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Corrective Measures

Here is a passage from Mark Swed's Los Angeles Times review this past Monday of Los Angeles Opera's new production of Tannhäuser.  (The overall, ahem, tenor of the review is slightly more favorable than this excerpt suggests, though hardly rapturous.) 

L.A. Opera has always in the past treated Wagner as special.  David Hockney designed its 'Tristan and Isolde,' Julie Taymor directed 'The Flying Dutchman,' Robert Wilson set 'Parsifal' aglow.  This time, the company made less effort.

Gottfried Pilz's sets of revolving walls of tall doors were adapted from a Salzburg Festival production of Mozart's
"The Abduction of Figaro" (it can be seen on a new DVD).  Pilz's second-act costumes are Salzburg similar as well.  Judge, who is an L.A. Opera regular, had the unenviable task of anonymously updating 'Tannhäuser.'

Can you spot the error that slipped  -- or perhaps was surreptitiously inserted -- into the second paragraph?  Someone caught it, and the Times published this correction on Wednesday:

Mozart opera: A review of Los Angeles Opera's 'Tannhäuser' in Monday's Calendar section called a Mozart opera 'The Abduction of Figaro.'  It is 'The Abduction From the Seraglio.'

(Correction first noted online by Regret the Error.)

Alas, even the correction is incomplete, as it corrects only the title of the Mozart opera from which the Tannhäuser sets have been lifted.  (The LA Daily News review got that fact straight on the first try.)  The Times does not address the other plain attribution error in its review: the immortal W. A. Mozart was not the composer of "The Abduction of Figaro."  That work -- a "simply grand opera" -- was, and could only have been, written by an immortal of a different kind, P.D.Q. Bach.  (For further information, see the New York Times review of the American premiere production of P.D.Q.B's "Abduction" from 1984.)

  • I read the review in the paper on Monday and missed the mistake completely.  Mark Swed is a clever fellow, well-versed in both Mozart and all the multifarious Bachs, so I would love to know whether he was the one who made the original "error" and, if so, whether he did it on purpose.
  • Three years ago this week, a copy editor's ill-considered insertion in another Swed review -- of LA Opera's gorgeous Hockney-designed production of R. Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten -- unleashed a veritable Carnival of Corrections.
  • As noted below, LA Opera's Tannhäuser comes with warnings of "nudity" and "strong sexual content".  At least some print ads also warn of "adult language," which is curious because
  1. I do not believe such language is included in Richard Wagner's text, and
  2. The production is, properly, being sung in the original German

I can only assume that someone has gotten carried away and inserted non-authorial expletives into the supertitles for this performance.

  • In all seriousness: Before it disappears into the archives, southern California operaphiles will want to read this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times interview with LA Opera's new music director, James Conlon.  He appears to have sound priorities going forward, although he acknowledges that the real power in the company resides in Placido Domingo.



All of this title mayhem brings to mind the tale of Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter.

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