That was my seven year old son’s critique of Richard Tucker’s performance in Carmen; it was his first exposure to the great American tenor. Tucker had sung Don Jose in his customary style. Wonderful singing combined with ham (what my son meant by “noble”) acting. He had mastered every operatic cliché – fist on the breast, fist shaking, galumphing around the stage like Frankenstein’s monster. He could have run Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. When Tucker performed with Zinka Milanov, which was often, they could have cornered the world’s prosciutto market. But what voices! The rest didn’t matter.
Rarely has an operatic production caused as much furor as the 2005 Salzburg Festival production of La Traviata. Desperate opera aficionados wrote blank checks in hopes of securing black-market tickets to the opening performance. Applied to a piece with a history of lavish costumes and sets, the minimalist aesthetic and conceptual staging added new intellectual and emotional depth to the opera. The production’s major symbols are concerned with Violetta’s illness and death. Violetta’s interactions with symbolic set pieces and characters reflect existentialist attitudes towards dying. Specifically, Violetta’s struggle with death can be interpreted through Heidegger’s concept of authenticity and inauthenticity in being-toward-death.
Saint-Saëns – like Berlioz, is one of a rare breed – a French composer who does not owe his success to opera. His father was a civil servant who died from consumption when the boy was only a few months old which meant that he was brought up by his mother and his Great-Aunt and it was she who encouraged his musical talent. He was a child prodigy in every sense and soaked up knowledge like a sponge. By the time he was three he had learned to read and write and by the time he was eight he had some mastery of Latin and was well on his way to being a multi-faceted intellectual. He Saint-Saëns – like Berlioz, is one of a rare breed – a French composer who does not owe his success to opera. His father was a civil servant who died from consumption when the boy was only a few months old which meant that he was brought
Puccini’s cowboy opera, La Fanciulla del West, had returned to the Met after an absence of 17 years in 2010. 2010 was the 100th anniversary of the opera’s world premiere at the Met. Emmy Destinn and Enrico Caruso sang the leads under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. Puccini supervised the production which was directed by David Belasco on whose play the libretto was based. Ticket prices were doubled to $10 for the prima, which was sold out. It was a scalper’s dream.