Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dido and Aeneas

Christopher Hogwood conductor
Wayne McGregor choreography, stage director

Lucy Crowe (Belinda)
Sarah Connolly (Dido)
Anita Watson (Second Woman)
Lucas Meachem (Aeneas)
Sara Fulgoni (Sorceress)
Eri Nakamura (First Witch)
Pumeza Matshikiza (Second Witch)
Iestyn Davies (Spirit)
Ji-Min Park (Sailor)

There is a film of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas on which can be viewed through Amazon prime. I performed the spirit as a freshman in college and am always surprised by the level of detail I can remember.  Except now everyone does ornaments that are not in the score.  I doubt sincerely that they are extemporized.

Lucy Crowe and Sarah Connolly are worth the visit.  One of the odd features of this performance is that the First Witch and Second Witch are portrayed as Siamese twins joined at the side. 

Since I left college, I have only seen this opera staged by choreographers.  It would be nice to see it done as an opera.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eugene Onegin from the Metropolitan Opera

The Prince and Princess Gremin

Eugene Onegin...... Peter Mattei
Tatiana.................Anna Netrebko
Lensky..................Alexey Dolgov
Olga....................Elena Maximova
Prince Gremin......Stefan Kocán
Larina..................Elena Zaremba
Filippyevna, nanny....Larissa Diadkova
Triquet.................Tony Stevenson

Conductor...............Robin Ticciati
Production..............Deborah Warner

Today was the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD presentation of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin starring Mattei and Netrebko.  This was the third HD presentation of this opera and the second of this production.  I had no sense that I was seeing a repeat.

This time the production seemed perfect.  The first two acts are clearly in a country villa with villagers and land owners.  Larina, Lensky, Olga, Tatiana and Onegin represent the latter.

Every role was cast to perfection.  Tony Stevenson did a star turn singing the couplets at Tatiana's birthday party.  Larissa Diadkova is very attentive as Tatiana's nanny.  Olga and her mother were wonderfully sung by the two Elenas.  Alexey Dolgov as Lensky was perfection as the too immature man who simply assumes Olga is his forever and does not know what to do when Onegin flirts with her.  We will have to read the novel if we want to know what happens to Olga.  Stefan Kocán seems a little young for Gremin but sang beautifully.

But it is the amazing acting of Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei that brings this opera thrillingly to life.  Anna has gone deeper into the character this time with astounding results.  Peter portrays arrogance and ennui better than any of his predecessors, and then caps his performance with an intense finish.

Here he appears at a party in St. Petersburg in the third act.

It is an opera about love.  I often think that I am happier in my old age because I no longer feel inclined to fall in love.  It is far better to watch others suffer at the opera.  This performance was a level of theatrical and musical achievement that comes only rarely.  Bravi.

Renée Fleming was our hostess.  In two weeks we will see her in Der Rosenkavalier.  We hope that isn't the last time we see her.


Comment from Stefan Kocán on Facebook:

"Dear my facebook friends ,
I just like to say one thing about Gremin.
He is NOT old!
At the end of opera is Onegin 26, [this is in the dialog.] Tatyana let's say 20-22 (?) and Gremin is around/after 30.
Gremin in his aria only refers to an old man and to a young boy in the bloom of youth...
That means the staging of the MET didn't felt short! ...but totally in accordance with Pushkin and Tchaikovsky potrayed Gremin as an adult ( not anymore boy) man with an war experience."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Di tanti palpiti

I am currently on something of a Kasarova jag.  Note:  she crosses herself in the Russian style before starting the main part of the aria.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nadine Sierra wins Richard Tucker Prize

The winner of this year's Richard Tucker Prize has been announced, and it is Nadine Sierra.  She and I have a history.  In 2010 at the Merola Finale she was the only one I praised.  In 2012 I reviewed her Schwabacher Debut Recital and said, "She is strong in the thing that for me counts most:  expression."  I also praised her technique and her facility with languages.  I've seen her live in San Francisco in Le Nozze di Figaro and Lucia di Lammermoor.  Summary:  she's a wonderful young singer we can enjoy for a long time.  Congratulations.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bach's Matthew Passion from Berlin

Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Petter Sellars, staging

Mark Padmore Tenor (Evangelist),
Christian Gerhaher Bass (Jesus),
Camilla Tilling Soprano,
Magdalena Kožená Mezzo-Soprano (Musician),
Topi Lehtipuu Tenor (Arias),
Thomas Quasthoff Baritone (Arias)

This is the way I like it.  The continuo sounds like a synthesizer which I can take or leave.  Sorry, I like a real orchestra like the Berliner Philharmoniker.  I like a fairly big chorus and lots of emotional intensity.  Peter Sellars adds the element of movement to further intensify the emotion.  Padmore and Kozena are the best for this. This is Jesus as everyman, I guess.  He stands high over the others and is growing on me.

You know it's working when your heart swells.  I want to be clear.  One has never seen a staged Matthew Passion before, but one does not mind it.  It's interesting that the various characters of the drama interact with the evangelist, not Jesus.  Everyone is memorized, like an opera.

The ear is cut off.  Jesus is taken.  The chorus runs off into the audience, children enter and everyone sings from around the house.  I have been here and think it would be a joy to experience this.  Part of the fun is to watch Simon Rattle.

