ADAMS: Doctor Atomic
PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly
Jürgen Flimm is the producer of this Salome, with set and costume designs by Santo Loquasto, choreography by Doug Varone. Updated to the 20th century, this concept takes place in a Middle Eastern country in which Herod's palace seems to be a hotel filled with partying guests, conveniently next to a mine shaft in which Jochanaan is imprisoned. Salome doesn't look at all like a virginal young princess. She is a harlot from the beginning, a seasoned, alcoholic vamp who knows her way around and how to use her sexuality to get what she wants. Strauss intended to show her progression from innocence to degradation, but that cannot happen with this concept of the opera. The Dance of the Seven Veils is a tour-de-force for Mattila although hardly a strip tease. At the end, Mattila was totally nude for a few seconds, but you won't see this on the video. The entire opera is strongly cast, and Patrick Summers is perfect on the podium. Two singers make debuts, bass Juha Uusitalo as Jochnaan, and young Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser (probably the handsomest Narraboth ever). But the superstar is Mattila who dramatically and vocally is quite amazing. Video and audio are excellent. Lovers of Strauss's erotic masterpiece won't want to miss this.
Doctor Atomic is about the month prior to testing the first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos July 16, 1945. Adams' opera, with a libretto by Peter Sellars, who also directed the production, chronicles the stress and anxiety of all concerned about creation of a weapon that could destroy the world—but possibly bring peace. Principal characters are Robert Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty, military and government leaders, and scientists working on the project. It is a powerful theater experience, with Adams' intense score perfect for the disturbing story. Doctor Atomic was premiered in San Francisco in October 2005. The Metropolitan Opera premiere was November 8, 2008, telecast nationwide; this is what is seen on this new DVD. It is an exciting performance magnificently sung by the entire cast, in particular Gerald Finley ,who created the role in the premiere, as Robert Oppenheimer . Finlay also was featured in the Netherlands Opera production reviewed on this site (REVIEW). The Dutch production featured an excess of newsreels and images; this revised production by Penny Woolcock eliminates obtrusive visuals. Unlike the Netherlands production, towards the final countdown, all present wear special glasses which create an eerie effect. Video and audio are state-of-the-art. This is a major addition to the operatic DVD catalog.
Puccini's Madama Butterfly had a new production for the English National Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera, produced by Anthony Minghella with sets by Michael Levine, and Carolyn Choa as director and choreographer. Met General Manager Peter Gelb chose this to open his first season in the position, September 25, 2006, a festive opening night spectacle telecast outside on Lincoln Center Plaza and Times Square, with intense TV coverage. Soprano Christina Gallardo-Domas sang the title role, with Marcello Giordani as Pinkerton, James Levine on the podium. Butterfly returned to the Met in 2009 and we have this video of the March 7, 2009 performance, featuring Patricia Racette as the ill-rated geisha, Giordani repeating his Pinkerton, and Patrick Summers replacing Levine. No one could fault any of the singing in this large-scale production which is often stunningly beautiful, particularly the first act ending. Sets and props are minimal—effects are achieved primarily through color. The child Trouble is played by a Bunraku puppet manipulated by three black-garbed men. For me, this simply doesn't work, in spite of the puppeteers' expertise. You may not object to it, and if you can accept this you'll derive much pleasure from this imaginative, well-sung production. Video and audio are perfect.
R.E.B. (March 2011)