Monday, December 10, 2018

It's an OK Life

Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director: Leonard Foglia

Clara, Angel Second Class:  Kearstin Piper Brown
A Voice: Patti LuPone
Angels First Class: Sarah Cambidge, Ashley Dixon, Amitai Pati, Christian Pursell 
George Bailey: William Burden
Mr. Potter: Rod Gilfry
Uncle Billy Bailey: Keith Jameson
Mary Hatch: Andriana Chuchman
Harry Bailey: Joshua Hopkins

I saw Jake Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life yesterday.  We missed Golda Schultz as Clara.  Her replacement was often covered by the orchestra.  The picture above is Clara getting her Angel First Class wings.  Obviously this is an opera based on a movie.  Other such operas are Orphée by Philip Glass and The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès, which seemed to work better.

I wish I liked this, but I didn't.  There were too many words, words not clearly enunciated by all but William Burden.  This meant much staring at the subtitles which were slightly small for me.  Too much talk, not enough arias.  There were even long stretches of spoken dialog so more words could be fit in.  When Clara gets her wings, she needs an aria.  When George and Mary get married, they need a duet.  I could go on and on.  It ended well, but it was too long to wait for this.

I don't pan many things.  After all, I loved Moby Dick.  No thank you.  This seems to be strictly for people who love the movie.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Classical Music Grammy Nominees For 2019


Best Orchestral Performance

All from the USA.
  • "Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1"
    Manfred Honeck, conductor (Performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
  • "Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 & Symphony No. 4"
    Thomas Dausgaard, conductor (Performed by the Seattle Symphony)
  • "Ruggles, Stucky & Harbison: Orchestral Works"
    David Alan Miller, conductor (Performed by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic)
  • "Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4"
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (Performed by the San Francisco Symphony)
  • "Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11"Andris Nelsons, conductor (Performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra

 Best Opera Recording

From many places, many styles.
  • John Adams, "Doctor Atomic"
    John Adams, conductor; Aubrey Allicock, Julia Bullock, Gerald Finley & Brindley Sherratt; Friedemann Engelbrecht, producer (Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Singers)  CD
  • Mason Bates, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs"
    Michael Christie, conductor; Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Edwards Parks, Garrett Sorenson & Wei Wu; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (Performed by the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra) CD
  • Lully, "Alceste"
    Christophe Rousset, conductor; Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro & Judith Van Wanroij; Maximilien Ciup, producer (Performed by Les Talens Lyriques; Choeur De Chambre De Namur) CD
  • Strauss, "Der Rosenkavalier"
    Sebastian Weigle, conductor; Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Günther Groissböck & Erin Morley; David Frost, producer (Performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus) DVD
  • Verdi, "Rigoletto"
    Constantine Orbelian, conductor; Francesco Demuro, Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Nadine Sierra; Vilius Keras & Aleksandra Keriene, producers (Performed by the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra; the Men of the Kaunas State Choir) CD

 Best Choral Performance

  • Chesnokov's "Teach Me Thy Statues"
    Vladimir Gorbik, conductor (Performed by Mikhail Davydov & Vladimir Krasov; PaTRAM Institute Male Choir)
  • Kastalsky's "Memory Eternal"
    Steven Fox, conductor (Performed by the Clarion Choir)
  • McLoskey's "Zealot Canticles"
    Donald Nally, conductor (Performed by Doris Hall-Gulati, Rebecca Harris, Arlen Hlusko, Lorenzo Raval & Mandy Wolman; The Crossing)
  • Rachmaninov's "The Bells"
    Mariss Jansons, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master (Performed by Oleg Dolgov, Alexey Markov & Tatiana Pavlovskaya; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks)
  • "Seven Words From the Cross"
    Matthew Guard, conductor (Performed by Skylark)

 Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

  • "Landfall"
    Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet
  • "Beethoven, Shostakovich & Bach"
    The Danish String Quartet
  • "Blueprinting"
    Aizuri Quartet
  • Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring Concerto for Two Pianos"
    Leif Ove Andsnes & Marc-André Hamelin
  • "Visions and Variations"
    A Far Cry

