Showing posts with label Debussy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Debussy. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Debussy and friends aid Japan

I've just been to see the pianist Noriko Ogawa about her Debussy festival in Manchester in January. Together with the BBC Philharmonic and friends, she is exploring the cross-currents between Debussy and Japan - the influence of oriental culture on the composer and his influence, in return, on Japanese composers of the 20th century and today. Fascinating stuff and I'll be explaining it all at more length soon. But Noriko was in Japan at the time of the earthquake on 11 March - you may have seen her speaking about it from Tokyo on Newsnight - and she has been hard at work fundraising via concerts and other means for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami, which left vast numbers homeless and deprived of their livelihoods. She has had some Black Cat greetings cards specially designed - each one costs £2 and all profits go to the Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund. If you haven't done your Xmas cards yet, here's the purrfect chance. Right, one of the four images. You can buy them online here. Debussy, by the way, used to frequent the club Le Chat Noir in Paris.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The miracle of Melisande

Well, the miracle of Debussy. I've started to feel that Pelleas et Melisande is the most rewarding of all operas: every performance I've attended has been like hearing it for the first time because there's something special to notice on each occasion. The Royal Opera's co-production with Salzburg does leave a thing or two to be desired - notably, costume designs that don't induce the good punters of Covent Garden to titter audibly at every character's first entry - but with Simon Rattle in the pit, Angelika Kirchschlager, Simon Keenlyside, Gerald Finlay, Robert Lloyd and Catherine Wyn-Rogers on stage, and as Yniold a young boy named George Longworth so musical that he almost stole the whole show, it didn't really matter.

Angelika looks fabulous in her now famous Red Dress, but the others, in huge, white, padded, puffed and pointed clown suits (without red noses) seem to have walked straight out of a cross between Star Trek and Dallas, and the way that stagehands push the foldaway sets round and round in circles during the first half's interludes, with associated squeaks, could have been usefully cut back. There wasn't much wrong with the actual direction - the characters emerged as well-drawn and believable - but the design...oh well.

Rattle controlled the dramatic pace marvellously and the orchestra sounded super - detailed, transparent and balanced extremely well with the singers. Hard to believe it was the same band that played that mismanaged, lumpen Mayerling the other week (conducted by, oh dear, um, one Mr Wordsworth).

Pelleas remains a conundrum of an opera because - well, what do you do with it? Nothing kills it stone-cold dead as much as naturalism. It's a Symbolist work, a conceptual piece where nothing can be taken at face value. So it begs a conceptual rendition. At least, one would think so. The music is what really counts, though; starship outfits or none, I still went home floating.