Monday, September 26, 2016


Think all the good thoughts you can summon for Dmitri Hvorostovsky as he begins more chemo.

In the summer of 2018 Wagner's Ring returns to the San Francisco Opera.  Maybe I'll get to see it this time.  There is a press announcement that tells the cast, but it's hard to find.  Runnicles will conduct.

Here is Karen Slack on her first billboard.

Here are our boys having fun.

I've been blogging about opera for over a decade, and I love them all more and more.  Stuart and Nina were amazing tonight.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Andrea Chénier from San Francisco

Conductor Nicola Luisotti
Director David McVicar

Carlo Gérard:  George Gagnidze *
Maddalena di Coigny:  Anna Pirozzi *
Bersi:  J'Nai Bridges *
Contessa di Coigny (Maddalena's mother): Catherine Cook
Andrea Chénier: Yonghoon Lee *

Giordano's Andrea Chénier from the San Francisco Opera was a real treat. The above performers with * next to their names were making their San Francisco Opera debuts.  My favorites in order were George Gagnidze, Anna Pirozze, J'Nai Bridges and Yonghoon Lee.  Gérard's aria in the prison scene was especially wonderful.  I have seen Gagnidze a few times before.  I'll try to remember him this time.  This is an excellent group of debuts.

I saw this production in the film from the Royal Opera in London.  I thought the final scene made a better effect here.  I like the way the entire production looks.

Most surprising was Anna Pirozze who began her performance with a relatively small tone and continued to increase in volume until the really quite loud finale.  It was thrilling.  She was new for me.

I have seen Yonghoon Lee before in Il Trovatore from the Met.  I felt he handled Verdi much better than he managed Giordano.  Chénier is a role that best fits a voice like Mario del Monaco while Lee seems to try too hard and creates the impression he is struggling.

This is highly recommended from me.  I enjoyed it very much.

I went to the lecture where we were told that Maddalena actually got away.  Sigh.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Meistersinger Live Stream from Munich Reinstated

The live stream of Die Meistersinger from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, originally scheduled for July 31, is now scheduled for October 8.  Unfortunately this is the same day as the Simulcast of Tristan and Isolde from the Met.  Tristan can be watched the following Wednesday while streams from Munich tend to disappear immediately.

I am very sorry to report that this stream from Munich will not include Jonas Kaufmann.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vocal Recital at Sacramento State

California State University, Sacramento is just across the river from my house.  Their music department has recently been retitled a School of Music.  Last night a group of guest singers presented what was for me an unusual concert. 

Kimberly James, mezzo
Tod Fitzpatrick, baritone
Rebecca Sherburn, soprano
Louise Thomas, piano

What made this concert unusual was the presence of a title:

Love, the Fair Day
American Parlor Songs

Would I know a parlor song if I heard one?  Apparently not.  The three singers grouped themselves in various combinations with only two groups of solo songs.  There were two different female composers:  Amy Beach and Mabel W. Daniels.  I had at least heard of Amy Beach, but her songs were familiar.  As were the songs of the male composers:  Edward MacDowell (not entirely unfamiliar), George W. Chadwick, Arthur Foote and Henry Hadley.  The composers in bold were members of a group called the Boston Six, which also included Horatio Parker, a man whose works I have actually performed.  So close and yet so far away.

The songs were oddly international.  "A Canadian Boat Song."  "Bedouin Love Song."  "A song from the Persian."  I enjoyed "The Skylark" because it reminded that once in Europe I witnessed the mating song of the male skylark.  They fly into the air and sing a long song while hovering in one spot.  I digress.

The songs were all lovely and performed in a very genteel manner.  I have never been to Boston which may be why a concert of parlor songs seemed like a visit to an unfamiliar place.  We are so well behaved.  One might wish to go home and play some loud rock and roll.

Quote of the Day

"It's nothing about the character.  It's all about the music."

