Griselda

Last night to the opening of Pinchgut’s Griselda.

For some reason, their publicity has been less forthcoming than in earlier years – little of the old internet chattiness and, as far as I can make out, not replaced by twitter or whatever else is newer.

It’s based on an adaptation of the final story of Bocaccio’s Decameron. This involves Griselda’s husband putting her through all sorts of trials before finally accepting her back as his wife. In the operatic version, he is the duke of Thessaly and is driven to this by the popular rejection of the low-borne Griselda as his queen (should that be duchess?). The popular discontent was depicted in part by placard-waving citizens in the aisles. One placard [plot spoiler of a sort] read “Ditch the Bitch.” This got laughs.

That was one odd thing about the production. I don’t think of this as a funny story at all, but it was certainly played for laughs at times. I suppose they had to do something because quite frankly, apart from the possibilities of various twists and turns which provide the occasion for the various arias, for most of the time things got simply worse and worse for Griselda. It’s not a story of any particular attraction and it all seems too contrived to be really moving. Despite that, within the premise of the rather ridiculous plot, there is one scene which moved me, when Griselda, disturbed in her sleep, possibly by the arrival of Costanza, calls out and reaches up as if to her long-dead daughter. Unknown to her, Costanza really is her (not dead after all) daughter. It was a tender and uncanny moment (well prepared by a short piece of “sleep” music), but its effect was lost soon afterwards with a reversion to the comic.

The rearrangement from 3 acts to 2 acts also robbed the trio at the end of the second act (not long after the scene I have mentioned) of some of its effect and detracted from what little dramatic shape the opera has. I think I can see why they did it: it gave them a transformation and a moment with a bit of splendour on a little budget (who would have believed that so much effect could be got from an electric roll-a-door?) and it got everyone home earlier – especially when the evening managed to buck the 7pm-start Angel Place trend.

David Hansen scored something of a triumph in the startlingly high role of Ottone (normally still sung by a woman), a ‘tached baddie who seizes the opportunity of Griselda’s banishment to pay his own entirely unwelcome suit – pressed with threats to murder her son if she will not yield to him.

I think there were some cuts, at least compared to the version I had borrowed on CD from the Con Library. I’ll listen on Sunday night when it is being broadcast on ABC “Classic” FM.

I’m going again on Monday to the last night.

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6 Responses to “Griselda

  1. Ann Says:

    agree with you about the most moving moment, when Griselda rose from the rubble looking totally wrung out by being so victimised, degraded, belittled by her hideous husband…like a very contemporary victim of domestic violence we could all relate to…the 3 countertenors were startlingly impressive, especially Ottone (David Hansen). His aria on the wedding feast table was a marvel of balance, physically and vocally, and the crowd delighted in it.
    The Ditch the Bitch placard was a pretty feeble attempt at humour, and why did Miriam Allen have to be decked out like a Clubland hooker? Her Agitata da due venti rocked my socks off!

  2. Ken N Says:

    A not unreasonable opinion. I disagree but I guess I am biased.
    I believe, though don’t know, that the director played a couple of the scenes for laughs because an Australian audience would find it hard to accept Griselda’s patience at face value. As indignities are heaped on her, the audience would yell ” tell him to piss off” or stronger.
    But Griselda did play it straight and I think Caitlin showed that she can really act as well as sing.
    The placards were an attempt to explain early on why he had turned against her. I can understand that they might jar with some.
    But as always, Pinchgut wants to be judged mostly on the music.
    By the way, Wednesday’s performance will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM on Sunday night.

    • marcellous Says:

      Ken

      I notice that Moffatt and ABC are saying that the broadcast was of Saturday’s performance, not Wednesday’s.

      I listened again and picked up some of the divergencies between the “Vivaldi Edition” recording and Erin Hellyard’s version and I’m curious as to the basis for the differences.

      Main ones seemed to be a truncation of recit, especially at the beginning (and in a few other places), the relocation of “Agitata da due venti” and – and this is the one I do regret – the absence of Corrado’s aria about the amorous swallow – seasonal for Australia just now (or to be more accurate, a month or two ago) and, I would have thought, a happy reminiscence and contrast for Pinchgut audiences who might have recalled (as I do) the desperate swallow which provided the image and madrigalism for an aria in Juditha Triumphans. It also tipped the balance of the performance even more towards the vigorous and boisterous than EH’s approach already did.

      Some of the omissions (especially at the beginning and Corrado’s knowing comments) reduced the groundwork for the denouement for anyone who hadn’t already looked up the plot.

      I also notice that EV chose trumpets rather than horns in the non-hunting arias with brass, which I suppose (not having seen the score) is textually possible but which I put down more to understandable frugality.

      I agree with what you say about Griselda and Caitlin.

      As to the trio and the ensuing transformative roller-door – I would prefer if the door were delayed a moment there to give the trio and its mood a chance to sink in.

      My other suggestion is for future productions which it is intended to record: some stage noises inevitable and possibly even to be welcomed, but plastic rustles best avoided. Easy to say in hindsight, of course.

  3. Ken N Says:

    Ah, OK. Classic FM recorded the first two and I thought it was Wednesday that was going to air. All perfs and the general were recorded by the company for the CD.
    I know that Erin and Mark had a tough time with the cuts. The choices reflect Mark’s idea on what is be cessary to tell the story and Erin’s views on the music.
    Erin did not use the edition prepared for Naive but did his own.
    I’ll ask him if he’d like to comment on the choices he made.
    Thanks for your final comment. I’ll pass it on. Did you hear the rustles in the broadcast?
    Tonight should be different again. They usually let fly in the last – no need to hold back,,,

  4. marcellous Says:

    re the rustles:

    ‘fraid so – in Act II and also when Griselda and her stuff being bundled up in Act I. It is true that Moffatt gave a forewarning – to save people worrying about their reception or equipment, I suppose – and that may have sensitized me to it unduly.

  5. Griselda 2 « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] season of Griselda has […]

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