<< -- 2 -- Roderic Dunnett RARE STRAUSS
Arguably the best moment of David Fielding's essentially well-conceived
but visually rocky, uneven production was (with a conscious echo of his
magical coup-de-théâtre at the end of Daphne)
the ending : an ample, Rhinegoldish ring frames the couple, attired once
more in wedding garb as if for a gushing wedding photo : the relationship
has been reforged.
So right was this finale one could forgive the visually rocky remainder.
As before, Fielding designed it himself, and rightly took his cue from Strauss's
own delicious irony (after all, the composer names his main character Storch
(='Stork'), a pure parody of his own name (='Ostrich')). But his design
sense, and perhaps even more the poverty of construction, stoops to year
nine standard -- delighting neither the eye nor, frankly, the intellect :
Strauss himself at the l924 première (the libretto dates from as
early as l9l7) took great pains over the set. Fielding's hardboard-looking,
conifer-strewn snow backdrop was as deliberately but needlessly cheap (a
child's nineteenth century toy theatre could have done better) as the not-so-funny
gimmicks (the audience found them giggle-worthy) tugged up and down its
apex : like a hyperactive Achim Freyer (the famously finnicky German producer-designer)
at his least persuasive.
The hilarious moment where windows flop open and the house becomes a
(two-way) train had, however, the ring of vintage, on-form Fielding. Elsewhere
half-bitten gestures, undeveloped ideas, distinctly clumsy prop moving and
mindless pantomime (contrasting with the witty punch of Jonathan Burton's
crisp surtitles) made direction and conception look at best amateurish ('natural'?
well....maybe). The kitsch ball scene grew repetitive; the storm
was pathetic. The opening 'packing' scene, a canny forestate of Frau Storch's
forthcoming walkout, was stylishly acted. But all at the expense of the
overture. Yet Fielding's choice of 1920s costumes was classic, and his inspired
moments included an interlude which appears to emerge from a horn gramophone
(rather moving) and Storch's final occupation of his neglected chair at
the close, which -- thus delayed -- was a touch of genius.
Copyright © 2 August 2001
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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