Recently I’ve been watching a DVD of that greatest of all operas, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Claus Güth’s sensational production for the Salzburg Festival. It made me realize how jaded I had got about new opera productions – I often prefer to listen to opera at home and imagine the action. Claus Güth has woken me up again to the excitement of opera as theatre. Mozart’s opera, of course, needs no marketing from me – it is, if any opera is, simply perfect, dramatically, musically and poetically. This production though, you will either love it or hate, is a has to be seen.
With meticulous musicality and attention to the finer points of the text, Claus Güth has reinterpreted the much produced piece and made it both thrilling theatre but also disturbingly moving in the spirit of Mozart’s multi-dimensional masterpiece. The performances are terrific too with real acting going on up there on stage.
Claus Güth might actually be a genius. I can’t wait to see what he made of the other two Mozart/Da Ponte operas, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutti. I have a feeling I’m going to love them too.
But why am I writing this today? Well, I just caught a TV transmission of Claus Güth’s production of Handel’s Messiah. An impossibility I would’ve thought until seeing it. Handel’s great religious oratorio, so well known and so revered, isn’t an obvious candidate for Herr Güth’s exciting theatricality. Oratorio die-hards will hate it, no doubt, but it is, yes, brilliant. Moving, grim, dramatic and, maybe or maybe not, agnostic, it shows yet again how brilliantly this director sticks to the text but finds levels of meaning that someone like me, who knows the work inside out, had never noticed before.
He invents a storyline: three brothers, one a psychotic bass, one a passionate alto and the last one a Christ/Man of Sorrows figure who is played by a mute dancer. There are two troubled wives, the sopranos, and a priest in crisis, the tenor. The chorus is used vividly too with each member of the ensemble expected to move and act with the power usually associated with Greek tragedy. All this takes place in the most soulless of modern municipal buildings and an equally bleak modern hotel. Handel, the composer, Beethoven dubbed “the greatest of us all” is elevated by this production. If you don’t believe me take a look at this, the bass aria, The People That Walked In Darkness is sung with real drama and power by Florian Boesch, haunted, deranged even, by the unnerving appearance of his recently dead brother, Paul Lorenger. Brilliant.
If you want more, look what Claus Güth does with counter-tenor Bejun Mehta’s performance of the great aria He Was Despised when the Man of Sorrows has to sell his business ideas to a board of unsympathetic company directors.
My novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
It is now available as a paperback or on Kindle (go to your region’s Amazon site for Kindle orders)
…or from Amazon: