Tuesday, August 25, 2015


It is important to notice that Dmitri Hvorostovsky is still listed for Il Trovatore at the Met this fall.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Interview with Jonas Kaufmann

Kleine Zeitung, July 26, 2015  [My usual translation.  I apologize that there is no link.]


He is one of the big stars of this year's Salzburg Festival. On August 4, Janas Kaufmann will premiere as Florestan in "Fidelio".

For fans in September there will be a special gift, namely the new CD "Nessun dorma - The Puccini Album" - recorded in Rome. You sang this repertoire recently at La Scala Milan. This was sort of a special appearance? 

Jonas Kaufmann: I had promised to sing "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "Pagliacci" at La Scala. But my schedule is too full. I had to cancel. This concert was a sort of reparation.

Is there a history to this album? 

KAUFMANN: Shortly before my twelfth birthday the Three Tenors brought out their first CD. With a terrific recording of "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot". Even today I get goosebumps when I remember it. For a long time I did not even dare to think about singing "Nessun dorma". Now finally I have dared.

What is so special for you about "Nessun dorma"? 

KAUFMANN: At the very beginning, the first notes are a madness. I can only think of one thing: wow! And how Pavarotti sang it, with his amazing, unique voice. As I said: The goosebumps have stayed with me.

A jump to Salzburg, to "Fidelio". No debut for you. What has so irritated [excited?]you about singing Florestan in the Festival City? 

KAUFMANN: That Claus Guth is directing. A very interesting man. I liked his ideas by our first "Fidelio" conversation.

How will he lay out his production?

KAUFMANN: I promise you: We do not appear in pajamas. We've already done that. Let yourself be surprised. I only want to tell this much: It won't be a conservative staging. The dialogue will be used differently than usual. [To say the least.] There are film clips. Also in Salzburg cameras will be there. Like the concert in Milan, which will be shown at a later date in more than 1,000 cinemas in 40 countries.

Do you mind cameras at an appearance? 

KAUFMANN: In Milan I did not like them initially, then no longer. Before cameras I don't sing differently than usual. It would be completely wrong to do anything differently. I think I have always a good relationship with cameras.

You are often referred to as "the greatest tenor of our time". How do you get through that? How lives the "greatest tenor of our time"? 

KAUFMANN (laughs): By not thinking about such a thing, because he knows what great privilege this profession is. And the beauty is the more energy you give, the more comes back. But that's a different energy than in life. A spiritual. The risk is just to do too much. I realize that I cannot continue. A bit of it is about survival. I will shorten my schedule.

Some tenors complain that they have to always be the "good guys" The ones with the deep voices have the much more interesting theatrical roles:. The villains. 

KAUFMANN: There's something to that. But still: The Pinkerton in "Madama Butterfly" is a hard, unpleasant type and Alfredo in "La Traviata" you could accuse him of being so blind and stupid in some situations. Or the main characters in "Pagliacci" and "Cavalleria Rusticana". I gladly sing both operas, because these guys are not unlike each other. The one: a crazy freak who kills his wife, and the other - also pretty crazy.

On the stage you have already embodied plenty of roles. That's certain. Or are there moments where you could really cry? 

KAUFMANN: When I first saw the "Butterfly" at a young age, it blew me away. I was totally speechless, because I so took seriously everything that was happening on the stage. Naturally: The innocence fades with time. Nevertheless: Sometimes those moments come back and with them the tears. Once in a "Parsifal" under Daniele Gatti, I was close to it. I held myself back with difficulty. But I have watched as the prompter wept.  [Picturing the prompter weeping is why I decided to translate this.]

The word "sexy" also belongs to your image. 

KAUFMANN: Such compliments are indeed charming, but I don't take this too seriously.

You are the father of three children, but live apart from the family. Do you feel that you care enough for your children? 

