Peter Sellars at his best
Marcus Collin | NY | 09/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So I have to say that I have never, ever in my life seen an opera production that resonated with me so much. Actually, I'll qualify that. I've never seen, ever, a production of a music theater piece that has touched me this way before.
Sellars has moved the action from Seville in the 18th century to 1980's New York City, before you groan, stay with me.
In Trump Tower, Count Almaviva lives and reigns, etc etc, you know the story....however this was just amazing.
Figaro is now a chaffeur and Susanna is a hotel maid. Every single actor/singer in this production was real, believable and actually LIVED on that stage.
It was the only time I've ever really believed that Cherubino was really a male. The actress/singers mannerisms were perfectly male, and teenager/gangly. Her Hockey jersey and ripped jeans were clothing that she seemed so at home in, I found myself totally thinking of her as a man.
The Countess was a real person, not just forlorn but going through a REAL crisis.
Marcellina wasn't a histrionic wench, but a clever socialite,
Bartolo was an aging preppie lawyer
Basilio was a leather clad music executive with a penchant for gossip
Barbarina looked surprisingly like Tempest Bledsoe from The Cosby Show.
Every detail was in place and there for a reason. This is what I mean about an updated piece being done WELL. I know many of you think that what you call "revisals" are just an expression of egomaniacal directors, and in many cases I totally agree with you. But Peter Sellars has something to say, and what he is saying is "LISTEN UP! THIS IS STILL IMPORTANT!"
He is not saying "Look at me!"
He is saying "Look at them! They are just like you and me, and I'll prove it!" It's a tall order, but he fills it.
It was the first time I felt real suspense in an opera, the action was incredibly real, sometimes extremely violent, often highly sexual and just spot on at every point.
For those of you who hate "revisals" and I hate that word, and for those of you who think that changing the setting of the piece is not really the piece, but a new piece, listen up.
Things get old, they get stale, but they still have a message to convey and in many cases, beautiful music to present to you with the message, sometimes (as is the case here) the music is also the message.
But we as a people and a public grow and change, the things that shocked us into listening for the message no longer do that, so we need NEW ways to hear the same message now, especially since we're all so desensitized to everything now. THIS is what I've been waiting for to make the argument for tweaking material in a new setting.
Peter Sellars has made a modern masterpiece out of a masterpiece, and I can't thank him enough. If you thought you knew everything about updating old pieces, please take the time out to watch this.
I thought I knew this opera, but I didn't, and now I understand. I was so touched by this piece, and this is exactly what I'm talking about. To get a new audience to appreciate what you appreciated yesterday, and to get them to understand and hear what you think is SO important about the piece that you love so much (and Im talking about great musical theater works too, such as West Side Story, you HAVE to speak their language...visually.
That was the whole idea about bringing the message of Romeo and Juliet into New York City. Give people a setting they can relate to, or understand or empathize with, and you're halfway home with your message.
Especially if you have reservations about this type of thing, do yourself a favour and watch this with an open mind."
Love on the 52nd Floor
padremac | St. Paul, MN United States | 09/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Sellars does it again. In his production of "Le Nozze," Sellars sets the action high above Manhattan in the penthouse of a Donald Trump-like Count Almaviva. As with the other two Da Ponte operas, Sellars highlights the sexual tensions in the libretto. For example, Susanna (an anything but coquettish Jeanne Ommerle) and the Countess (played by a Princess Diane-like Jayne West) exchange some steamy carresses with Cherubino (wonderfully and convincingly played by Susan Larson) as they change him into women's clothes. Sellars makes the Count (played by a fiery James Maddalena) a threatening character whose jealous outbursts are actually moments of domestic abuse. The singing is very good as is the sound quality. The camera work is a little choppy, though. If you have not seen the other Sellars porductions of Mozart, this is a good introduction. His "updated" version may be too much for purists (he does take some liberties with the subtitles). Nevertheless, Sellars does a fine job in exploring the psychological and emotional facets of this piece."
Obnoxious and Self-Indulgent
Peter K. Winkler | 03/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sellars' idea to set the opera in Trump Tower is intriguing, and it does bring the class conflict at the heart of the opera into relief; we see how this story isn't really all that dated. But Sellars never knows when to stop; everything is exaggerated to a ridiculous extent - why does the Count, in his vengance aria, have to flop around the stage like a landed fish? Why does Cherubino have to sing "Non So Piu" while dry-humping the pillows on the couch? Instead of saying "look at what Mozart and DaPonte have to say to us" Sellars seems to be saying "look at what a clever director I am!""
Interesting in theory...not in reality
Opera Diva | Elmsford, NY | 05/01/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Being a big fan of the Marriage of Figaro and having heard a professor of mine really knocking down Peter Seller's modern day da Ponte/Mozart operas, I was overly curious to see what it was about. In theory I like the idea of a modern day setting for Figaro...along with the other operas, it's really a timeless story. Students in the voice department at my school put on a concert performance of it, using their own modern day clothing as well and it worked out quite nicely...this didn't. The singing is adequate, however I don't think people were cast properly. The Countess's voice IMO is too light and lyric for that role, she would have done much better as Susanna. Susanna's voice was also heavier...not to mention the Countess looked to be quite a bit younger than Susanna, and maybe it's only in my head, but when I picture Figaro and Susanna, I imagine late teens/early twenties...not 40's. I understand that singer's voices don't mature until their 30's and really solidify around 40, but it just doesn't feel right to me. The other thing is that this is an Opera Buffa...it's supposed to be funny! Peter Sellars is apparently known for directing funny movies...this wasn't funny! The Count is portrayed as a wife beater, he actually throws the countess around during the 2nd act! That really makes the humor factor drop significantly. I did enjoy Frank Kelley as Basilio, in that setting he did quite well, I can't comment on anything else he's done because I haven't seen/heard it. David Evitts also did OK as Bartolo. I don't think Hermann Hildebrand (Antonio) was given the staging to really act drunk, like he's supposed to be. The subtitles were also adjusted for a more "modern" vocabulary...in effect losing a lot of the subtleties of more standard translations. In the end, I'd have to say that my professor was right...there are much better productions to watch, nothing is perfect granted, but this had a LOT of potential and seriously let me down. Go watch the most recent Glyndebourne Festival production with Rene? Fleming and company. Modern day acting technique, time period costumes, funny as heck!"