Monday, January 21, 2019

Sacramento Philharmonic does Beethoven

In Sacramento a Beethoven Festival has been created from a spectacularly disastrous concert in Vienna in 1808 where everything was composed and performed by Beethoven.  It was intended to be a benefit for Beethoven, but everything seems to have gone wrong.  For one thing it was freezing cold inside the venue.  It was Beethoven's final public appearance as a soloist because he was obviously going deaf.  Concerts that lasted 4 hours were not uncommon in Beethoven's time, but we are not so enduring and have divided it into two concerts.  It is important to remember that at this time Berlioz had not yet invented standing in front of an orchestra and waving a stick.  Beethoven would probably have sat at the piano the entire time.

Our series of two concerts are created around conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane.  People who conduct and play as soloists at the same time are regularly seen at the Sacramento Philharmonic.  This works better than you would think. 

First Concert January 19

Piano Concerto No. 4
Kahane, our conductor/pianist, was a definite hit in this piece and handled both his tasks well.  After the concerto, he played an extemporized solo version of "America the Beautiful." 

"Ah, Perfido" concert aria.
Soprano Mary Evelyn Hangley
She was fine in this piece, but I couldn't help thinking her Italian diction could have been better.

Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”
This is a program symphony, which means there is an associated story.  Heiligenstadt, a town up the Danube from Vienna, was a favorite place for Beethoven to compose, and the story is sort of an homage to this place.  The ensemble became a bit ragged toward the end.

There will be more later.


Nadine Sierra is negotiating for her first album.  More later.

She has finished making this recording.  The contents are unusual:  four tracks are by Bernstein, and then we have Golijov, Villa-Lobos, Gordon, Stravinsky, and others. It took me a long time to find this.

Moved from 11/22/17

Saturday, January 19, 2019


On with my Met on Demand subscription.  I am watching Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos with Kathleen Battle, Tatiana Troyanos, James King and Jessye Norman.  These are all singers that I loved.  You've never seen anyone wail the composer better than Tatiana Troyanos.  I miss her.

And no one wails anything better than Jessys Norman.  And in case you prefer coloratura, we have Kathleen Battle in her prime.  This is a must see. James Levine conducts.  If you look carefully, you will see Barbara Bonney and Dawn Upshaw.

It doesn't get better than this.

Di rigori for fun

This is the tenor aria from Der Rosenkavalier.


Fritz Wunderlich

Piotr Beczala

Jonas Kaufmann

Roberto Sacca

Ben Heppner

Who do you like?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Adriana Lecouvreur in HD

Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
Production:  David McVicar

Adriana Lecouvreur, an actress:  Anna Netrebko
Maurizio, the Count of Saxony:  Piotr Beczala
Princess di Bouillon, also in love with Maruizio:  Anita Rachvelishvili
Prince di Bouillon, her husband:  Maurizio Muraro
Michonnet, stage manager:  Ambrogio Maestri

Today the metropolitan Opera brought us Francesco Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur in HD.  Our host was Matthew Polenzani.  The opera is from 1902 in the era of verismo.

It was a single set production with a raised stage area in the center.  This was useful in portraying an opera about an historical figure who was an actress.  Most of the scenes have some kind of performance, including a ballet.  I enjoyed when the stage was shown from the angle of the wings, always my favorite perspective.

Gianandrea Noseda shaped the music in the most beautiful way.  Today was my best reaction to his conducting.  In his interview he expressed his respect for the vocal performers.

At the beginning we see that Adriana has not heard from her lover whom she believes to be a soldier away at battle.  She is preparing for her entrance where she plays Roxane, the heroine of Cyrano de Bergerac, I believe.  He comes in, woos her ardently and arranges to meet her after the play.  Adriana's most beautiful arias "Io son l'umile ancella" comes in this act. The plot is a bit hard to follow here.  Who exactly is Duclos?  Her name is not listed in the cast. Maurizio receives a letter and cancels on Adriana.  He is obviously a cad whatever his feelings might be.  Michonnet wants Adriana to marry him.

Not to be outdone, the Princess sings "Acerba voluttà, dolce tortura" while anxiously awaiting the arrival of Maurizio.  Again more plot complexities.  Maurizio arrives, Adriana arrives and figures out who Maurizio actually is, the Princess's husband arrives and they sneak her out of the meeting place without Adriana discovering who she is.  By the end of the opera everyone has discovered the identity of everyone else, Adriana is angry with the Princess and insults her, and finally Adriana is poisoned with flowers, aria "Poveri fiori".  The person who deserves the anger, the Count of Saxony, gets off.

