Friday, May 24, 2019

Parterre new productions

In Parterre's end of season awards I found this list under new stagings.  The first group is the nominees with the most popular at the top.  I'm assuming that these all took place in New York.  I have added composers' names.  I have included links to articles in Parterre Box.
I have a vague memory of German friends mentioning Goldmark's Die Königin von Saba, but I have never seen it.  There is a vast repertoire of German Opera that never is heard in America.  I should look into this.

The Mile-Long Opera appears to be more of an event than an opera.  People stand about 10 feet apart along a mile and a half stretch of walk way in New York City called the High Line and sing.  This would be to experience first hand.

This next group is the write-ins, a few of which I recognize.  I will assume that the grossly mispelled Les Huguenots is the one from Paris with Lisette Oropesa.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  I also saw the Forza from the Royal Opera.  Many of the others also took place in New York.  Murasaki's Moon was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
  • Murasaki’s Moon
  • Les huguenots saw this
  • Elektra Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Tosca Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Kata Kabanova at Covent Garden
  • Kopernikus by Claude Vivier
  • La Forza del Destino Royal Opera  saw this
  • David Hertzberg’s The Rose Elf
  • Rape of Lucretia (New Camerata)
  • Sarah Kane's Psychosis 448
I see live or find films of lots of things going on in Europe, but the same is not true of opera in America.  Here in our country performances go out into the air and are never seen again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ranking the Simulcasts

This is the list of HD broadcasts this season from the Metropolitan Opera shown in reverse order.  I skipped Carmen and Magic Flute for reasons of excess familiarity.  Perhaps one of these is your favorite.  I will discuss those I saw and then rank.

👍🏻Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc  Revival.  This was my first time in French.  It was a towering performance which Isabel Leonard brought virtually to perfection. 

👍🏻Wagner's Die Walküre  Revival shown for Christine Goerke.  The Met revived the whole Ring but only Die Walküre made it into movie theaters. 

👍🏻Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment  Revival.  I enjoyed this enormously, more than I thought possible.  Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Maurizio Muraro and a special guest appearance by Kathleen Turner made this a very lively and up beat performance.

Bizet's Carmen  Revival.  This features Roberto Alagna again in French repertoire, which I cannot rate because I missed it.

👍🏻Francesco Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur  Production from the Royal Opera.  This was one of two HD transmissions to feature the duo Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili.  Their voices and performance styles are extraordinarily well suited to one another and worked to great effect here.  It's not the greatest opera, but the cast was great across the board.  I especially enjoyed the work of Ambrogio Maestri.

Verdi's La Traviata  New production replaces the red dress.  I found the new very decorative production to be no more than just functional.

Mozart's Magic Flute  Revival which I missed.  I prefer Flute in German.

Marnie by Nico Muhly  New Opera presented a year after its premier in London.  It's based on a movie by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Isabel Leonard in a tour de force..

👍🏻Puccini's La Fanciulla del West  Revival of the old Giancarlo del Monaco production.  Both Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jonas Kaufmann were fabulous in their roles, but for me the story makes a bit more sense if Minnie might possibly marry Jack Rance.

👍🏻Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila  Revival.  I like Roberto Alagna, especially in French repertoire. The Production created the impression that the Israelis were very poor in contrast with the much richer Philistines.  What I liked was the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Elina Garanca. 

Verdi's Aida  Revival.  This was one of two HD transmissions to feature the duo Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili.  It failed due to the truly catastrophic singing of Aleksandrs Antonenko as Radames.  I thought the scene between the two ladies was the best I had seen.  That overall it was spoiled by the tenor is sad.

So we have six thumbs up which is probably too many.  I do love opera.  What we are missing again this year is a run away favorite.  Can I have a tie?  Both of these operas were the best versions I've seen.
  • Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc
  • Francesco Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur  

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dialogue des Carmélites in HD

Production..............John Dexter

Blanche de la Force.....Isabel Leonard
Madame de Croissy.....Karita Mattila
Madame Lidoine........Adrianne Pieczonka
Mother Marie.............Karen Cargill
Sister Constance........Erin Morley

Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc brings the 2018-19 HD season to an end.  When I saw this opera in San Francisco long ago, it was in this same production, only in English.  This is my first time in French.  Poulenc, who lived before supertitles, wanted the opera performed in the language of the audience.  The production follows the historical context of the French Revolution while creating a context through abstractions.  The giant white cross will stay in memory forever.

