When the son of a Lebanese banker said goodbye as intendant of the Dutch Opera, the opera people became restless and dissatisfied. He only sat there for 30 years! Why hadn’t this man been given a fair chance? But the Lebanese banker’s son Pierre Audi remained adamant: He was fed up with the foie gras he bought from the luxury butcher in his neighborhood.
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All hell broke loose, because who would become his successor… Well, if only the Dutch cult figure Willy Caron (see above) was still alive, we wouldn’t have to think about it for long. For reasons of decency, we prefer to leave out the names of the mentioned and rejected candidates. One exception, for the sake of historiography: according to well-informed circles, a heavy Amsterdam delegation went to Milan to persuade Riccardo Muti to turn the Duth Opera into a house, with high-quality, Kalashnikov-free performances. Guess what? It almost worked out. In what bold and artistic way wouldn’t we, Dutch opera lovers, have ended up: an opera house without input from Andrea Breth and Katie Mitchell! Without Homoki, without Bieito. An opera house with a competent business leader, with equal treatment of the press (a NO GO at the Dutch Opera), and where a subsidy application would have succeeded in one go! (Now the Dutch Opera was sent home by subsidizers to do the homework again!)
There appeared to be an insurmountable barrier. Muti wanted his wife to have something to do as well, unlike Plácido Domingo who is mainly concerned that he has something to do himself. Muti’s wife, Cristina Mazzavilani, is the esteemed organizer of the Ravenna Festival, of which she has held the role of President and Artistic Leader since 1989. Muti wanted something similar for his wife in Amsterdam, and there are plenty of opportunities in the capital: A snobbish Canal Festival, a City Festival, the (to be reintroduced) “Beurstrommelen” (once a year the youth of Amsterdam armed with drums turns the “Beurs” into a hurricane of sound; see below). You name it…
But it was not to be. Missed opportunity. Through sound carriers we can still get our desired portion of Muti. David Hurwitz of Classics Today discusses some Verdi-boxes of Muti in a, for the Netherlands, surprising not boring way. Hurwitz has a liberating view on the ins and outs of opera, from which many an opera snob can benefit.
When he refers to the Sony Box, he calls it “this sucker”. The pleasurable tone is set.
He immediately exposes one of the most abject phenomena in opera conversations: “Opera lovers love to talk about opera singers with their first name. I find that offensive. There is something creepy about it. It’s all like “Oh Mirella was breathtaking in….”, “Oh Joan, nobody did a better job in…”, “Oh Maria, that unbevielable Divina (sob, sob)”… DON’T DO IT!”
Those awful Callas-recordings
Another truism, like “I am driving to go somewhere”:
“That’s a big thing in opera: public humiliation between sopranos.” About La Traviata: “Scotto is a little squally but La Traviata is a sort of opera that thrives on over-the-hill sopranos. I think Cotrubas’ preformance is still the one to go for. (YES! Opera Gazet agrees.) All those awful Callas-recordings, everybody suffers through to hear – it’s ridiculous, to even waist the time..” 😊
And, finally: “Singers are composed to stick to the concept. The crazy Regietheater in Germany, they might to set the entire thing in a nuclear power plant.” A theme that Opera Gazet has also “occasionally” discussed.
David Hurwitz van Classics Today. Our kind of guy.