27. Mai 2005
Seattle Gay News
Seattle's LGBT News and Entertainment Weekly
Maggie Bloodstone
THE L WORD - L for Love, - that is Los Angeles Opera's Der Rosenkavalier
Gottfried Helnwein's set for Der Rosenkavalier at Los Angeles Opera
The creator of the alluring image is artist Gottfried Helnwein, who transfers the power and pull of his photographic work (check out www.helnwein.com to get a taste of some of the heaviest, most uncompromising visuals you will see in several lifetimes) to the sets and costumes of Der Rosenkavalier. Helnwein's poster concept cuts through the traditional coyness and goes straight for the nugget of truth that no doubt had Lesbian and Gay audiences nudging and winking for the past century. With the bold-but-tender image of two gently bussing females, Helnwein gives the casual observer "something to think about." Oh, yes!
Der Rosenkavalier
2005
For you sun-starved Seattleites headed South June 10-12, L.A.'s Pride celebration features an entertainment roster designed to appeal to the closet Valley Girl in anyone over 25 and under 40: Julie Brown, Tiffany, Deborah (not Debbie, thankyouverymuch) Gibson, plus a bleached treat for us 40somethings, Debbie "Heart of Glass" Harry. It should be a hoot and a holler for unapologetic Breakfast Club fans and folks with way too much day-glo in their wardrobes. But at the same time, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion will present an extravaganza that beats any 80's revival on all fronts: better singing, brighter colors, and a drag king who looks better in short pants than Boy George ever did in a caftan: Los Angeles Opera's Der Rosenkavalier.
There's plenty to recommend this production besides the lush, lyrical music of Richard Strauss and a libretto by Hugo von Hoffmansthall that tarantellas through every aspect of the human heart and still ends with the hero and the heroine getting the girl. To be sure, the vocal talent is first-rate: Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, Bass Kurt Rydl, and making her L.A. debut in the "trouser role" of Count Octavian, Mezzo Alice Coote. It's that "trouser role" that inspired the stunning poster art for the production (see above), and prompted L.A.O.'s artistic director, Edgar Baitzel, to announce: "You will not see two naked ladies on the stage." (Not sure if he meant it as a reassurance or an apology.)
For non-classical types, the "trouser role" is a long-standing operatic tradition where a decidedly heterosexual male role is taken on by a female singer. Whether this concept was conceived to make use of the Mezzo- Soprano voice as a vessel of youthful male vigor and passion or an excuse for male operagoers of the Baroque era to secretly salivate over the uncorseted and brocade-breeched female form is still a matter of debate. The creator of the alluring image is Production Designer Gottfried Helnwein, who transfers the power and pull of his photographic work (check out www.helnwein.com to get a taste of some of the heaviest, most uncompromising visuals you will see in several lifetimes) to the sets and costumes of Der Rosenkavalier. Helnwein's poster concept cuts through the traditional coyness and goes straight for the nugget of truth that no doubt had Lesbian and Gay audiences nudging and winking for the past century. With the bold-but-tender image of two gently bussing females, Helnwein gives the casual observer "something to think about." Oh, yes!
Continuing General Director Placido Domingo's resolve to bring cinematic production values to the operatic stage (William Friedkin and Franco Zeffirelli have directed past productions), Der Rosenkavalier boasts a director with a half-century's worth of film and stage chops, whose approach to the bittersweet comedy is grounded in a solid classical foundation with a sharp eye for the contemporary: Maximilian Schell. A then-unknown who whupped both Spencer Tracy and Paul Newman for the Best Actor Oscar (1961's Judgement At Nuremburg), Schell's resume ranges from a stereotype-shattering German-language Hamlet to cult status as the hirsute mad doctor of The Black Hole (it doesn't speak well of us as a culture that the latter is probably his best-known role among American filmgoers). Schell's directorial credits number far less than his acting, but include Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Documentary- the latter being the superb tribute to Ms. Dietrich, Marlene (which, if you haven't seen, turn in your Gay Card now). His most recent film was last year's My Sister Maria, a sad and sweet valentine for his recently departed actress sister, Maria Schell. His next film, Goddess willing, will be a biopic of Beethoven with Placido Domingo, which, rumor has it, may also feature either-or both- John Malkovich and Eminem(!). The 74-year-old, straight-but-not-narrow Schell, who has played a gay character or two even when less secure actors ran away screaming from "queer" roles, views the implicit genderfuck of Der Rosenkavalier as an aspect of "the game-playing that goes on in love and lust" and avers that "We all have a little of both, female and male" (as quoted in the L.A. Times). Damn straight-so to speak.
Der Rosenkavalier runs May 29-June 19, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Tickets: (213) 972-8001, or online at www.losangelesopera.com.
Take a break from the Stand-n'-Model scenes of West Hollywood and get yourself some cultcha - and toss Herr Schell a rose during the encore for me. (Yeah, it's corny-so I dig the guy. Shut up.)




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