Monday, September 20, 2010

Marek Janowski On Current Opera Production

Marek Janowski: I increasingly leave opera aside. The development of stage directing during the last 15 years is such that I was not able to follow the philosophy, especially in Germany, which, as you know, is rather terrible. In the United States, it is much less like this. In the early 1990’s, I decided to finish with opera in the pit. From time to time, I do an opera in concert. I have to say that, from time to time, I miss a little bit this repertoire, but not the opera world.

Interviewer: Would you consider doing a stage production if you had a stage director that . . .

Marek Janowski: My choice? Yes.

Interviewer: Do you have any stage directors you would like to work with?

Marek Janowski: They're all dead.


  1. I like Marek Janowski's recordings of two Hindemith operas that are never staged anywhere outside Germany, "Die Harmonie der Welt" and "Das Lange Weihnachtsmahl," "The Long Christmas Dinner," based on a Wilder play. The latter was Hindemith's last opera, originally staged with an English libretto.

    Janowski just got fed up with "Eurotrash" opera production.

    How about that. I actually spelled his name right.

  2. I thought the Janowski interview was amusing, which is why I posted a brief excerpt.

    Fewer and fewer important conductors work in the theater because they have grown disgusted with the contemporary mode of opera production.

    I have heard neither of the Hindemith operas you mention. The only Hindemith opera I know well is “Mathis”, which I think is a masterpiece. It is long past time “Mathis” entered the American repertory. I think the only major American staging of “Mathis” was in 1995 at NYCO. I know no one who attended a performance of the production.

    One of the Boston companies is scheduled to present “Cardillac” this year, but I cannot imagine the work being presented to an acceptable standard, if for no other reason than the company’s orchestra is so poor.

    Have you heard any of Janowski’s fairly recent Brahms recordings with Pittsburgh? The recordings have received glowing notices, but I have not heard them.

    Have you heard any of Marin Alsop’s fairly recent Brahms recordings on Naxos? I have not heard them, either, but I am told they are pretty gruesome.

  3. I've always believed that "Mathis der Maler" was Hindemith's greatest opera - perhaps the greatest of all his scores. The Symphony "Mathis der Maler" has also been one of my most beloved scores of all time. I will usually go out of my way to hear a live "Mathis" in concert; you don't see it programmed very often.

    I have passionately loved the opera for 30 years.

    Hindemith holds a special place in my heart. There is just "something about Hindemith."

    "Die Harmonie der Welt" and "Cardillac" are both perhaps less perfect than "Mathis," but both are well worth hearing.

    When Hindemtih is at his best, as in "Mathis" (Symphony or opera) and in the Weber themes "Metamorphosis," "Noblissima Visione," the Symphony in E-flat, "Trauermusik," "When Lilacs Last in Dooryard Bloom," the Concerto for Organ and Chamber Orchestra, or the 1940 Cello Concerto, for example, I can almost overhear myself thinking while listening, "it just doesn't get any better than this. Take me to a deserted island with Hindemith alone and I'lll be happy forever."

    (JS Bach, please forgive me!)

    I wouldn't go to the Boston event, though, as the performance shall surely suck.

    Welser-Moest is conducting "Cardillac" in Vienna this season. He is planning to perform "Cardillac" at the Lincoln Festival in 2012, I understand, with the Cleveland Orchestra in the pit. Now THAT is something to wait for.

    I haven't heard any of Janowski's Brahms recordings, or (thank God) any of Alsop's. People have told me that Janowski did really fine work in Pittsburgh; but I have to say that I have never heard him live.

  4. I am surprised that the Symphony In E-Flat is not a repertory piece. Audiences would love it if only they had a chance to hear it.

    One of the few Leonard Bernstein recordings I admire is his Symphony In E-Flat on Sony. His is the best account of the score I have ever heard.

  5. Yep. I'm glad I didn't admit first that there was actually a Bernstein recording that I liked. The Hindemith Sony "Royal Edition" is the only Symphony in E-flat that I listen to. (I ignore Prince Charles' contribution to that series.)

    I wish that the composer had recorded the Symphony among his other works documented for DG and EMI (available in box sets). Hindemith was a superb conductor of his own music. His "Nobilissima Visione" on EMI was the finest I ever heard, and it was recorded in good stereo sound.

    Give credit to Alan Gilbert for playing the work in New York.

    I think there are better readings available of both the Opus 50 - another fabulous piece - and the Weber variations than Bernstein's.

  6. Gilbert performed the Symphony in E-flat, not "Nobilissima Visione."

  7. Wasn't it Muti that performed the Symphony In E-Flat?

  8. And who was the moron that came up with the idea of putting watercolors by Prince Charles on the disc covers of that particular Bernstein series?

  9. You are right. It was Muti, last March, I think. Sorry. I'm glad it WASN'T Mr. Gilbert, actually.

    (As one gets older things sometimes get cloudy in the head. See what you have to look forward to, Andrew?)

    Yes, those royal water colors make for a royal embarrassment, albeit an embarrassment minimized by the minimal classical music market, which moronic marketers at Sony apparently believe is made up of art-loving morons who are moronic Prince Charles groupies.

  10. With respect to Alan Gilbert, I find myself firmly in the Norman Lebrecht camp: "Wouldn't it be cheaper simply to place a metronome in front of the orchestra?"