Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hi Def Heaven

"There is a dark side even to perfection. I like that."

(Von Aschenbach in Britten's opera, Death in Venice, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper)

After a season or two of high-definition broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, fed live to cinemas around the world, I finally attended one last year: Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly. Being a fan of live opera I was a bit sceptical, but several trustworthy friends raved about them and my own experience exceeded expectations. Not designed to replace the live experience, these broadcasts offer an affordable way to witness opera and other live performance from other parts of the world. They are well filmed, and often feature special interviews, behind-the-scenes insights and short documentaries.

Minghella's Butterfly was a stunning piece of theatre, utilizing puppetry and a fresh look at a beloved classic. It's not out yet on DVD but it will be, and - when it is - I recommend you take a look at it, if you haven't already.

Around the same time I saw All's Well That Ends Well directed by Marianne Elliott, live from the National Theatre in London. I so enjoyed it, and my interests being what they are, I next saw (just last week) the new Alan Bennett play, The Habit of Art. This is set up as a play within a play. We witness a run-through rehearsal of a new play about W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten meeting (fictionally as they never patched up their friendship) late in their respective lives, with Britten seeking absolution for addressing - operatically - the tricky subject matter of Death in Venice, the opera he was then writing, just a couple of years before his death.

Nicholas Hytner directed Richard Griffiths (as Auden) and Frances de la Tour (as the stage manager), and if you add Alan Bennett to that you have the same team that created - and later filmed - the wonderful History Boys (2006). I hope they film The Habit of Art. Alex Jennings plays Britten in a manner that I imagine Dirk Bogarde would have played, if he had played him. And yes, now I'm thinking of Death in Venice (1971) the movie. The Canadian Opera Company is performing Britten's Death in Venice next season. I'm sure this play will come back to mind at that time.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to see these newly-visioned or newly created works from around the world. I can't wait for more!


Jim Archer Scribbler And... said...


Betsy said...

How interesting. I didn't even know they did this! I've only attended a few operas, but Madama Butterfly was one of them!

R.A.D. Stainforth said...

Did you go to the Canadian Opera Company Death in Venice conducted by Donald Runnicles?

Solitude begets originality, bold and disconcerting beauty, poetry. But solitude can also beget perversity, disparity, the absurd and the forbidden.
(Thomas Mann, Death in Venice)

Blog Princess G said...

Jim: Thank you for the comment Jim! I'll be over to visit.

Betsy: It's a treat, and it might be playing at a city near you.

Dr. S: I didn't, as I was living in the UK at the time, but my parents did and raved about it. I'm looking forward to seeing it this fall. Great quote, thank you for it.