The opera begins in the home of Blanche de la Force with her father and brother.  Her brother worries that she is always afraid while her father dismisses just about everything she says.  But when she tells him she wishes to join the Carmelite convent, he doesn't refuse.

The convent of Carmelite nuns is changing.  There are two novices, Blanche and Constance, and the mother superior is dying.  Isabel and Erin are charming in their relationship throughout the opera.  Karita Mattila plays her death scene to the ultimate extreme.  It is frightening to watch.  The opera is about death, so I suppose this is one extreme.

After she dies, a new mother superior is sent in from outside:  Madame Lidoine.  Adrianne Pieczonka played her very low key.

Blanche provides the story.  She loves the private life and prayer, but news of the outside world seeps into the seclusion of the convent.  The nuns agree to commit to becoming martyrs.  Even Constance agrees.  All but Blanche agree.

Her brother comes to warn her she is in danger.  The priest is removed from his position and tries to escape.  Finally they are all arrested and forced to give up their nun clothing for "normal" clothes.  At this point Blanche escapes and finds her brother.  She learns that her father has gone to the guillotine.  She rejoins them right at the end.  We hear the sound of the guillotine falling.

Isabel is such a spectacular performer.  She gives us beauty, emotional connection, great singing and her own personal magnetism.  She keeps the stream of emotion going.

This opera is deeper than opera usually is.  Altogether it was a great performance with emotional and musical intensity and exceptional theatrical clarity.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Lisette Oropesa wins Beverly Sills Award

After just winning the Richard Tucker Prize, Lisette Oropesa has now received the Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera.  Congratulations.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Hannigan does Weill

Barbara Hannigan sings Youkali of Kurt Weill with the pianist Alexandre Tharaud. Song recorded for Radio France.  I don't think I knew he wrote songs in French.  We don't want to go too long without some Weill.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Two Operas about Women

Conductor:  Ryan Murray (new opera theater director)
Stage Director:  Gia Battista
Piano:  Renee Harris

California State University Sacramento performed two operas last night. 

Game of Chance by Seymour Barab

First knitter:  Taylor Graham
Second knitter:  Katie Thorpe
Third knitter:  Valerie Loera
The representative:  Justin Ramm-Damron

This is the second time for this opera at Sac State.  So what is the attraction?  Three women are knitting their lives away and wish for something else.  The attraction is that each of them gets a nice solo scene.  A man comes to take them away to their dream.  At the end they are discontented and wish they had asked for more.  As a person who became a systems analyst in her 40s, this seems absurd.  Why settle?  There's not a lot that can be done with this opera.


Amelia Goes to the Ball by Gian-Carlo Menotti

Amelia:  Angela Yam
The Friend:  Valerie Loera
The Husband:  Michael Carey
The Lover:  Aaron Gallington
The Chief of Police:  Justin Ramm-Damron
First Maid:  Taylor Graham
Second Maid:  Monica Serrano

This is fun.  There is nothing in this opera that is actually about a ball.  It's all about getting there.  At the start the maids are helping Amelia dress while her friend urges her to hurry.  I have included the above so that all may see what a fichu looks like.  Amelia searches for hers without success, thus causing the delay.

Before she finds it husband arrives home.  He accuses her of having a lover, which she admits on the condition that he will take her to the ball.  He lives upstairs.  Husband goes looking and lover enters.  The Lover was played very much for laughs.  Aaron Gallington was an amusing physical comic with lots of odd looking gestures.  The opera ends with husband knocked out and taken to the hospital, lover accused of theft and taken off by the police, and finally with Amelia going off to the ball with the Chief of Police.  We have to assume that all is well.

This opera is a vehicle for the woman who sings Amelia, in our case Angela Yam who was impressive.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Camerata Deia

Camerata Deia is an ensemble of varying composition that came to Sacramento last night from their home base in Spain to conclude this season's Millennium Concert Series.  Two of our pieces included piano, so I have included a picture that shows one.  They played.

