Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shostakovich Redeemed (In my mind)

I attended the COC's production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk last Thursday. The performance was excellent, although the low brass were too loud. And I say that as a tuba player! I know the parts are awesome, but no one could hear anything but you!

The tuba is the orchestra's brassiere - there to support, but never to get in the way! But this is a minor complaint, nay, or if you prefer, an act of heresy.

So if you live in or around Toronto, go see it, because it seems to be some of his finest music in the service of some excellent dramatic material. Indeed, between this and his piano quintet, I'm beginning to be convinced that Shostakovich deserves at least some of the accolades he received last year on the occasion of his centenary. Or at least I feel safe to say that he is not, as Boulez said (via some folks at Sequenza21), a fourth pressing of Mahler.

But I don't really want to review Lady Macbeth. I'm much more interested in how important boredom was in the opera as a dramatic device, and how the audience reaction to the operas more raunchy moments spoke volumes about the conceptual space we inhabit when it comes to sex. But that essay's still in the shop, so you'll have to settle for this. And yes, I am going to get to my Doderer posts, beginning tomorrow.


Gawain said...

"how important boredom was in the opera as a dramatic device, and how the audience reaction to the operas more raunchy moments spoke volumes about the conceptual space we inhabit when it comes to sex"

i had the same experience at a (pretty good) Rinaldo in at the Lincoln in NYC several years back (last time i went to opera there). everyone around me was sleeping, but woke to a sheeping laugh whenever something sexual came up (and the producers, out of the kindness of their hear made sure that the reference was sufficiently pretty heavy-handed to be grasped).
as it happened, Rinaldo is about love and chivalry and the producers had had work on their hands to find raunchy bits to work into it somehow. their efforts paid off in a small way.

Gawain said...

i meant "sheepish laugh"

Otto van Karajanstein said...

Like a lot of things lately, I found it unsettling. And when I'm unsettled, I make vast sweeping generalizations about the state of humanity. And my post on Lady Macbeth is going to take a while as a result.

By the way, did you know your link to the Proms performance still works?

Gawain said...

No, i didn't know it. Perhaps we have discovered something, he he, a weakness in the BBC defences against our indiscriminate and unsupervised listening. I should post all relevant links henceforth.

I dont think it will work for the ea mu sho, alas, since the link always seems to say "Sat", rather than something like "09084569u.wav".

"statements about general state of humanity", er, yes, especially since they make comparisons to an imagined and unknowable past. i'm guilty as charged, though i try to watch it (a little). on the other hand, there are other countries with other audiences who do react differently (and i can attest from personal experience). and thus, for instance, in Balinese theater (as viewed at the PKB of which I wrote last summer), where there is a great deal of sexual innuendo (and not all of it all that subtle), the audience response does not seem limited to the raunchy stuff. it entertains them, and sometimes sends them in guffaws when it is particularily funny, yes, but they also seem to respond to other bits -- tragedy, drama, magic, and (for the lack of a better word) beauty, and with equal intensity (if it is possible to draw comparisons). and that in an audience who eats munchies, smokes, breast feeds babies, walks about, answers mobile phones, etc., and therefore, you would think, not paying attention.

i really hate these word verification codes, i just cant hack them

Gawain said...

PS I am glad to hear I was not mistaken about my hunch that you just MIGHT like the Piano Q5t in the Borodin/Richter version.

Otto van Karajanstein said...

Gawain, I agree. When I get to publishing that post, I hope to better explain myself and my curiosity over their reaction, and how it strikes me as really an archetypcial North American reaction to Russian drama.

Tragi-Satire in Russia becomes Violent Sexy Farce in Canada. I think somewhere along the way we can blame Hollywood for this.