 Best Classical Instrumental Solo

  • Bartok's "Piano Concerto No. 2"
    Yuja Wang; Simon Rattle, conductor (Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker)
  • Biber's "The Mystery Sonatas"
    Christina Day Martinson; Martin Pearlman, conductor (Performed by the Boston Baroque)
  • Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46; Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26"
    Joshua Bell (Performed by the Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields)
  • Glass, "Three Pieces in the Shape of a Square"
    Craig Morris
  • Kernis' "Violin Concerto"
    James Ehnes; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Performed by the Seattle Symphony)

 Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

Two of five are countertenors. None of the usual bunch.
  • "ARC"
    Anthony Roth Costanzo; Jonathan Cohen, conductor
  • "The Handel Album"
    Philippe Jaroussky; Artaserse, ensemble
  • "Mirages"
    Sabine Devieilhe; François-Xavier Roth, conductor
  • Schubert, "Winterreise"
    Randall Scarlata; Gilbert Kalish, accompanist
  • "Songs of Orpheus — Monteverdi, Caccini, D'India & Landi"
    Karim Sulayman; Jeannette Sorrell, conductor; Apollo's Fire, ensembles

 Best Classical Compendium

  • Fuchs, "Piano Concerto 'Spiritualist'; Poems of Life; Glacier; Rush"
    JoAnn Falletta, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
  • "Gold"
    The King's Singers; Nigel Short, producer
  • "The John Adams Edition"
    Simon Rattle, conductor; Christoph Franke, producer
  • "John Williams at the Movies"
    Jerry Junkin, conductor; Donald J. McKinney, producer
  • Williams' "Piano Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Seranade to Music; Flos Campi"
    Peter Oundjian, conductor; Blanton Alspaugh, producer

 Best Contemporary Classical Composition

  • "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs"
    Mason Bates, composer; Mark Campbell, librettist
  • "Air Glow"
    Du Yun, composer
  • "Great Scott"
    Jake Heggie, composer; Terrence McNally, librettist
  • "Violin Concerto"
    Aaron Jay Kernis, composer
  • "Vespers for Violin"
    Missy Mazzoli, composer


Best Engineered Album, Classical

  • "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs"
    Mark Donahue & Dirk Sobotka, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Performed by Michael Christie, Garrett Sorenson, Wei Wu, Sasha Cooke, Edwards Parks, Jessica E. Jones & Santa Fe Opera Orchestra)
  • "Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1"
    Mark Donahue, engineer; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Performed by Manfred Honeck & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
  • "John Williams at the Movies"
    Keith O. Johnson & Sean Royce Martin, engineers; Keith O. Johnson, mastering engineer (Performed by Jerry Junkin & Dallas Winds)
  • "Liquid Melancholy — Clarinet Music of James M. Stephenson"
    Bill Maylone & Mary Mazurek, engineers; Bill Maylone, mastering engineer (Performed by John Bruce Yeh)
  • "Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4& 11"
    Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Performed by Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)
  • "Visions and Variations"
    Tom Caulfield, engineer; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (Performed by A Far Cry)

Producer Of The Year, Classical

  • Blanton Alspaugh
  • David Frost
  • Elizabeth Ostrow
  • Judith Sherman
  • Dirk Sobotka

Here is a post script due to the presence of Renee Fleming.

