Saturday, August 22, 2009


After his failure last season in Don Giovanni (partially redeemed later), I wasn't sure what to expect from Louis Langree's Mostly Mozart efforts and -- though largely for other reasons -- missed most of them. But last night's performance of Haydn's Creation (in English) was indisputably successful, with Langree leading the festival orchestra, the Concert Chorale of New York, and three very pleasurable soloists: Carolyn Sampson, Matthew Polenzani, and Peter Rose (all, of course, native English speakers). The only glitch was an included libretto different at many points from what the performers were singing.

No surprise in Langree's conducting success, I suppose: Haydn's masterpiece is almost an experiment in how far one can go without the Satanic element, not just in story -- he ends it just before the temptation, expulsion, and all that business -- but in overall aesthetic as well. Don Giovanni, though less than a dozen years older, breathes a far different air.

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I hope to catch up on a number of unposted summer topics in the next week or so. Then, a revision/update of the 2009-2010 Met season preview.


  1. I also enjoyed this, although there was this guy hogging several seats right in the middle of the theater.

    However, isn't DG about 12 years _older_? (Which, in the spirit of your comment above, seems even more striking.) I will admit that I had to look this up...

  2. You're right, of course. I somehow thought "written in a lower-numbered year" = "younger". Anyway, progress doesn't always go in one direction.

  3. I, too, loved The Creation. I particularly like it in English - the "flexible tiger" line always cracks me up. It makes me think of a Feline Yoga class. (Kinda like the one at my gym filled with cougars...)

    I like Haydn's lack of the overt Satanic element in The Creation. We all know what's going to happen. Ministers and priests have gone on ad nauseam about it. There's something rather nerdy cool in spending 2 years writing a piece about what's good in the world and celebrating it. Haydn and God both luxuriated in using their gifts in creating something superb, by throwing all of their talents and skills into it. Everytime I listen to The Creation, I think of the joy Haydn must have had in creating.

    Did you go to the pre-concert lecture? The speaker talked about the popular notion that The Creation is thought to be a typical Enlightenment piece. (Deistic, celebrating natural order, the science-like naming of things, ordering the world under man's dominion, etc.) The speaker argued that there are many counter-Enlightenment aspects to the story (based on libretto by a poet/minister Milton - a retro-17th century text in the modern 1790s, warning of man's upcoming sin for getting too haughty in enquiring too deeply into the nature of things popping up right before the final chorus, the final celebratory chorus focusing on God and not what was created or anything about man). The speaker quickly alluded to the fact that the piece could also be seen as an anti-French revolution piece, celebrating order and vanquishing chaos.

    I loved the cast - can we hear more Carolyn Sampson? She was a delight. And Peter Rose may yet be the Falstaff of my dreams.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.