Saturday, 3 March 2012
"Do we really need to see this Nazi-kitsch in Munich?", several people commented referring to the January 2009 premiere of Stückl´s staging of Pfitzner´s opera Palestrina at the Bavarian State Opera.
Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949), apparently like the Nazis more than they liked him. No matter where Palestrina, essentially a clerical drama, is staged, the qualities of the work is an issue, much like the case of the Korngold´s Die Tote Stadt , though Korngolds political circumstances were radically different from Pfitzners.
Palestrina is an opera essentially about artistic creation, in the tradition of such works as Meistersinger.and Benvenuto Cellini. In brief the opera center is about the Italian renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina (born around 1525) and how he overcomes writing block after the death of his wife to compose a masterpiece Missa Pape Marcelli in 1555 (a fictive event), battling internal demons as well as a Papal attempt to ban polyphony and revert to Gregorial chant. Helped by angels.
While director Christof Stückl would "like to put Pfitzners relationship with Nazism on stage, but doesn´t know how to do it", conductor Simone Young finds it entirely "possible to separate the man from the work".
The result is a colourful, geometric, simplistic staging, receiving mixed reviews at the premiere. Kitsch, some said. Boring, said others.
I´d say that as much as a creative process is an interesting to be part of, as boring can it be to the creative processes of others from the outside and though Stückl´s staging may offend very few, most likely it will excite a similar number.
Nevertheless, Palestrina provides a good opportunity to utilise the (male) ensemble singers with the required 38 soloists + choir. Christopher Ventris makes the most out of the main character, but most of all, the evening belonged to Simone Young, drawing wonderful dense colours from the orchestra.
Cast: The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Christopher Ventris: 4
Everyone else: 4
Simone Young: 4
Christian Stückl: 3
Overall impression: 3