CLASSCOL

STEVE: I have art for opera; will bring by Tuesday noonish Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” — exquisitely comic, meticulously timed, both supple and subtle — has been put forward by the Music Center Opera as a mindless, vulgar laff show. Imposed, like wanton graffiti, upon this beautiful structure there are Pavarotti gags, chamber-pot gags, bad-breath gags. The scenery, a Magritte ripoff done up in finger paints, is its own set of gags. Some of the sight gags do, to be sure, distract from the inadequacy of much of the singing, but that can hardly condone the over-all sense of vandalism. Given that inadequacy — the squeaky, off-pitch Almaviva of Raul Gimenez, Louis Lebherz’s woolly Basilio, Rodney Gilfry’s cute but underpowered Figaro, adrift under the shapeless musical leadership of Randall Bore (sorry, Behr) — the obvious alternative might be to turn one’s back on the enterprise. That, however, would cost us the one positive element in the production, which steps out beyond the shadows and works in pure light. That, of course, is the Rosina of Frederica von Stade, a role she has long owned. Lovely in appearance, graceful in her every move, and totally in command of the mighty benevolence that Rossini has bestowed on the role (which, by the way, she sings in the original mezzo-soprano range), von Stade moved through the otherwise depressing evening as if ensconced on a whole ‘nother planet.To say that she saved the show, but that she deserved one more worth saving, is to propound the obvious. Two performances remain: tomorrow and Wednesday nights. Better by several light years was last weekend’s other music-drama entry, Philip Glass’ and Allen Ginsberg’s brilliant “Hydrogen Jukebox.” given two sold-out performances at UCLA’s Royce Hall. It was a glorious collaboration: two of our times’ rebellious archetypes, surprisingly adept at finding common cause. I say “surprisingly” for a reason. The typical Glass texts — the sci-fi pieces, the dense overlay of metaphor in the early operas — have always embodied a kind of indirection that also spilled over into the music, not always to its benefit. Here we got 20 poems of the good old Ginsberg, howling out his activist political posters, the sometimes drooling but well-meant sentiment, all in a slam-bang verbal onslaught in which metaphor played no part. And the impact upon Glass resulted in some of his strongest music in years. Six singers, all strong and wonderfully acrobatic, participated against Jerome Sirlin’s spectacularly textured projected scenery; Ginsberg himself came on stage for one gorgeous reading. There were, to be sure, moments of strain in the visual creation; words and music dwarfed the stage images most of the time. It’s good news, therefore, that “Hydrogen Jukebox” is up for a recording (on Sony) in a few months. What a busy weekend! In Long Beach on Saturday the brave JoAnn Falletta led her Long Beach Symphony and a chorus through Prokofiev’s complete score for “Alexander Nevsky,” with the great Eisenstein movie, in a beautifully restored print, on a screen overhead. It’s happened before, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic both indoors and out, but it cannot happen too often. The majesty of Eisenstein’s conception grows with repetition; his use of music (and of no music, when metal grinds upon metal in the battle scenes) deserves every filmmaker’s scrutiny. The production, in this enlightened restoration, cries out for capture on video. Philharmonic honcho Ernest Fleischmann, who in his time has brought to the Music Center a remarkable array of guest-conducting talent, struck gold once again last weekend with the local debut of Franz Welser-Moest. Now the conductor of the London Philharmonic (which he brings to the Music Center on March 16) the young (31) Welser-Moest delivered a powerful reading of the Mahler First Symphony, daredevil in the breadth of its contrasts but marvelously under control. He’s wonderful to watch, this Welser-Moest, with arms that look ten feet long, wheedling and shaping the music with splendid control. I also have a special fondness for a conductor modest enough to take a bow without removing his glasses; few do. That’s what I call spectacular. The Mozart celebrations come to a head this week. The financially-beset Philharmonic has only one all-Mozart concert (on Thursday, the actual 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death). But that concert has Richard Stoltzman to play the Clarinet Concerto, and there is no performer, on any instrument, with better command than Stoltzman’s of the shape of a Mozartian phrase, its power to wind itself around the hearer’s mind and heart. Two chamber orchestras are on hand, both under proven Mozartians: Sir Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin in the Field at Ambassador tomorrow and Tuesday, our own Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Trevor Pinnock, Thursday at Royce, Friday at the Japan-America Theater downtown, Saturday at Ambassador. And another local band, the brave little Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra (adrift under guest conductors since the retirement of founder David Keith) has a charmer of an idea for next Saturday, the 7th. First, at 4 p.m., there’s a wake at — where else? — Forest Lawn (the Junior Achievement Patio), with champagne and a eulogy and with, the program states, “black arm band optional.” That’s followed by a concert in Forest Lawn’s Hall of Liberty, with the orchestra and the Cambridge Singers doing, among other things, Mozart’s Requiem. After that, we can all get back to business. Next year’s anniversary: Rossini, on Leap-Year Day. That should be fun.

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