KAUFMANN: No. Or yes, I try as often as possible to see them. I tell myself every now and then: There are jobs where the fathers have even less time. But: The first answer was the more honest. No.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

La Scala di Seta

I decided to watch my DVD of Rossini's La Scala di Seta which I bought years ago from House of Opera.  I bought it because it featured a young Cecilia Bartoli (she is 22) singing in Bologna.  I think I put off watching it because there were no subtitles, and it's very wordy.  The sound is good, but the picture is blurry.

The music is charming but contains no surprises.  Rossini was only 20 when he wrote this.  In my list of Rossini operas this is the earliest. 

The staging is astonishingly formal.  They stand in formation like something from the eighteenth century.  The versions on YouTube are staged in a much more modern way.  There is a bed which they get on every once in a while.

Cecilia is herself.  Despite the formality, when her beau expresses an interest in her, she drags him behind the screen and starts pulling his clothes off.  The guardian throws her onto the floor.  She rolls her R's as one expects. The main soprano is Luciana Serra.

There is no explanation for the plot.  A young woman lives with a guardian who wants her to marry his favorite.  Meanwhile she is already married to someone else whom she lets in and out of her bedroom using a silk ladder.  Why not just tell the guardian his services are no longer required?  This is too modern a perspective, I suppose.

The audience likes everything.

Friday, August 21, 2015

100 Operas

Here is a Buzzfeed quiz about what operas out of a list of 100 you have seen.

Out of the list, I was in:

Rigoletto (Verdi) 
The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) 
Die Fledermaus (Strauss) 
Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck) 
Faust (Gounod) 
Salome (Richard Strauss) 
The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) 
The Force of Destiny (Verdi) 
Death in Venice (Britten) 
The Bartered Bride (Smetana) 

Out of what remains, I have not seen at all:

Akhnaten (Philip Glass)
Gloriana (Britten)
Albert Herring (Britten)
The Silken Ladder (Rossini) (La Scala di Seta, I have an unwatched dvd.)

Operas that I have seen only in HD from the Met:

Rodelinda (Handel)
Maria Stuarda (Donizetti)

Operas I have seen only on DVD:

The Fairy Queen (Purcell)
Written on Skin (George Benjamin)
Anna Nicole (Mark Anthony Turnage)
The Minotaur (Harrison Birtwistle)
The Coronation of Poppea (Monteverdi)
Benvenuto Cellini (Berlioz)

That makes 88 live, 2 HD only, 6 DVD only and 4 not at all.  I think that's pretty good.  The list comes from the ENO and emphasizes their repertoire.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Last night I put on my dashiki and my wrist bands and set out to see Hair (also called Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical) at the Sacramento Music Circus.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


I'm glad I saw Donizetti's Poliuto from Glyndebourne.  It sounds mysteriously like Verdi only not as good.  Nothing is ready to become a hit tune.

Paolina-Ana María Martínez
Poliuto-Michael Fabiano

The weight of this very heavy opera is carried by these two singers.  Both of them shined very brightly.  I was particularly happy to see Michael in a role that truly showed off his voice.  It was an excellent performance of a pretty monotonous opera.  Lots of percussion.

The plot is that they are Christian martyrs in the time of the Roman empire.  Not surprisingly, it was censored in Italy. 

This is a complex story about love, faith, country, loyalty and oh so many things.  The music emphasizes almost exclusively the anger, betrayal, disloyalty parts of the story, saving the softer parts for a bit at the end.  It didn't attract me.

Stream opera from Munich

In March I posted:

[Dear Bayerische Staatsoper, I would like to see:

Sergej Prokofjew Der feurige Engel, or The Fiery Angel with Evelyn Herlitzius.  The one time I saw this in San Francisco it was amazing.

Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg starring Jonas Kaufmann. Need I say more?

Jaques Fromental Halévy La Juive with Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna.

Jean-Philippe Rameau Les Indes galantes with Lisette Oropesa

Giuseppe Verdi Un ballo in maschera with Piotr Beczala, Simon Keenlyside and Anja Harteros. ]

Now two have been announced, and they were my top two requests, namely Fiery Angel and Meistersinger.  I'll put them in the calendar.  If you have a favorite, ask now.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New People

People I heard for the first time this year.  The first is Angel Blue.  She is the real deal.

