"Malheureux roi! dans l'éternelle nuit,
C'en est donc fait, tu vas descendre!
Tu ne m'écoutes pas,
tu ne veux rien comprendre,
à l'horreur qui me suit!"
Saturday December 29, 2012 - The dilemma of whether or not to attend a performance of Berlioz's LES TROYENS at the Met concerned me for a few days. This epic masterwork is one of the greatest operas ever written, unique in its structure (it is actually almost like two distinct operas; each could stand on its own), and it is a veritable goldmine of musical marvels. On a personal note, the opera plays a stellar role in my autobiography, since it was after a magnificent 1973 matinee performance of the Berlioz work that I had my long-awaited first homosexual experience. Normally it would be on my highest-priority list of operas to see in any Met season where it's presented. But the combination of a production that has never really satisfied me visually, a conductor who has seldom - if ever - moved me, and the disastrous casting of two of the opera's principal roles, I at first wrote it off completely.
But then the thought that I might never again have an opportunity to hear LES TROYENS in-house decided me in favor of going; not needing to see the production, I bought a score desk and waited for the day with a mixture of excitement and dread. A few days before the performance, one of the singers whose participation was troubling me - Marcelo Giordani - was announced as 'withdrawing' from the remainder of the run after a reportedly awful night at the prima folllowed by vocal struggles in the ensuing performances. His announced replacement, Bryan Hymel, has been making a name for himself of late in some of opera's most demanding roles.
I arrived at the theatre to find another last-minute cast change: Elizabeth Bishop (above) was to sing Dido instead of Susan Graham. This was my second experience of hearing Ms. Bishop in a performance originally scheduled for Graham, and though I'd been looking forward to Graham's Dido, Bishop was perfectly fine. So I settled in with my lovely old scores (one for each ''opera'), wishing for a different maestro and different Cassandra, but very much anticipating both the music and the singing of the other cast members.
The opera opened impressively with the lively chorus depicting the joy of the Trojan people who have discovered that the Greeks, who have besieged their city for a decade, have suddenly and inexplicably departed. Sadly, the afternoon then took a real slump as Deborah Voigt began Cassandra's great opening monolog. Voigt's voice has declined even further than from my last encounter with her in the theatre, and her singing of this iconic role was pallid; the voice is almost unrecognizable as the soprano who once thrilled me with her Ariadne and Elsa. Unsteady and small of scale, her singing seemed apologetic for the most part, with only very few notes that bore any relation to what she once sounded like. Her final high-B in the duet with Chorebus was desperate and unpleasant, and she simply lacked the expressive dramatic thrust for the great scene in which Cassandra tries to prevent the populace from bringing the giant horse within the city walls. And she was ineffectual in the opera's great final scene. The role calls for forceful declamation and sweeping emotional conviction: a larger-than-life feel. That Voigt could not come within hailing distance of such great interpreters of the role as Shirley Verrett and Jessye Norman was indeed sad. Her shortcomings prevented the first half of the afternoon from making its usual vivid impression.
In 1994 Dwayne Croft replaced Thomas Hampson as Chorebus on a Saturday matinee broadcast of TROYENS; he sang superby that day and seemed in fine voice this afternoon until suddenly, near the end of the big duet with Cassandra, his voice seemed to go hoarse. Bryan Hymel made an impressive entry as Aeneas, his singing both beautiful and urgent. In the great scene where Aeneas is warned by the Ghost of Hector of Troy's impending doom, Hymel and David Crawford were both excellent.
In the haunting scene where the widowed Andromache brings her young son before the court, her injection of a stifled shriek was perhaps unnecessary in what is written as a silent role. But here Ms. Voigt as Cassandra did have one of her fine moments as she quietly intoned her warning to Andromache: "Save your tears, widow of Hector! Disasters yet to come will make you weep long and bitterly".
