On November 14, the Peter Sellars production of Giulio Cesare is finally being released on DVD. The cast includes his usual troupe at the time, including Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. I haven't seen the film version, but the live version was one of the most indelible opera productions I've ever seen. I think this was the performance that made me realize Lorraine Hunt (as she was then) was not just one of a number of excellent performers but rare and outstanding even in that company.
Sellars's productions were often referred to in a high-concept way (Orlando in Cape Canaveral! Don Giovanni -- in Spanish Harlem!) but it was usually the quiet, reflective moments that stayed in my memory for years: Hunt as Sesto cutting herself while vowing revenge, or Jeffrey Gall as Caesar holding the cask containing Pompey's head and standing in a pool of light backstage mourning the chances and misfortunes of human life.
The Sellars Mozart productions got most of the attention, but his Orlando (at ART in Cambridge) and his Cesare were just as good or better.
My last pre-order note involved a forthcoming Hunt Lieberson disc; at the time I didn't even know what the pieces were except that Harbison was the composer. It turns out it was a setting of Elizabeth Bishop, who wrote the book I referred to as the year's earlier pre-order cause of excitement. And the second disc was by Audra McDonald, who might be singing Kitty Oppenheimer, a role Hunt Lieberson was originally meant to sing. This is the sort of "small world" chain of happenstance and coincidence that gives conspiracy theorists hope.
Amazon has recently changed its listing of forthcoming DVDs in irritating ways: I saw the picture with Susan Larsen descending for her first entrance but it was weeks before I could get any more information, even a price. I saw a three-disc set listed called "Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution." I thought this might be an interesting examination of the byways and curlicue paths of biology. Or just three hours of lung fish doing whatever it is they do (not much). Or just three hours of Republican party members and Kansas school boards and suchlike creatures. To my disappointment, I think it's closer to the latter: it's some guy going on about creatures that supposedly disprove evolution by their very existence. Ugh. No thanks. If I want to see science mocked, I'll just rent an action movie and watch the hero outrun a fireball.
The Beethoven Project
3 weeks ago