Maria Agresta

Karine Deshayes

Thursday, August 13, 2015

West Side

Last week I went to the Music Circus to see Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.  I only remember seeing the movie before.  It's another show with lots of dancing.  The director and choreographer was Jerome Robbins.

Tony Justin Matthew Sargent
Maria is Carolann M. Sanita
Bernardo German Alexander
Anita Desireé Davar,

Everything is very heavily miked which I'm not used to.  There are no supertitles, and since it's theater in the round, they are frequently facing away from you.  The pace is frantic and intense which I think people who enjoy musicals like.  St. Louis does opera in the round but with supertitles.

I was discussing this with my neighbor who said she saw it with a friend that is Puerto Rican.  Her friend complained about the clothing and the accents.  Puerto Ricans don't actually wear red and black all the time.

I feel it is important to explain this.  Theater and reality are two widely different things.  In real life people just wear what they wear and look the way they look.  If you are old enough to have lived in New York at the time--it premiered in 1957--you might know what people looked like in that time and place.  I vaguely recall button down collars, petticoats.  The purpose for putting them in consistently colored clothing isn't to accurately portray them--it is to clearly differentiate them from the New York kids in the rival gang who wore oddly pastel clothes.  When I go to a show, I don't like to be spending my time trying to figure out who each person is.  That's what the production is for.

The way the production looks is how the story is told.  One group runs quickly off the stage and is replaced by another.  "Who are these people?" is a question that should be instantly answered.  I always remember the Aida in Rome where the principals and the chorus all wore similarly designed outfits.  Which one is Radames?  Constant puzzlement is not a desirable quality in a production.

A theater production isn't trying to be a movie, although the use of films as background is increasing.

Fidelio from Salzburg

Franz Welser-Möst musical direction
Claus Guth stage director

Jonas Kaufmann (Florestan)
Adrianne Pieczonka (Leonore)
Sebastian Holecek (Don Fernando)
Tomasz Konieczny (Don Pizarro)
Hans-Peter König (Rocco)
Olga Bezsmertna (Marzelline)
Norbert Ernst (Jaquino)

I watched the live stream of Fidelio from the Salzburg Festival today.  Perhaps it's best to talk about the music first.   Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan and Adrianne Pieczonka as Leonore were great, perfectly cast in their roles.  Hans-Peter König was familiar for his Hunding in the Met Ring, and Tomasz Konieczny was previously seen as Jack Rance in Girl of the Golden West.  I liked this cast very much.  This was probably the most beautiful canon quartet I have heard.

Leonore #3 overture was played between the two scenes of the second act.  It was probably necessary to accommodate the set change.  The orchestra received the biggest applause of the performance here.  This is the most I have liked Franz Welser-Möst.

The production.  All the spoken dialog was left out.  Where the dialog would have gone were extended periods of strange sounds:  wind, people breathing, the heart monitor going to the death sound, etc.  This had the effect of making the whole thing much more serious.  I didn't mind this.  I missed "Ich habe Mut und Kraft."  But that's about it.  But if you truly love Fidelio, you don't want it changed.

There were two acting only characters:  Paul Lorenger (Shadow Pizarro) and Nadia Kichler (Fantôme de Léonore).  The Fantôme de Léonore seemed to be one of those people who mime the dialog for the deaf.  I don't know enough sign language to tell if this is true.  Perhaps that's where the dialog went.

Florestan seems to have been driven mad by his imprisonment.  Loud noises and Leonore frighten him.  He collapses at the end.  Perhaps he has died.  He needs to be taken somewhere quiet to help recover from his PTSD.  In the picture above Leonore thinks perhaps he needs a drink. 

I think this production suggests that Fidelio might be successfully presented as a more serious opera, but I reject absolutely that it should have an unhappy ending.  "Die Liebe wird's erreichen. [Love will make it happen.]"  This is what it's about.