Though lacking a commanding Cassandra to lead them, the scene of the mass suicide of the Trojan women managed to make a very strong impression. Thus far, as the first part of TROYENS came to a close, Fabio Luisi's conducting had been 'factual', each musical "i" dotted and "t" crossed (as per the score) but lacking in mystery and mythic grandeur. His pacing was on the quick side, which is fine.
Moving to Carthage, Luisi and his players seemed to find a more congenial glow in the music. I must commend the conductor for making the ballet music (which could just as well have been cut) fully palatable; and from Iopas' serenade thru the grand septet and on to the end of the sublime love duet, Luisi gave what was for me his finest music-making to date at the Met.
Elizabeth Bishop's voice is not creamy and opulent but she's a fine singer and not only did she save the day, she did so with distinction. Establishing herself in the opening public scene, it was in the more intimate settings that follow where Bishop made her finest mark: the ravishing duet with her sister Anna and then - impressing in both tonal allure and poetic nuances - from "Tout conspire a vaincre mes remords" straight thru to end end of the "Nuit d'ivresse". In the anger of the fiery quayside duet, and in her later expressions of regret, and of futile fury, Bishop brought some touches of verismo passion which worked well for her. In the stately, resigned "Adieu fiere cite" she was at her most poignant, then rousing herself yet again vocally to bring the opera to a close with her visionary "Rome!...Rome!...immortelle!" As the afternoon progressed, Bishop dispelled the disappointment of not hearing Ms. Graham, and the audience greeted her affectionately at her curtain calls.
Above: Bryan Hymel. Mr. Hymel's Aeneas was marvelous and his type of voice - a liquid and juicy 'big-lyric' with a blooming top - is very well-suited to the music. Wagnerian tenors like Jon Vickers, Gary Lakes and Ben Heppner have often been heard in this role (Vickers managed to make it very much his own), and Placido Domingo handled it impressively despite its being too high for him. But for me the best rendering of this arduous music in living memory has come from Nicolai Gedda on an abridged RAI concert recording. In vocal size and stylistic grace, Hymel comes close to the Gedda ideal. A trace of sharpness crept in here and there, but from his tender farewell to his son Ascagne right thru to his final "Italie!" as Aeneas' ships cast off for to their destiny, Hymel sang beautifully and had the audience in the palm of his hand.
He and Ms. Bishop found the magical blend that makes the love duet one of opera's most memorable, and in his great scena "Inutile regrets" with its remorseful "Quand viendra l'istante" and the high-lying concluding 'cabaletta', Hymel was glorious. His singing was full-toned and expressive, encompassing some lovely piano effects, and so moving with his heartfelt "A toi mon ame!"; the audience reacted with excited cheers as the tenor swept to the sensational climax of this great scene, then drew our further admiration as he led his soldiers aboard ship to take leave of Carthage.
There are two more tenor roles in LES TROYENS A CARTHAGE and both were ideally sung today. In Iopas' wondrously evocative (and very exposed) "O blonde Ceres" Eric Cutler (above) gave the afternoon's most fascinating vocalism, with lovely line and ravishingly heady piano effects, and a spine-tingling ascent to a gloriously lyrical high-C. Bravo!!!
Above: Paul Appleby. In the homesick song of the young sailor Hylas, Mr. Appleby's beautifully plaintive timbre and the haunting colours he wove into the words made this another high point of the day.
Above: Karen Cargill. I had very much enjoyed Ms. Cargill's Waltraute last season and was glad of a chance to hear her again as Anna. There's a touch of Marilyn Horne in Cargill's voice and she sang her two big duets (one with Dido, the second with Narbal) most appealingly.
Kwangchul Youn's voice is warm and sizeable; his tone seems to have taken on a steady beat now though he handled it quite well. His Narbal was pleasing, and he was also cast as Mercury, his voice bringing an ominous feel as he intones "Italie! Italie!" after the great love duet, reminding Aeneas of his duty and sealing Dido's fate.
