This week is opera week. I already reported on Flying Dutchman, and last night we saw Verdi's "Il Ballo in Maschera" (The Masked Ball) given in Amsterdam by the National Reisopera. This is The Netherland's "second" company, performing each of their operas in 13 cities around the country. Because of that the design and directorial approaches are different, but the quality no less strong.
I won't write AS much as I did on Dutchman simply because my work load has increased CONSIDERABLY in the last couple days. I've gone from having two operas to direct this Spring, to having five, and that means LOTS of preparation.
In short the production was fantastic. I had quibbles, and there were some cliches, but all-in-all is was a wonderful evening out. I sometimes forget how great this opera is. I think it is Verdi's best piece of drama. Most people feel that award should either go to the late "Otello" or Falstaff", but what I like about "Ballo" is that it is tragic and grotesquely comic all at the same time, making the drama that much more intense. The ensemble writing is beyond belief, and the final act is shattering. LOVE IT! In this production, there were a lot of metaphors used, and that worked for me. I thought the director balanced the comic and tragic perfectly. The costumes were ALL white, and there were some clever story changes that worked for me...the "ballo" became a surprise party (I've ALWAYS hated those), and Oscar remained a girl in love with her boss Ricardo. There was a lot of use of leaves and Ulrica was placed heavy-handedly in almost every scene, but I liked the production. The singing was wonderful (particularly the Oscar whose bright and crystalline voice was the right contrast to the dark and cold voices of the leads), and the orchestra was, by all accounts, perfect.
Afterwards we spent an engaging evening of drinks with both Nicolas Mansfield of the Reisopera and Hein Mulder of the Netherlands Opera. That is interesting because they are both what we would call in the States "Artistic Administrators" of their respective houses. Very smart people indeed.
Tonight I'm back at the Netherlands Opera to see "Nozze di Figaro", and I hear, because they are the only seats available, I'm being given Pierre Audi's seat. Not sure how to feel about that...
Lots of work to accomplish first though!