Chill to opera and theatre

For those of us looking to escape the vagaries of summer weather with some high-end culture in an air-conditioned movie house, Ster-Kinekor has announced its fourth season of filmed National Theatre performances. Also on the way: a new crop of filmed Metropolitan Opera productions.

The Last of the Haussmans, a new play by Stephen Beresford, stars Julie Walters as “an idealistic but impossibly impractical and muddle-headed relic of the Sixties” — this description is from the Telegraph, which praised the work as a reflection of “broken Britain”. It shows on November 17, 18, 21 and 22.

The National Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens (December 8, 9, 12 and 13), catapults into the 21st century this portrait of a man and a society in thrall to money. Simon Russell Beale plays Timon.

Finally, a farce: The Magistrate, by Victorian playwright Arthur Wing Pinero, features John Lithgow as an amiable fellow called Posket who has no idea that his new wife and her son are both five years older than he thought they were (February 23, 24, 27 and 28).

Every year the Metropolitan Opera offers close to a dozen filmed performances, a mixture of old warhorses and edgy and/or new productions, in its Live in HD series. In previous years operas such John Adams’ Nixon in China and Philip Glass’s Satyagraha were a gift to those of us who believe the way to keep opera alive is to keep adding new work to the repertoire.

This season’s modern opera is The Tempest, by British composer Thomas Adès; it premiered at the Royal Opera House in 2004. The director is Robert Lepage, whose inventive staging of the Met’s Ring Cycle — massively heavy, moving steel planks, turned by computer-generated imagery into rocky mountainsides, caves, the Rhine — got more publicity than the singers.

Lepage is still enamoured of machinery for The Tempest. He re-creates the interior of 18th-century La Scala, including the apparatus (advanced for its time) beneath the stage. Baritone Simon Keenlyside sings Prospero who, in this production, is an impresario. The opera opens on December 14.

The Live in HD season premieres in South Africa on November 16 with Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, with the Met’s current top diva, Anna Netrebko, singing the role of Adina, the farm owner and object of the affections of farmworker Nemorino (tenor Matthew Polenzani). A comedy, it features what is perhaps the saddest love aria in opera, Una furtiva lagrima.   

Next is Verdi’s Otello, with South African tenor Johan Botha as the Moor who kills his Desdemona, here sung by soprano Renée Fleming. It opens on November 30.

Mozart’s final opera, La Clemenza di Tito (December 29) has tenor Giuseppe Filianoti as the emperor whom the scorned Vitelia (Barbara Frittoli) incites her admirer (mezzo Elina Garanca) to kill. Next year, there’s more Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera (January 18),  with Marcelo Alvarez, and the ultimate warhorse, Aida (January 25), as well as Rigoletto in March.


A highlight of the season is Berlioz’s seldom-performed Les Troyens (February 8). The music is sublime. The opera begins with the wooden horse outside the gates of Troy, and ends, five hours later, with intimations of the fall of Carthage. Marcello Giordani is Aeneas, Deborah Voigt is Cassandra and Susan Graham is Dido.

The operas will be shown for about seven days each, scattered over two weeks, at Cinema Nouveau venues countrywide.

We have double tickets to L’Elisir d’Amore to give away. To stand a chance to win, send your name, city and contact details to [email protected].

Go to cinemanouveau.co.za for more information

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Barbara Ludman
Guest Author
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