Best Musical Theater Album:

  • “The Band’s Visit” — Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Katrina Lenk & Ari’el
    Stachel, principal soloists; Dean Sharenow & David
    Yazbek, producers; David Yazbek, composer & lyricist
    (Original Broadway Cast)
  • “Carousel” — Renee Fleming, Alexander Gemignani, Joshua Henry,
    Lindsay Mendez & Jessie Mueller, principal soloists;
    Steven Epstein, producer (Richard Rodgers, composer;
    Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist) (2018 Broadway Cast)
  • “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” — Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper, Ben Daniels, Brandon
    Victor Dixon, Erik Grönwall, Jin Ha, John Legend,
    Norm Lewis & Jason Tam, principal soloists; Harvey
    Mason, Jr., producer (Andrew Lloyd-Webber,
    composer; Tim Rice, lyricist) (Original Television Cast)
  • “My Fair Lady” — Lauren Ambrose, Norbert Leo Butz & Harry
    Hadden-Paton, principal soloists; Andre Bishop, Van
    Dean, Hattie K. Jutagir, David Lai, Adam Siegel & Ted
    Sperling, producers (Frederick Loewe, composer; Alan
    Jay Lerner, lyricist) (2018 Broadway Cast)
  • “Once On This Island” — Phillip Boykin, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl
    Darrington, Hailey Kilgore, Kenita R. Miller, Alex
    Newell, Isaac Powell & Lea Salonga, principal soloists;
    Lynn Ahrens, Hunter Arnold, Ken Davenport, Stephen
    Flaherty & Elliot Scheiner, producers (Stephen
    Flaherty, composer; Lynn Ahrens, lyricist) (New
    Broadway Cast)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Otello is Here

Musikalische Leitung / Conductor Kirill Petrenko
Inszenierung / Production Amélie Niermeyer

Otello Jonas Kaufmann
Jago Gerald Finley
Cassio Evan Leroy Johnson
Roderigo Galeano Salas
Lodovico Bálint Szabó
Montano Milan Siljanov
Ein Herold Markus Suihkonen
Desdemona Anja Harteros
Emilia Rachael Wilson

This performance of Verdi's Otello from Munich is unquestionably a masterpiece. We have here the ultimate domestic violence story.  It was a simple regie production in modern dress with many pictures to be seen here.  There are a few plot alterations.  Normally Otello and Desdemona are married before the opera starts, but here they marry shortly after he returns from war, after the love duet.  People enter and cover their bed with flowers.

In the past I have doubted that this opera was exactly right for Jonas Kaufmann, but now I may have to reconsider.  He refrained from pushing, as do many tenors here, and won me over.  This Otello is not black but he is also not beautiful.  This is why it is so easy for him to believe that this particular woman doesn't love him.  He believes in himself as a warrior but not as a lover.  Jonas has created this character in the manner of the great performer he certainly is.  We are lucky to live in his time.

The sets and staging focus on the couple and their relationship, and who better to play this couple than the great opera stage couple of our own era:  Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros.  Anja is a stage creature.  To come to her greatest triumphs requires the stage where she can show voice, movement, beauty, expression and I think perhaps most of all acting.  In my mind I think of Desdemona as a light, relatively insignificant role.  With Anja we have the greatest depths of tragedy.  We have love and fear together in abundance.  Like many others before and after, she prepares for her own death and does not think of escaping.  It was a triumph.

And as if that were not enough we have the dream Iago of Gerald Finley, one of the greatest singing actors in opera.  You need to overlook the outfit where he wears baggy pants and Adidas.  He approaches Otello rather more intimately than one would generally expect, creating a new dimension to the opera.  Our imaginations immediately leap to lovers.  Could it be jealousy that motivates all this mayhem?

Petrenko was marvelous, as usual.  In my group people complained that he is seen rather more during the drama than they would prefer.  At the start they jumped immediately to film of Anja, which meant no shots of Petrenko.

This was a genuinely great thing.  I'm going to watch it again tomorrow.

P.S.  I did.  It was wonderful the second time, too.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Barbara Hannigan

The career of Barbara Hannigan is endlessly surprising. The secret seems to be complete fearlessness.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


I first saw Javier Camarena in Zurich about a decade ago in Carmen.  I like him very much and have DVDs of him in Rossini's Otello and Le Comte Ory.  In his Fach (leggiero tenor) he is the best today.  This CD is an homage to Manuel Garcia, the famous tenor who was the father of Malibran and Viardot.  This homage is like similar ones in that Javier performs works from Garcia's singing repertoire.  In addition he also performs works by him; in fact fully half of the tracks are by Garcia.  The ones that sound familiar are all by Rossini.