Richard Benstein was a strong-toned and authoritative Panthus and I very much liked hearing old-stagers Julien Robbins (Priam) and James Courtney (2nd Soldier) again. Julie Boulianne was a fine Ascagne, Theodora Hanslowe was Hecuba, and Paul Corona shared the soldiers' scene with Mr. Courtney.
I so enjoyed experiencing this masterwork in-house again; it may not have been a perfect performance, but it certainly made for a very satisfying afternoon. So nice to see my friend Susan there, and - being n a good mood - I even chatted with some people around me: totally out of character. Very much looking forward to my next 'score desk' operas: DON CARLO and TRAVIATA (who needs to look at a clock and a sofa?), and then all the RING operas in the Spring. It's the place to be!
Metropolitan Opera House
December 29, 2012 Matinee
Part I: La prise de Troie
Astyanax................Connell C. Rapavy
Hector's Ghost..........David Crawford
Part II: Les Troyens à Carthage
Trojan Soldier..........Paul Corona
Trojan Soldier..........James Courtney
Priam's Ghost...........Julien Robbins
Coroebus's Ghost........Dwayne Croft
Cassandra's Ghost.......Deborah Voigt
Hector's Ghost..........David Crawford
Royal Hunt Couple.......Julia Burrer, Andrew Robinson
Dido's Court Duet.......Christine McMillan, Eric Otto
Conductor: Fabio Luisi
December 30, 2012 | Permalink
Thanks to my friend Dmitry, I've added some exciting Wagner performances to my CD collection over the past few weeks: parts of two historic RING Cycles, a 1976 Met broadcast of LOHENGRIN conducted by James Levine (I was there!), and a surprisingly thrilling Act I of WALKURE from Hamburg 2008, conducted by Simone Young.
Chronologically the earliest of these acquisitions - the WALKURE, third Act of SIEGFRIED, and GOTTERDAMMERUNG - come (in surprisingly good sound) from the 1953 Bayreuth Festival. These are conducted by Josef Keilberth (above) who shared the RING podium duties with Clemens Krauss at the '53 festival. The Krauss Cycle has been isssued commercially and is considered legendary; Keilberth's 1955 Cycle is also available (from Testament) but this '53 Keilberth seems a real rarity, at least here in the USA (I've seen import copies selling for $300+, while Dmitry and I found it at Opera Depot for considerably less).
Dmitry gave me the GOTTERDAMMERUNG first and it's a tremendous performance; this prompted me to ask for more and I'm really pleased with what I'm hearing. Keilberth is grand but never ponderous; his Twilight of the Gods unfurls like a magnificent sonic banner. The maestro has a powerhouse cast to work with.
I've never 'gotten' Martha Modl (above) until very recently, but she's teriffic here as Brunnhilde. Her voice production reminds me somewhat of Irene Dalis's. Modl's flaming intensity and the colour and vitality of her singing are something to hear. Wolfgang Windgassen meets the huge demands of Siegfried with tireless power and is a good match for the soprano in terms of vocal generosity. A splendid Hagen from the Josef Greindl bristles with black-hearted malevolence, and in the most thrilling rendering of the role of Gunther that I've ever experienced, Hermann Uhde is overwhelming. With her rather odd tmbre, Natalie Hinsch-Grondahl nevertheless makes a mark as Gutrune. Ira Malaniuk's superb singing as Waltraute makes me wish her long scene was even longer, and the mezzo is also a distinguished Second Norn in the prologue where she is joined by Maria von Ilosvay and then-soprano Regina Resnik.
Back-tracking, I then took up the WALKURE from the same 1953 Keilberth RING and was again impressed by the immediacy of the sound. Herr Greindl (above) is again in cavernous voice, this time as Hunding. Regina Resnik and Ramon Vinay are the strong-voiced Walsung twins, though neither attain the heights that others have in this passionate music. The tenor's baritonal sound is sturdy but not particularly poetic and at one point the prompter gets involved, feeding him lines word for word. Miss Resnik gets lost at one point and her highest notes show a very slight sense of discomfort; her decision to switch to mezzo was a brilliant move and sustained her career for many years. In spite of these minor misgivings, Resnik and Vinay keep the temperature of the drama high, and Keilberth steers us thru the first act with true surety of hand.
