Das Liebesverbot

US Stage Premiere


photos courtesy of Cory Weaver

DAS LIEBESVERBOT by Richard Wagner, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
Conductor: Corrado Rovaris
Cast: C. Waite, R. McPherson, M. Schnaible, R. Cox, L. Skuce, K. Glavin
Production: J. Conklin (scenery), K. Voyce (clothes), M. McCollough (lighting), A. Choates (hair/make-up)

“Nicholas Muni’s Glimmerglass production was as ingeniously sophisticated as the opera is sporadically callow. Muni and the designer John Conklin updated the action to the present day. The mafioso touches included leather jackets and shades. There was also plenty of sex, which lent credibility to Friedrich’s windy expostulations against depravity. By applying a grain of salt where Wagnerian excesses were least redeemable, Muni secured maximum impact and minimal disappointment. As revealed at Glimmerglass, “Das Liebesverbot” emerged—as it generally does not in the Wagner literature—as an exercise mightily freighted with great things to come. Though not remotely a candidate for repertoire status, this is an opera that deserves to travel—and so does the Muni-Conklin production.
Joseph Horowitz, London Times Literary Supplement (August, 2008)

“Nicholas Muni’s brash staging, updated to 1950’s Sicily, was a no-holds-barred descent into depravity, with guns waving, switchblades flashing, smoking, copulation and childbirth, occasionally short-circuited by sadistic fascists wielding cattle prods. This makes it sound dark and depressing, but in fact it was entertaining, fun and vital. Muni fully explored the extremes of culture clash—the club scene versus the cloister, real piety versus self-serving evangelism, louche Italy versus orderly Germany. He also humanized both Isabella, by giving her a secret cigarette stash and Fellini-esque scarf and sunglasses, and Friedrich, by introducing a silent love-child from his youthful liaison with Mariana. Muni made excellent use of Conklin’s set, with a great reveal for Friedrich, lurking functionaries on the catwalk and shadow-play against a hanging shield.”
Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News  (November, 2008)

“Das Liebesverbot” was the chief discovery of Glimmerglass—a flawed but diverting work that shows the master of music drama in an embryonic stage. By making some well-chosen cuts, Glimmerglass evaded the windier passages of Wagner’s score and rendered the opera eminently stageworthy. Nicholas Muni, the director, moved the action into nineteen-fifties Sicily, with satisfying results: Wagner meets Fellini, with a little Vegas thrown in for the Carnival scenes.”
Alex Ross, The New Yorker (August, 2008)

 “Seeing “Das Liebesverbot” is a delightful and revelatory experience. It is sometimes compared to Bellini, a Sicilian composer. Indeed, Wagner, loosely basing his opera on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, shifted the action to Palermo and even took the side of Italian sensuality over German piety. Nicholas Muni’s updated production brings out the opera’s zest and adds much of its own.”
George Loomis, Financial Times (August, 2008)

“The novelty feature drawing veteran opera enthusiasts in general, and Richard Wagnerites in particular to Glimmerglass Opera this summer is that composer’s “Das Liebesverbot,” in what is touted as the North American fully staged premiere of this seldom-talked-about-and-even-less-performed early piece. Nicholas Muni directed with imagination, and generated excitement and dramatic interest from a routine distillation of a romantic triangle plot that does not have all that much to inspire. I always enjoy Mr. Muni’s stagings, and he moved the many large scenes around in a meaningful and efficient way, all the while instilling good character interaction. And a palpable sense of fun. Like the way “Isabella” rolled the reclining “Luzio” off her convent bed at the moment he expected sexual victory; the goofy twining legs interplay for “Brighella” and “Dorella” as they sparred on the floor; the concept of a drag “Brighella”-as-”Divine” in the script’s “Columbine” masquerade, were all welcome deft touches.”
James Sohre, Opera Today (August, 2008)

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