century? (Photographs of Schoenberg, who took himself with the utmost seriousness, show him perfectly at ease on family beach holidays.) I don’t know if it is a good thing that these questions don’t seem to matter in Friedkin’s production, but then it is so well-crafted, and its three tales of thwarted love follow on so seamlessly from one another, that it covered up its lack of substance without ever seeming unsatisfactory for doing so.
This was my first William Friedkin production and if you click through you can see I thought there wasn’t much wrong with it and I didn’t find it lacking for not having much wrong with it. The aesthetic and stagecraft brought to mind Miller, Carsen and Sellars at various stages – never these three at their best, but by the same token never at their worst.

Angel Blue was like ‘and who says Giuletta has to be a diva?’ and it worked up to a point. Still, good to see her back at the TadW after the nasty taxi incident of last year (and also interesting that this article had her down as Antonia, which might have been a better role for her).

This production used the new Kaye/Keck critical edition and things didn’t drag as much as I’d been led to believe. There will be a second run in July (4/7, 6/7, 8/7, 10/7) with Marlis Peterson singing all four soprano roles.

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