Joaquin Turina's Piano Quartet in A minor Op.67 (1931) in three movements.  The program seems to be full of mistakes.  This one says Turina's dates are 1833-1897 while Wikipedia says 1882-1949.  Based on the sound of the music, I am inclined to go with the latter.  There are hints of modernism but nothing too extreme.

Enrique Granados's Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.49 (1894) in three movements.  The program identified a fourth movement which did not exist.  I liked this piece.

Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (1825) in four movements.  This is for two string quartets together.  The third movement was interestingly named Scherzo:  Allegro leggierissimo.[the most amount of leggiero].  You remember a leggiero tenor?  This would sort of translate to the most amount of not legato.  There was a lot of bow bouncing.  A 16 year old might get off on this.  It's a fun piece.

This concert series usually emphasizes chamber ensembles.  I liked the music selection.

Monday, April 22, 2019


Gianluca Capuano: Conductor
Christof Loy: Production

Nathan Berg: King of Scotland (bass)
Kathryn Lewek: Ginevra, his daughter (soprano)
Cecilia Bartoli: Prince Ariodante, her betrothed (originally a castrato)
Rolando Villazón: Lurcanio, his brother (tenor)
Christophe Dumaux:  Duke Polinesso (contralto countertenor)
Sandrine Piau: Dalinda, Ginevra's attendant (soprano)
Kristofer Lundin:  Odoardo (tenor)

This is the Salzburg production of Handel's Ariodante starring the one and only Cecilia Bartoli.  They have found an excellent soprano who is smaller than her to play her love.  The presence of many men in business suits makes it regie.  At the very beginning Cecilia speaks to us in Italian to explain her story.  The set is large and almost blank.

Cecilia's entrance is made in a full suit of armor.  One cannot stop staring at her.  In her first aria after the king has declared Ariodante to be his heir, she sings all that coloratura while getting increasingly drunk.  I didn't know this opera was a comedy.  Villazon prevents her from falling down.  On the eve of the wedding there is a party where people dance in period costumes, including Ariodante and Ginevra. The bits where Cecilia dances are relatively short but enjoyable.  So far so good. 

The plot is one of those she loves him, while he loves someone else, et.  Polinesso is the villain.  He plots to steal Ginevra.  Dalinda loves Polinesso, and Lucanio loves Dalinda.  Polinesso bribes Dalinda to disguise herself as Ginevra to fool Ariodante.  He succeeds with this ruse and drops one of Ginevra's dresses on the floor outside her room.  Ariodante sings "scherza infida" and puts the dress on.

The efforts to bring the story to life seem very successful to me.  Ginevra laments the loss of Ariodante, but when he returns, he's wearing his beard and the dress Polinesso gave him, and Ginevra freaks out.  Suddenly she's interested in all the other men around her.  Hmmm.

This entire opera is performed with great emotional intensity.  If you've followed the news about this, you know that Ariodante eventually turns into Cecilia Bartoli.  So then she's singing and smoking a cigar at the same time.  It doesn't look lit, but....  When I was married long ago, my husband smoked a pipe, and I swear he would blow smoke rings exactly like that.  I swear.  This indicates a level of expertise.

It has a peculiar but happy ending.  It is nice to see Rolando, and Kathryn Lewek was marvelous.  Hail La Bartoli.  I did kind of like the beard.

The production is about gender ambiguity.  At the beginning our hero doesn't seem very happy while at the end he/she is full of smiles.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tanya Végváry Plescia pianist

Berceuse by Tanya Vegvary (2015)
Lullaby for Elijah by Tanya Vegvary (2010)
Sonata in Bb Major, Molto moderato by Franz Schubert (1828)
Chopin, Etudes Opus 25 No, 1, 2, 3
Chopin, Fantasy Impromptu Opus 66
Waiting for a Call by Tanya Vegvary (2018)
Geary Street by Tanya Vegvary (2005)  [The one in San Francisco]

I attended the Saturday Club performance of Tanya Végváry Plescia last night.  She has a school called the Sacramento Piano Conservatory where she performed for us.  She explained that this way she gets to play her own piano which is voiced heavy in the bass, as she prefers.

Her existence and the existence of her school was new to me.  The test of a pianist is Chopin, of course, and she passed.  She showed plenty of rubato and played as loud as necessary.  She said he's her favorite, and her own music seemed to descend from this style. 

I'll have to keep my eye out for her.