Hans Hotter (above) opens the second act grandly, and this performance shows why his Wotan was considered a revelation. Both in terms of godlike vocal heft and wonderfully nuanced shaping of the text, Hotter's monolog is a masterpiece. Martha Modl flashes thru a spirited Ho-Jo-To-Ho though surprisingly later in the act, after the annunciation of death, she seems to tire a bit as she assures Siegmund she'll protect him in the coming battle. Ira Malaniuk is a particularly fine Fricka; she doesn't wheedle or whine but deals from the strength of her rightness. She is vocally so pleasing to experience, the registers even and the timbre filled with feminine dignity. Resnik and Vinay are effective here as the desperate lovers, seeking escape...waching over his sleeping sister-bride, Vinay finds the tenderness of the character. Resnik lets out a blood-curdling scream when Hunding strikes Siegmund dead. Hotter's contemptuously whispered dismissal of Hunding followed by his towering rage as he sets out to punish Brunnhilde end the act with a veritable bang.
In the Ride of the Valkyries, the sopranos swoop upward at will, not always in unison. Resnik handles the great scene of Sieglinde's blessing of Brunnhilde quite exctingly; Hotter storms in and rages at his daughters who finally flee in terror. And then, starting with Brunnhilde's 'War es so schmalich' the performance becomes something else altogether.
Modl finds the magic that made her GOTTERDAMMERUNG so spell-binding, and Hotter is simply magnificent. The sound quality is pretty remarkable and the two singers give a performance that ranks wth my greatest experiences in 50+ years of listening to opera. Modl begins Brunnhilde's self-defense with colours of deep despair, slowly gaining self-confidence. When she courageously tells her father that Sieglinde now keeps the sword Nothung, Hotter thunderoulsy reminds her "The sword that I shattered!!" Hotter outlines the punishment Brunnhilde will face; her pleading with him not to humiliate her is in vain. But Modl's last desperate and gloriously sung passage finally wins the day; Hotter opens the floodgates and hs entire final scene is both vocally thrilling and wrenchingly expressive of a father's longing and grief. Adjectives become superfluous on hearing this kind of vocalism.
The third act of SIEGFRIED from this cycle is very exciting, commencing with Hotter's majestic summons of Erda. As the act proceeds, it seems the great bass-baritone's voice was recorded in a rather odd, somewhat echo-chamber acoustic. It doesn't deter from his performance in the least, but it's not quite as pleasing to listen to as the WALKURE. Maria von Ilosvay is a firm-toned and not overly weighty Erda; like her colleague Ira Malaniuk, Ilosvay seems largely to have been forgotten these days, which is a shame, It's a wonderful voice. Windgassen arrives for his confrontation with his grandfather in fine vocal fettle; the two long-standing colleagues play up the dark humour of their banter at first, but after Siegfried puts Wotan in his place by breaking the spear, the once-powerful god slinks away in shame. Windgassen manages to hold his own against the fresh-voiced Modl, awakening as Brunnhilde and singing with remarkable intensity: despite her successful but less-than-blooming forays to the high-Cs, Modl's voice is both maternal and seductive, with an unsettlling sexual sorcery in her timbre that makes it utterly distinctive.
Overall this Keilberth cycle is fascinating in so many ways and seems to have caught the singers mostly at their peaks. I suppose I'll want to eventually have the RHEINGOLD also.
From London's Royal Opera House comes a RING Cycle conducted by Sir Georg Solti (above), from which the WALKURE (in very good sound) makes a strong impression, notably in the radiant singing of Dame Gwyneth Jones as Sieglinde. Apart from Ernst Kozub as Siegmund, the principals are all from the Royal Opera "home team". Mr. Kozub is bright-voiced and steady, and Dame Gwyneth - just coming into fame - is already showing signs of the great Wagnerienne she was to become. Michael Langdon's powerful Hunding anchors the first act, excitingly led by Solti.