One of the Rossini tracks is a duet from Armida with Cecilia Bartoli.  This is charming.  The recording may be regarded as a tour de force.

Cecilia Bartoli is listed as Mentor on this album.  Her orchestra Les Musiciens du Prince accompany conducted by Gianluca Capuano.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Maria by Callas, the Movie

I went today to see Maria by Callas, a movie on the life of Maria Callas, born Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos in Manhattan. Callas is seen from the perspective of her own words.  In the movie she is seen and heard speaking, but I heard only English and French. The speaking voice reading things written by Callas was Joyce DiDonato.  Extensive footage of Callas in interviews is included, including a long one with David Frost and another with Barbara Walters.

We were shown the most important people in her life:  her mother Elmina Evangelia who organized her life into a musical career, her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo who created her wonderful technique, her husband the wealthy industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini who acted as her manager for most of her career, and her boy friend Aristotle Onassis.  They don't get to speak for themselves, but there is footage for all four.

Callas's voice swells to anger only in discussing the breakup with Rudolph Bing, then the manager of the Metropolitan Opera. She wanted new productions. Someone who has already triumphed at La Scala has a right to expect this. But she blames Meneghini for these problems. After the blow up with Bing, she separated from Meneghini.

Anyone interested in Callas should see this. It is best for the pictures and films from all phases of her career and for the carefully selected recordings that play throughout. My favorite was "La mamma morta." I thought I spotted Franco Corelli several times. Even as a very young woman her huge voice boomed out. She was even chosen as a Wagner singer at the start. It was her giant voice that separated her from the crowd.

You will see more facial expressions here. The men in her life were unquestionably bad for her. The overall impression is that she was extremely sensitive and took the storm that followed her everywhere very badly. She more or less retired at 41 and died at 53. Opera singing is very hard and requires a peaceful life. She emerges more fully human than ever before.

I'm putting this here so I can watch it later.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Salzburg 2019 Summer Season

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) Salome

Franz Welser-Möst Conductor
John Daszak Herodes
Anna Maria Chiuri Herodias
Asmik Grigorian Salome
Gábor Bretz Jochanaan

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) Idomeneo

Teodor Currentzis Conductor
Peter Sellars Director
Russell Thomas Idomeneo
Paula Murrihy Idamante
Ying Fang Ilia
Nicole Chevalier Elettra

Francesco Cilea (1866 - 1950) Adriana Lecouvreur 

Marco Armiliato Conductor
Anna Netrebko Adriana Lecouvreur
Yusif Eyvazov Maurizio, conte di Sassonia
Anita Rachvelishvili La principessa di Bouillon

Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842) Médée 

Thomas Hengelbrock Conductor
Simon Stone Director
Sonya Yoncheva Médée

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) Alcina 

Gianluca Capuano Conductor
Cecilia Bartoli Alcina
Philippe Jaroussky Ruggiero
Sandrine Piau Morgana
Kristina Hammarström Bradamante
Christoph Strehl Oronte

George Enescu (1881 - 1955) Œdipe 

Ingo Metzmacher Conductor
Christopher Maltman Œdipe
John Tomlinson Tirésias
Brian Mulligan Créon

Jacques Offenbach Orphée aux enfers 

Enrique Mazzola Conductor
Barrie Kosky Director
Marcel Beekman Aristée / Pluton
Martin Winkler Jupiter
Joel Prieto Orphée
Kathryn Lewek Eurydice
Max Hopp John Styx
Anne Sofie von Otter L’Opinion publique

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Simon Boccanegra 

Valery Gergiev Conductor
Luca Salsi Simon Boccanegra
Marina Rebeka Amelia Grimaldi
René Pape Jacopo Fiesco
Charles Castronovo Gabriele Adorno

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Luisa Miller 

James Conlon Conductor
Roberto Tagliavini Il conte di Walter
Piotr Beczala Rodolfo
Teresa Iervolino Federica
Plácido Domingo Miller
Nino Machaidze Luisa
John Relyea Wurm

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jonas Kaufmann Operas on Blu-ray

These are only the complete operas on Blu-ray or perhaps DVD.  There are 17 films of complete operas on YouTube.  There are also quite a few videos of concerts.  Jonas with Anja Harteros:

They have also done Il Trovatore and Andres Chenier (YouTube--I prefer this one) together.

