The Arty Semite

The Big Schnoz Returns to the Met

By Raphael Mostel

KEN HOWARD/METROPOLITAN OPERA

James Levine is not the only major return at the Metropolitan Opera this week. Coming back for just seven performances between September 28 and October 26 is one of the Met’s most artistically acclaimed productions in recent years, Shostakovich early, wildly inventive, over-the-top adaptation of Gogol’s classic story, “The Nose.”

Picked by every critic as the best of the year when it was first introduced at the Met in 2010, this production by South African artist William Kentridge features giant papier-mâché and projected film versions of Kentridge’s own extravagantly hooked Jewish schnoz, appearing as Gogol’s eponymous proboscis running loose in Moscow. Both the opera and this production are a breathtaking, risk-taking adventure.

Gogol’s story manifestly resists dramatization, so Kentridge faced quite a challenge adapting it for the stage. His antic vision — half-Constructivist and half-Dada — had distractions across every vertical and horizontal inch of the stage. Normally so many disparate gambles would careen apart into shambles, but this was the exceptional success — perhaps because Shostakovich did the same thing with the music. Kentridge’s opening gambit brilliantly shows what he’s up to: During the opera’s introduction, the mysterious shadows of a slowly turning machine appear to be flying apart with pieces reaching the far edges of the stage-screen, only to coalesce suddenly into a stunning line-drawing portrait of Shostakovich. That combination of wildness and precision embodies the whole production.

Shostakovich’s nose-thumbing score (this was composed in 1928 before the Stalinist censorship and terror) bristles with attitude, including wild shifts of technique and tone. Conductor Valery Gergiev is again conducting the first four of the seven performances. Last time he brilliantly managed to get the Met orchestra and singers to ride this roller coaster while hanging on for dear life.

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Jerusalem Cinematheque Bans Wagner Broadcasts

By Noam Ben-Zeev

Crossposted from Haaretz

Wiki Commons

The Jerusalem Cinematheque has decided not to screen two works by composer Richard Wagner from the opera season of the New York Metropolitan Opera, which will be broadcast live beginning October 15.

Starting this year, the Jerusalem Cinematheque joins the 1,600 theaters throughout the world that already use sophisticated HD technology to offer live broadcasts of a representative sampling from the season of the largest opera house in the United States, and one of the five most important ones in the world.

The general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb, said in an exclusive interview with Haaretz that the selection, which includes 11 operas, is a microcosm of the repertoire and a representation of the finest and newest productions, including debut productions. But an examination of the repertoire at the Jerusalem Cinematheque reveals only nine operas from the selection that will be broadcast worldwide.

Read more at Haaretz.com

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Nebuchadnezzar Becomes a Jew at the Met

By Raphael Mostel

Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
Maria Guleghina as Abigaille and Zeljko Lucic in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Nabucco.’

Just in time for the High Holy Days, the Metropolitan Opera is bringing back its production of one of the few works of music that helped change history. “Nabucco” (Nebuchadnezzar), a wildly eccentric story inspired by the biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, was Giuseppe Verdi’s first professional breakthrough, and it helped inspire the Risorgiomento, which ended the Catholic church’s political control of Italy as well the infamous Nuremberg-like laws imposed on Jews by Pope Pius IX.

In the opera, Nabucco’s two daughters both fall madly in love with a Hebrew prince, and Nabucco himself converts to Judaism after being struck by lightning. The chorus of Hebrew slaves, “Va pensiero” (“Fly my Thoughts on Golden Wings”), has become Italy’s unofficial national anthem. It is spontaneously sung at soccer games, and all sorts of other occasions.

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Conductor James Levine to Sit Out at the Met

By Forward Staff

Getty Images

James Levine will withdraw from all performances at the Metropolitan Opera for the rest of the year following a fall while on vacation in Vermont, the New York Times reports. The noted conductor suffered a damaged vertebra and underwent emergency surgery on Thurday.

Levine, who is musical director of the Met, announced his resignation as musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March, due to ongoing health issues, including a spinal condition called stenosis. Though he is retaining his position at the Met, he will be replaced during the coming season by principal guest conductor Fabio Luisi along with Louis Langrée and Derrick Inouye.

In a statement to the Times, the Met said that Levine hopes to recover in time for the performance of Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” in January and the company’s production of the complete “Ring” cycles in April and May.

The grandchild of a cantor and son of a violinist from Cincinnati, Ohio, Levine has conducted approximately 2,512 performances at the Met since 1971, and has been awarded the National Medal of Arts, among other honors.

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