Amy Shuard is a bit uneven as Brunnhilde though overall she makes a positive impression; a bit of flatness here and there - most notable in the early pages of the Todesverkundigung - is offset by her bright Battle Cry and her moving singing of the opera's final scene. Josephine Veasey starts off as a rather ladylike Fricka, but she soon works herself into a fine fettle of self-righteous indignation and casts off vivid dramatic sparks, her vocalism fervent and secure.
It is especially gratifying to hear David Ward (above) as Wotan. I still vividly recall hearing him as The Dutchman on a Met broadcast in 1965 opposite Leonie Rysanek. I love his Wotan here for its humanity. Ward is more a lyrical than a thunderous singer, and his bass-oriented sound give him a solid springboard thru the music. His monolog is intense and personal, with a miraculous reflective piano on "Das ende!" while his choked whisper of "Geh!" as he dispenses with Hunding at the close of Act II is breath-taking. Ms. Shuard is at her best as she joins Mr. Ward for the opera's final scene: their exchanges have an intimate feel, dynamically subtle and with deep undercurrents of heartache. Pleading to be spared dishonor, Ms. Shuard's feminine urgency spurs the bass-baritone on to a wonderful outpouring in "Leb wohl, du kunhes, herrliches Kind!". Later, Mr. Ward's great tenderness as he quietly kisses Brunnhilde's godhood away is so moving. Sir Georg, on the podium, cuts a majestic path thru this glorious score.
The 1976 series of LOHENGRINs at The Met marked Maestro Levine's first experiences of conducting this opera in the House; he moulds the great arcs of music, from the ethereal to the thunderous, with grandeur; and his violins underline the great confrontation between Elsa and Ortrud with furiously driven playing.
Pilar Lorengar (above) was a rapt, visionary Elsa, and her silvery and utterly feminine sound projected clearly into the great hall, cresting the ensembles radiantly. Rene Kollo in his debut role as Lohengrin (he sang only one other role at The Met: Bacchus in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS) sounded splendid in the House (yes, I was there!) though the recording shows some chinks in the vocal armor which the unforgiving mikes pick up. Still, it's an impressive rendering of the music, especially his poetic 'In fernam land'. Mignon Dunn sings with thrilling passion as Ortrud, meeting all the demands of what is essentially a dramatc soprano role. In the house, Mignon was made a tremendous impact with her acting, especially her raging discomfort at having to carry Elsa's train during the bridal procession. Unable to contain her bitter fury, she breaks free and lashes out at her virginal rival in a confrontation that brought the performance to the boiling point. Donald McIntyre's powerful Telramund and Allan Monk's sturdy Herald make strong impressions, and Bonaldo Giaiotti (a great favorite of mine, presently celebrating his 80th birthday) is a splendid-sounding King Henry.
Metropolitan Opera House
December 4, 1976 Matinee Broadcast
King Heinrich...........Bonaldo Giaiotti
The single act of the Hamburg WALKURE literally knocked me for a loop on first hearing; I'd never given Simone Young (above) much thought as a conductor, but from now on I'll need to. She makes this thrice-familiar music sound incredibly fresh and alive. Her trio of singers, while perhaps unlikely to go into the history books alongside such names as Lehmann, Melchior, Rysanek or Vickers, are superbly tuned into both the music and the words. Following Young's lead, they seem to give a feeling of music that is newly-discovered. Yvonne Naef's Fricka and Waltraute at The Met in 2009 RING Cycles (the last performances of he "Levine" RING) were especially memorable in my view. There was some talk of her possibly taking on the Brunnhildes at one point, but she was probably wise to resist (exciting as the prospect would have been). Here she is a vivid Sieglinde, her middle voice and parlando so persuasive - the role lies right in her comfort range - and her top rings out excitingly. The sound of Stuart Skelton's voice may not be intrinsically beautiful, but he is a strong and verbally alert singer, bringing some imaginative colours to his music. His cries of "Walse! Walse!" are steady and sustained, and he shows a sense ofSiegmund's poetic side, long-buried in the hardships the Volsung has faced in his life. Mikhail Petrenko is a more lyrical Hunding than we usually hear; he sings well and fits finely into Young's vision of the act. There are many felicitous passages in the conductor's scheme of things, with a particular 'lift' of the tempo after Sieglinde concludes "Der manner sippe" that really took my breath away.
