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Tosca A study in political and audience upheaval
By Susan English

The Munich Opera Festival premiered Luc Bondy’s production of Tosca at the National theater on June 28, 2010. This is the same production the Met performed on their opening night last September. The New York Times review was titled "For Opening Night at the Metropolitan, a New Sound: Booing." Quoted in the review was Renaud Machart, chief critic of the French newspaper, Le Monde, "the booing resulted from ingrained expectations based on ‘fake traditions’ of opera directions." (This is the same production broadcast in HD for the Met.)

At the Munich premiere, audience members were delighted with the singing of Karita Mattila and Jonas Kaufmann in the two starring roles. The audience also supported Juha Uusitalo as the villain Baron Scarpia, and Fabio Luisi as the conductor. However, when the production team, including Luc Bondy, was brought on stage, many boos could be heard. The director blamed a "strain of hidebound traditionalism" for the lusty boos.

This audience member was enthralled by the experience of Munich’s opera experience. Women arrived in flowing gowns, flashing jewels, and patrician smiles. Men made sure their tuxedos didn’t obscure their oversized gold or platinum watches. Many on the street came to admire the procession of beautifully dressed audience members as they climbed the broad stairway to the Bayerische Staatsoper. Once the opera began, however, the focus was riveted on the stage.

A reviewer noted that the director’s vision is a sparse one. The sets and costumes are stark. There are violent and lewd touches. Tosca gashes the portrait of the Magdalene, Scarpia clasps a statue of the Madonna in a sacrilegious embrace, and three lascivious women drape and fondle him in his study at the outset of Act II. But Mr. Bondy said that his direction was rooted in the text. He seemed to capture the root of the booing when he noted, "To think one work exists, and it has a final interpretation, is a problem."

All of this controversy has apparently produced a positive outcome. All further performances of the opera were sold out, so on July 10 an audio-visual transmission was broadcast at Max-Joseph-Platz, and television stations televised the performance that same day.

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World of Opera Coming to Our Doorsteps This Fall
by Mort Levine

To the opera fan, more choice is always better. And this fall season bodes especially well to fulfill those wishes. Let’s take a quick look around at the gusher of opera offerings.There are a number of exciting live performances without the need of packing even an overnight bag. Opera San José’s west coast premiere of Anna Karenina will bring in lots of travelers from elsewhere when it opens this fall at the California Theatre in San Jose. Likewise a mecca for opera lovers is promised by San Francisco Opera’s first time roll out of Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo.

The Metropolitan Opera is coming on strong with a lineup of 11 high definition films from its extensive 2010-2011 season. These will be presented in real time Saturday mornings (in our time zone) and then will repeat in a later evening performance midweek. At least six different multi-screen complexes will show the Met series in our own valley. These sites provide a marvelous opera experience at reasonable cost literally minutes away from most of our members.

The exciting new development this season is the expanded lineup from the world’s most famous stages which will be at Camera 7 in Campbell’s Pruneyard center. Not only will the number of operas expand from previous years but there will be added ballet and theatre performances from such venues as the Bolshoi in Moscow, and London’s Covent Garden and the Old Globe Theatre.

The operas at Camera 7 were already underway this summer with Barcelona’s Abduction from the Seraglio concluded July 28 and Bellini’s Norma from the Teatro Communale in Bologna which is on now, August 8 at 11 a.m. and August 11 at 7 p.m.

The ambitious lineup just ahead includes Götterdämmerung from Valencia’s stunning opera house on August 29 and Sept. 1, followed by Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor Lost Sept. 12 and 15 from London. Tosca will be presented on Sept. 26 and 29 and a La Bohàme will show on October 10 and 12. Tchaikovsky’s magical Queen of Spades from Barcelona runs October 24 and 27.

Two ballets are on view over the next two months: a Bolshoi offering of Les Flammes de Paris on Nov. 7 and 10 and a Nutcracker from Covent Garden before Christmas. There will also be a Carmen from Barcelona on Dec. 5 and 8.

All of Camera 7’s shows run at 11 a.m. Sundays and at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. Prices are $20 with a discount to $17 for purchase of three tickets at the Camera 7 box office.

And, if all these didn’t begin to appease that opera hunger, perhaps you might want to help San Francisco Opera make a bigger splash with its HD roll out. SFO’s only venue close to us has been as part of a film series at Fremont’s Ohlone college Smith Center theatre. They are showing San Francisco Opera’s Samson and Delilah on August 7. For information and tickets call 510-659-6031.

But San Francisco Opera’s Jessica Koplos is actively interested in finding additional venues in Santa Clara county. If you have some leads, why not give her a call at 415-565-3234 or email her at

Looks like we’re all going to enjoy an opera-packed season.

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(SJOG Newsletter August, 2010)

Read past "Travelers" in the Archives


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