Jonas with Nina Stemme (also on YouTube):

Jonas with Angela Gheorghiu:

Jonas with Emily MaGee:

Jonas with Vesselina Kasarova:

Jonas with Maria Agresta:

Jonas with Kristina Opolais:

Jonas with Sophie Koch:

Jonas with Eva-Maria Westbroek:

My favorites are Werther, Fanciulla and Lohengrin, but all of them are good.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Marnie HD

Conductor.....................Robert Spano
Production....................Michael Mayer

Marnie..................Isabel Leonard (mezzo)
Mark Rutland........Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Marnie's Mother.....Denyce Graves (mezzo)
Mr. Strutt..............Anthony Dean Griffey (tenor)
Terry Rutland.........Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
Laura Fleet.............Ashley Emerson
Malcom Fleet........Will Liverman
Derek...................Ian Koziara
Miss Fedder...........Marie Te Hapuku
Mrs. Rutland..........Janis Kelly (soprano)
Dr. Roman...............James Courtney
Lucy....................Jane Bunnell
Dawn....................Stacey Tappan
Little Boy..............Gabriel Gurevich
Shadow Marnies: Deanna Breiwick, Disella Lárusdóttir, Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, Peabody Southwell

Wikipedia says, "Marnie is an opera in English by Nico Muhly to a libretto by Nicholas Wright based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. It premiered at the English National Opera in November 2017 and at the Metropolitan Opera in October 2018." However, this story is most famous as an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The premier at the ENO explains the presence of so many English singers.

The story and the production are dense and complicated, more like a crime novel than an opera.  Marnie has four alter egos who dress in similar outfits and occasionally sing.  No one but Marnie notices them.  She invents identities for herself and gets jobs in offices where she is the payroll clerk.  Then she steals the money.  This all takes place in small towns in southern England.

The alter egos aren't the only strange figures wandering around the stage.  We have frequently thin men in gray business suits and hats who seem to be merely menacing.  Reminder:  thin people in the opera generally indicates ballet.

In one scene in Act I Marnie visits her mother, played by the great Denyce Graves.  Mother constantly suspects and accuses.  Marnie is reminded that she killed her younger brother.

Mark Rutland recognizes Marnie and blackmails her into marrying him. She agrees to stay with him if he moves her horse to the country.  He makes her see a psychiatrist.  This is one crazy lady.  In Act II there is an extended scene where Marnie rides her beloved horse on a fox hunt.  The horse injures itself, and she is forced to shoot it. Her mother dies and much is revealed.  The ending is ambiguous. That's enough plot stuff.  The production has an acceptable air of mystery and creepiness.

Isabel Leonard is a wonderful actress as well as an excellent singer, and pretty much carries this opera.  She has 15 costumes or maybe more.  They showed us a film of her going in and out of her cubicle in the wings.

The score as played by the orchestra was fascinating and rather beautiful.  I have been listening to the Festival of New American Music all this week, and I must say Nico Muhly's style is more coherent than seems to be generally the case these days.  I enjoyed listening to it.  My only problem with the music here was with the material composed for the voices.  Act I lacked any sense of vocal legato, the core feature of opera.  There was more solo material and therefore quite a bit of improvement in Act II.  It was entertaining, but I'm not sure I would want to see it again.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


Nicholas McGegan's retirement as director of Philharmonia Baroque after the 2019-2020 season was announced in a headline in the New York Times:

Maestro of the Influential Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to Step Down

I cannot imagine how they will find someone to replace him.