After a lapse of ten days, I played this WALKURE Act I again just to be sure it was as good as I thought it was. It's even better on second hearing, with some really fine playing from the individual instrumentalists. The singers and conductor make this very familiar music feel startlingly vivid. What more could we ask?
December 28, 2012 | Permalink
December 24, 2012 | Permalink
Sunday December 23, 2012 matinee - Due to the rise in ticket prices at New York City Ballet, I've had to adopt strict budgeting rules: for the first time since moving to NYC, I found myself forced to skip NUTCRACKER season altogether. I'd been in the habit of going as many as eight times each year, seeing debuts and covering interesting casting combinations for my blog with genuine enthusiasm. I came to really love and admire the entire Balanchine NUTCRACKER experience, always finding fresh details in the thrice-familiar production.
But this year, with prices really out of my reach and with the Tchaikovsky Festival looming ahead (I want to go every single night!), I was forced to forego NUTCRACKER; I've looked at the casting each week, wishing I could be there but simply unable to deal with the monetary situation. Fortunately, my friend Monica very kindly offered me a ticket to today's matinee.
The cast this afternoon included some debuts, and there wasn't a principal dancer to be seen onstage. But the soloist and corps de ballet did the Company proud, stepping into the leading roles with confidence and charm. Clothilde Otranto led a lively performance, and special kudos to concertmaster Kurt Nikkanen for his ravishing playing of the Interlude, replete with shimmeringly subtle trills in the highest register.
Lauren Lovette's debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy was a major point of appeal in the casting today. This young ballerina has been doing excellent work in the corps, and she always makes a beautiful impression when she's cast in a prominent role; her debut recently in Christopher Wheeldon's POLYPHONIA was a real eye-opener, for she held the stage in mesmerizing fashion in her mysterious solo, danced to one of Ligeti's most trance-like works. Her Sugar Plum today was lyrical and light in the opening solo, and showed the confident radiance of a seasoned star-ballerina in the pas de deux where her cavalier, the story-book-prince Chase Finlay, showed off his ballerina with élan. Together they sailed smoothly thru the duet's many difficulties: difficulties that have been known to undo the most seasoned dancers. Lauren and Chase drew the audience in with their youth and poise, winning a particularly warm reception.
I met Mary Elizabeth Sell shortly after she joined the Company in 2006, and have kept an eye on her ever since. She and I share a birthday; I took the above picture of her one day a couple years ago when I ran into her on a rehearsal break. Always a dancer to draw the eye in any ballet because of her vivid presence and perfect smile (she was one of the few dancers to make an impact in the leaden OCEAN'S KINGDOM), her performances stand out in a way that have always made me think she could do well in major roles. This Winter the opportunity came her way - she had debuted yesterday as Dewdrop - and, just as I suspected she would, she seized the opportunity and gave a really exciting performance. Her Dewdrop was on the grand scale, able to make her own musical statement in the role by playing ever so subtly with the timing: holding an arabesque one moment, then swirling forward in a flurry of pirouettes. Her jeté was effortlessly brilliant, her extension regally unfurled, her attitude turns silky, her fouettés gracefully swift and sure. To all of this she added her dark eyes and gracious smile. Her performance had amplitude and (rare commodity:) glamour; in short, she put me in mind very much of one of my all-time-favorite Dewdrops, Colleen Neary. There's no better compliment, in my book.
