Los Angeles Opera presents Franz Schreker’s “The Stigmatized”
Saturday, April 24
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By David Gregson
Editor’s note: I would like to comment at length on this exceptional Los Angeles Opera production of an important 20th-century work which is being offered fully staged for the very first time in the American hemisphere. Unfortunately, I have been hit by an evil virus (of the biological nature) and cannot seem to think straight or sit at the keyboard.
Franz Schreker’s “Die Gezeichneten” (variously translated as “The Stigmatized,” “The Branded,” and “The Marked Ones” – so one is tempted to add “Los Olvidados” or “The Young and the Damned” just for fun) is one of the several major works suppressed by the Nazis which serious opera geeks of the type who adore all of Richard Strauss and the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner always want to hear and see – and this LAO production is virtually their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
It would be difficult to imagine it better sung, better conducted or better staged. It’s only the wordy, not terribly dramatic libretto that poses a problem. Schreker wrote it himself – and then instead of giving it to Alexander von Zemlinsky, who was really asking for it in more ways than one, went on to set the text to over three hours of lush, orgasmic music. One hour more of it and you would have to consult your doctor.
It’s fin de siècle decadence for days! It’s Judenstil set to music. Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt are all in the production’s mise en scene, and there’s plenty of Freud in the story. You do not even have to know much about Freud or decoding dreams to see what’s going on in the tale of a very ugly, rich man (Alviano Salvago, wonderfully sung and acted by tenor Robert Brubaker) who creates a fabulous garden and calls it Elysium), only to have it overrun by sexually degenerate aristocrats who use the isle’s hidden grottos as a place where they can abduct and rape beautiful women.
Some people might even take the whole thing as a metaphor for fin de siècle art itself. In many ways, I fear, “Entartete Musik” really was degenerate, although only someone like Hitler would have wanted to ban the art and kill the artists.
The female of the piece is Carlotta Nardi (the fabulous soprano Anje Kampe) who is a Freudian mess. Remember Freud’s “What do women want?” Carlotta wants to paint the very ugly man’s soul, but she gets tragically diverted by handsome Count Andrea Vitelozzo Tamare (the excellent baritone, Martin Gantner), and all ends in a predictable catastrophe. It’s a weird love triangle to be sure, but in operatic terms, a pretty standard one in the final analysis.
I would not have missed this for the world – but I did find it difficult to care about the characters very much (they are so intellectualized), and Schreker’s relentlessly romantic lushness is impressive and seductive, but one possibly feels utterly satiated rather early on.
ALVIANO SALVAGO Robert Brubaker
CARLOTTA NARDI Anja Kampe
COUNT ANDREA VITELOZZO TAMARE Martin Gantner
LODOVICO NARDI Wolfgang Schöne
DUKE ANTONIOTTO ADORNO James Johnson
GUIDOBALD USODIMARE Joel Sorensen
MENALDO NEGRONI Beau Gibson
MICHELETTO CIBO Hung Yun
JULIAN PINELLI Ben Wager*
GONSALVO Eugene Brancoveanu
PIETRO Keith Jameson
CONDUCTOR James Conlon
DIRECTOR Ian Judge
PROJECTION DESIGNER Wendall K. Harrington*
COSTUME DESIGNER Deirdre Clancy
LIGHTING DESIGNER Daniel Ordower
See Los Angeles Opera for more info.
Saturday April 10, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Sunday April 18, 2010 2:00 p.m.
Thursday April 22, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Saturday April 24, 2010 7:30 p.m.
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