Medici tv interview with Netrebko.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dream of the Red Chamber

Bao Yu and Dai Yu

Composer:  Bright Sheng
Conductor:  George Manahan
Production Designer: Tim Yip

Monk/Dreamer:  Randall Nakano *
Granny Jia (head of the clan):  Qiulin Zhang *  (contralto)
Stone/Bao Yu (Grandson of Granny):  Yijie Shi * (high tenor)
Flower/Dai Yu (Granddaughter of Granny, cousin of Bao Yu):  Pureum Jo * (lyric soprano)
Lady Wang (Daughter in law of Granny):  Hyona Kim * (mezzo)
Princess Jia (sister of Bao Yu):  Karen Chia-ling Ho *
Aunt Xue (sister of Lady Wang):  Yanyu Guo 
Bao Chai (daughter of Aunt Xue): Irene Roberts
Misc. eunuchs and ladies in waiting.

Dream of the Red Chamber is an eighteenth century novel from China, and it is huge.  Only the broad outlines of the story are selected for presentation here.  This is the world premier of this opera at the San Francisco Opera.

I am going to try to describe the plot in my usual way.  The story begins like the Wizard of Oz in a gloomy and drab environment populated by an older Monk who only speaks.   He introduces the stone and the flower who wish to escape the bounds of their limitations and express their passion in the world of humans.  The Monk tells us that he dreams every night of the red chamber, the place where women of the upper class live with their small children and servants.  Adult men are not allowed, but we are then introduced to Bao Yu who has passed the age when young men are allowed to stay in the red chamber.  He refuses to go.  We are to believe that he is the incarnation of the stone.

He meets his cousin Dai Yu, the incarnation of the flower, and they fall in love.  The wider world has other plans.  His sister has gone to live with the Emperor and has been made a Princess.  The Emperor wishes him to marry Bao Chai.  This is the basic complication of the story.

My only problem with the production to this point was in distinguishing the characters.  Dai Yu has always a red scarf.  Granny Jia and Lady Wang are also easy to distinguish.  But which one of these lovely young women is Bao Chai?

The point of the story is that we humans are not free.  A stone or Rusalka or Pinocchio might imagine that it would be better to be a human, but humans have restrictions they cannot understand.  Bao Yu is forced to marry Bao Chai.  The Emperor seizes the property of both families and casts them out.  The Monk meets Bao Yu on the road, shaves his head, and tells him he is himself as a young man.  Dai Yu drowns herself in the lake.  The Princess dies.

I think it was a good choice for a story for an opera, but I sense a certain reluctance to fully commit to a western opera.  The writing for voice was monotonous.  Every phrase cannot be a climax.  Perhaps other singers could shape the phrases to show more ebb and flow, but this seemed always high, always just a little too hard.  Only Dai Yu was able to vary her expression.  All sang this difficult music reasonably well.

The philosophical conclusion seemed to agree with my own.  The good of human life is found in art, poetry, music.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Singer List -- Those who have Thrilled me most

Lists are the order of the day.  This singer selection is based on certain specific performances experienced in about the last four years, and not on a generic idea of who is best.  I am strongly influenced by theatrical performance in addition to great singing. 

These have been my favorite soprano performances.  The order is alphabetical

These are towering performances with a strong drift toward dramatic sopranos.

These are all complete performances where the mezzo leads the way.

We trend in the direction of ham actors, but it can't be helped.

Baritones and basses.
The list comes out a little different this way.  If you want on this list, wow me in something.  I apologize if your favorite is missing.  Finley was outside the time frame.


This film (audio only) of Handel's Rinaldo is of a live performance by the Academy of Ancient Music on January 16, 1999.  The cast is similar to the recording which came shortly after this except instead of David Daniels, we have Ewa Podles.  I think I like it better.  Make up your own mind.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thursday, September 08, 2016


Daniela Dessi (14 May 1957 – 20 August 2016)  This soprano crossed my path only once--at the Wiener Staatsoper in 2007 when I saw her in Manon Lescaut.  I enjoyed her work, but she was upstaged by the production. She died of cancer.

Johan Botha (19 August 1965 – 8 September 2016) Tenor Johan is another matter. I have seen him sing Otello, beautifully, and Tannhäuser. The latter was a towering experience for me. He died of cancer at 51.

I'm compiling a list of active opera singers, and the number only goes up to 110 so far.  I count only those I have heard at least once.  This means they are a small family whose deaths we mourn.  My favorite death music is here.