Other notable newcomers were Cameron Dieck (handsomely squiring the marvelous Gwyneth Muller in Spanish), Claire Kretzschmar (leggy and cool as Arabian), and Joseph Gordon (bouncing high in Chinese). Sara Adams was pretty, precise and perfectly pleasing as Marzipan; Anthony Huxley - he of the fabulous feet - a stellar Candy Cane (I was hoping he'd jump thru his hoop on his exit in the finale, as he did when he first danced the role); Andrew Scordato an amusing Mother Ginger; Lauren King and Ashley Laracey led the Waltz of the Flowers with distinction...two of my favorite ballerinas.
In Act I, Sean Suozzi replaced David Prottas as Drosselmeyer; the change was unannounced. Sean was superb, as we could expect from one of the Company's most intriguing personalities; he even gave the grandmother a startlingly emphatic kiss. Amanda Hankes and Christian Tworzyanski were the appealing Stahlbaums, Kristen Segin and the very pretty Claire von Enck danced charmingly as Harlequin and Columbine, and Giovanni Villabos neatly executed the Soldier Doll's solo.
It's kind of amazing that there are now dancers in the Company I cannot identify onstage; things seem to be changing more rapidly that ever in terms of the roster. During 2012 some of my favorite dancers left the Company unexpectedly; others are currently injured (an ongoing problem). The total complement of dancers stands at 85, the smallest number in my years of attending,; apprentices and (sometimes) senior SAB students seem to be filling the ranks in the big ensembles.
SUGARPLUM: *Lovette; CAVALIER: Finlay; DEWDROP: Sell; HERR DROSSELMEIER: Suozzi; MARZIPAN: Adams; HOT CHOCOLATE: Muller, *Dieck; COFFEE: *Kretzschmar; TEA: *Gordon; CANDY CANE: Huxley; MOTHER GINGER: Scordato; FLOWERS: King, Laracey; DOLLS: Von Enck, Segin; SOLDIER: Villalobos, MOUSE KING: J. Peck; DR & FRAU STAHLBAUM: Hankes, Tworzyanski
The house seemed nearly full, and so nice to run into some of the Company's most ardent supporters during intermission.
Thanks so much, Monica!
December 23, 2012 | Permalink
Bazille befriended Monet, Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. The foursome were to take painting out of the studio and into the natural world where colour and light inspired them. It was slow going: the 'official' Parisian art world was ultra-conservative, elite, concerned mainly with maintaining familiar elements of style. Bazille's access to family funds helped his fellow artists through lean times; they shared flats and studio space. Opportunities to show their work were few and far between; but slowly the 'impressionists' began to make their mark, and the public took inspiration from their work.
Bazille's works include the lovely Black Woman With Peonies from 1870 (above)...
...and the atmospheric Summer Scene daing from 1869 (above).
Click on each painting to enlarge.
That Bazille never developed as truly unique a 'voice' in the Impressionist school as his more famous colleagues did, was a result of the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Bazille signed up and, on November 28th, 1870, he was killed in a skirmish in Burgundy at the age of 29.
Bazille, whose name I had only noted in passing when reading about the other artists of the Impressionist school, came to my attention recently as we watched the excellent BBC series THE IMPRESSIONISTS. In this docu-drama. much of which was shot in Provence and Normandy (as well as at Giverny) Bazille is played by the handsome British actor James Lance. Lance's warmth and sensitivity fill the opening episode of the series, and it's sad when his character meets his end. Richard Armitage and Julian Glover play Monet at different stages of his life. The film of course cannot hope to document all the artists who were part of the Impressionsist movement, but it's well-filmed and acted, instructive and highly enjoyable.
Above, from the film: Claude Monet (Richard Armitage), Auguste Renoir (Charlie Condou) and Frederic Bazille (James Lance).
December 22, 2012 | Permalink