I love it very much.  Of course, nothing is so wonderful as to sing it.  This is Easter for me.

Magdalena will now sing the most beautiful aria ever written while kneeling.  My heart is full.  Here we sit down and cry.  They do this.  Matthew has written a wonderful story which is the more vivid with this glorious music and acting.

It plays still today, Monday.  There are no titles.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

All Who Wander

Jamie Barton won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2013, including the Song Prize.  Then in 2015 she won the Richard Tucker Prize.  This cannot help but arouse ones curiosity.  So I bought her recording.

Mahler: [sung in German]

Rückert Lieder:
No. 1. Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
No. 2. Liebst du um Schönheit
No. 3. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
No. 4. Um Mitternacht
No. 5. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 2: No. 2. Ich ging mit Lust
Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 1: No. 2. Erinnerung
Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 3: No. 3. Scheiden und Meiden

Dvořák:  [sung in Czech]

Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104:
No. 1. Má píseň zas mi láskou zní
No. 2. Aj! Kterak trojhranec můj přerozkošně zvoní
No. 3. A les je tichý kolem kol
No. 4. Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala
No. 5. Struna naladěna
No. 6. Široké rukávy a široké gatě
No. 7. Dejte klec jestřábu ze zlata ryzého

Sibelius:  [sung in Finnish]

Svarta rosor (Black Roses)
Säv, säv, susa (Reed, Reed, Rustle)
Flickan kom ifran sin alsklings mote (The girl returned from meeting her lover)
Kyssens hopp (Kiss's Hope)
Marssnon (The March Snow)
Var det en dröm? (Was it a dream?)

I suppose I enjoyed the Mahler most because I speak German and her diction is excellent.  And the Rückert Lieder are the most famous pieces on the album.  Some of the Dvořák also sounded familiar, but the Sibelius did not.

Why would you want this?  Because Jamie has one of the most beautiful dark mezzo voices I have ever heard, because she sings every song with great intelligence.  Every note is just as you would want it to be.  If you are charmed by beauty, listen to this.

Could we have more Mahler, please?

Friday, April 14, 2017

For Rosenkavalier

From the moment I knew it existed I have loved it more than all the others.  I can see vividly in my mind’s eye standing before the student ushering sign-up sheet for the San Francisco Opera and having no idea what to see.  My fellow students said “Der Rosenkavalier.”  As one.  I also remember vividly sitting in the aisle on the right side of the balcony circle, feeling like a voyeur as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Kirsten Meier sang their love scene on the bed.

I remember holding the program under the lights that shine onto the stairs.  WTF.  I didn’t swear in those days.  It seemed more real than any theatrical performance I had ever seen.  The Schwarzkopf loomed large over this role.  I was hooked.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Ying Quartet

You could call them The Ying String Quartet, I suppose.  They started out as a family enterprise, but now the first violinist is not a family member.  They are Janet Ying (violin), Phillip Ying (viola), Robin Scott (violin), and David Ying (cello).  For our final New Millennium Concert Series program at Sacramento State we enjoyed this excellent quartet.  They are my favorite of the recent chamber music groups I have heard.

String Quartet No. 2 in D Major (1881) by Alexander Borodin
This piece sounds familiar because a couple of the movements provided source material for the musical Kismet.  It's also just very beautiful music from the high Romantic.

String Quartet No. 2 in F Major Op. 92 (1941) by Sergei Prokofiev
This is pleasingly modern but not too modern since it's based on Russian folk tunes.

Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No 3 (1808) by Beethoven
This is one of the Razumovsky string quartets commissioned by a Russian Prince Razumovsky, thus continuing the Russian theme of the concert.

The selection of repertoire is part of what made this concert particularly pleasing, along with the beautiful romantic playing.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Michael Fabiano at Mondavi

I went out in the pouring rain to see Michael Fabiano at Mondavi in Davis. His accompanist was Laurent Philippe.  He said they'd been working together 12 years.  We were seated at small tables on the stage.  This is an enjoyable intimate arrangement.

I have seen Michael live at the San Francisco Opera in Lucrezia Borgia, Luisa Miller, and Don Carlo.  In 2014 I predicted he would win the Richard Tucker Prize, and he did.  That was fun.  Next season in SF he will sing in Manon opposite Nadine Sierra, and at the Met next season he will simulcast in La Boheme.

I got the impression that Michael very much loves his chosen repertoire for this recital.

Four songs by Puccini (Italian)

Four songs by Duparc (French)
    Duparc is not performed nearly enough.  These were virtually theatrical performances.

An aria: "Ne pouvant reprimer les elans" from Hérodiade by Massenet. (French)

Five songs by Toscanini (Italian)
    Who knew Toscanini composed?

"Kuda, Kuda, kuda" Lensky's aria from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky (Russian)
     This is very timely since it is currently playing at the Met.

Three songs by Barber, including "I hear an army" for a rousing finish.  (English)

He is a serious artist and does not hesitate to use his operatic voice in song repertoire when suitable.  It was very much worth the trip.  There were two encores:

Duparc's "La vie anterieure" (French)
'Lamento di Federico' from Cilea's L'arlesiana (Italian)