The plot confusion interferes with ones overall pleasure.  It's rather like a murder mystery.  The music is sweet and not at all murder-mystery-like.  The cast is spectacular.  Ambrogio Maestri is very sweet as the stage manager in love with Adriana.  I have only seen him as Falstaff.

Anita rose to her angry bitch character to make the perfect foil for Anna  Piotr convincingly wooed both women, demonstrating his skills at seduction.

But this performance belonged to Anna Netrebko, intense in every scene, the diva incarnate.  All hail Anna.  Perhaps I will go again on Wednesday.

P.S  A commenter left this on Facebook:

Roxane here is a character of "Bajazet" which is a tragedy by Racine. That is why at some point Adriana is called Gran Sultana. This is about the character she was portraying in first act. (Cyrano de Bergerac was written at very end of 19th Century. Therefore Lecouvreur could not have played it).

Friday, January 11, 2019

Astronaut La Boheme

Gustavo Dudamel | music direction
Claus Guth | Stage director 

Nicole Car | Mimì
Aida Garifullina | Musetta
Atalla Ayan | Rodolfo
Artur Ruciński | Marcello is running the Puccini La Boheme from Paris that is set in outer space.  I wrote briefly about this here, but other people said they loved it, so I'm giving it a second chance.

We begin in a space station with the astronauts wearing space suits without the helmets.  This is fun, but no matter what you normally do, if you do not read French, you must put on the subtitles, because there is added text which explains what you are seeing.  Dudamel is magnificent.

They are caught in a catastrophe and remember their loves from before they were astronauts.  I guess.  The singing is lovely, especially Mimi.  This is clearly Rodolfo's fantasy, and it is unbearably sentimental.  And beautiful.  Give yourself over to this fantasy.  Everyone dies.

Stolen from Twitter

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cosi with Cecilia

Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Lesley Koenig

Fiordiligi..............Carol Vaness
Ferrando...............Jerry Hadley
Dorabella..............Susanne Mentzer
Guglielmo.............Dwayne Croft
Despina.................Cecilia Bartoli
Don Alfonso..........Thomas Allen

In 1996 I recorded Mozart's Cosi fan tutte with Cecilia Bartoli in her Met debut as Despina when it came on public television, but my son taped over it.  This quarrel came near the beginning of my wild infatuation with La Bartoli.  I decided to keep him anyway.  So this year he gave me a year of Met on Demand making this my first opportunity to watch it after all these years.

This production ran at the Met until very recently. It is visually inert, but this means nothing when Cecilia is on the stage.  Her face alone is filled with liveliness.  She is constantly in motion. I do rather like the men's disguises.

Cecilia does recitative like no one else.  I wish very much that her Met career had been longer.  Her wonderful theatrical magnetism dominates every scene she is in, though this role doesn't show off the coloratura she has become famous for.  As a doctor she wears a large red nose.

Musically it's rather blah as well.  These are all good singers, so more could have been expected.  In those days Levine was the only conductor we saw.  He doesn't find anything interesting in this score.

Towards the end Cecilia is in her notary disguise with giant eyebrows and a giant mustache, far more spectacular than those worn by our Albanians.  She provides what life there is in the production, but I would recommend it for this alone.  At the end our Despina realizes that she has been used and throws down the money Don Alfonso has given her.

This comic masterpiece has to be the most unusual Met debut by an already wildly famous singer ever.

Monday, January 07, 2019


As a Kelly Clarkson fan, I was excited to learn that Kelly has a classical singing background.  She's too good.  It can't be an accident.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Die verkaufte Braut from Munich

Marie and Hans

Conductor: Tomáš Hanus
Staging: David Bösch

Selene Zanetti (Marie)
Pavol Breslik (Hans)
Günther Groissböck (Kezal)

I was in Smetana's Die verkaufte Braut long ago.  I played Marie's mother. We did it in German exactly as it is here in this live stream from the Bayerische Staatsoper. I even have my old score here near the computer.  Since I began blogging, I have only seen this in London and on DVD.  It is a sentimental favorite. In English we call it The Bartered Bride/

The plot concerns itself with love, of course.  Marie was promised in a contract with Kezal to marry only "Toby Mischa's son."  Who is an idiot who stutters and has a pet pig.  She likes Hans, played by one of the sexiest men on the opera stage.  They give away the plot in the credits which may explain why people think there is no plot.  This is sort of the male version of Cinderella.

My heart leaps at the familiar overture.  The music is lovely, the singing is terrific and Günther Groissböck is a hoot, the best possible Kezal. It's wonderful to see this now and then.  I hated the set.