Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Gondoliers

Conductor:  Anne-Marie Endres
Director:  Robert Vann

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, presented last night in Sacramento, is a new one for me.  Robert Vann, the director and portrayer of Luiz, pointed out that it is produced less often than other G&S works because it is a big show with a large cast.  The ladies announce that they are four and twenty when obviously there are only twelve of them.  No one minds this.

The plot is also complex.

From Spain

Duke:  Mike Baad
Duchess:  Kathryn Peperkorn
Casilda, their daughter:  Tiffany Patterson
Luiz, attendant (or where is he from?):  Robert Vann

From Venice

The Grand Inquisitor:  Tim Power
Marco Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier (tenor):  Anthony Tavianini
Gianetta, Contadina, his girl friend/wife (soprano):  Carley Neill
Giuseppe Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier (baritone):  Charlie Baad
Tessa, Contadina, his girl friend/wife (mezzo-soprano):  Paige Kelly
Misc. girls and gondoliers

From Barataria

Inez, the King's Foster-mother (contralto):  Christine Nicholson

Here is an actual gondolier posing for this picture.  Isn't he dreamy?

Our gondoliers wore shirts very much like this.  The red and white striped shirts are to distinguish the two the girls are fussing over.  Our opera did not include any gondolas.

Plot:  There are gondoliers and there are girls chasing after them.  However, only two of the gondoliers seem to hold interest--the Palmieri brothers.  It is fascinating how much they resemble the gondolier in the photograph.  The Palmieri brothers tell us they are only honorary gondoliers.

They are blindfolded and select.  The other girls pair up with the remaining gondoliers and everyone gets married.

The Duke, Duchess and their daughter Casilda from Spain show up looking for the Prince of Barataria, the man Casilda married when she was very young.  A young man named Luiz accompanies them carrying a snare drum, presumably to announce the arrival of the Duke and Duchess.  Luiz and Casilda have fallen in love.  The King of Barataria has died, and the new king must be found.  The Grand Inquisitor tells them the new king is one of the Palmieri brothers, but he doesn't know which.  The brothers decide to rule jointly.

Inez is found and tells who is the new King.  To produce the required happy ending only one of the characters can be the King of Barataria.  You must guess.

This was lively and entertaining and included no hit tunes whatsoever, unusual for a G&S opera.  It was well attended.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Queen of Spades from Salzburg

Mariss Jansons, Conductor
Hans Nenfels, Director

Brandon Jovanovich, Hermann
Vladislav Sulimsky, Count Tomski / Plutus
Igor Golovatenko, Prince Jelezki
Evgenia Muraveva, Liza
Oksana Volkova, Polina / Daphnis
Hanna Schwarz, Countess
Stanislav Trofimov, Surin
Gleb Peryazev, Narumov
Margarita Nekrasova, Gouverness
Julia Suleymanova, Chloe

We called it Pique Dame.  This version of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades on from Salzburg was conducted by Mariss Jansons, the same man who brought us the version from the Netherlands here.

The period is set in the libretto because it says Catherine the Great makes an entrance in the party scene.  Here she is a giant skeleton, so make up your own mind.  For me this production is standard minimalism.  It works like no minimalism I have seen before.  The giant skeleton is the only thing that could be called an inexplicable nonsense, a feature of many modern productions, but it gets over quickly and goes back to the standard plot.  There's no minor character dressed up like Tchaikovsky to distract you from the opera.  There's just the opera.  What a concept.

We watch with no translation and don't mind at all.  Instead of the usual Hermann who stands around like a stick of wood, we have the brilliant physicality of Brandon Jovanovich in this role.  His costume makes him stand out from the crowd and his passion dominates the action.  I realized that I have been waiting for him.

It was lovely to see Hanna Schwarz as the old Countess.  Hermann points a gun at her, and she dies of fright before she can tell him the three cards.  Later she returns as a ghost and tells him the cards:  three, seven, ace.  He plays them and loses on the third card.  Just now I realized for the first time that the ghost of the Countess lies.  The third card was the Queen of Spades.  Well.  I guess I'm slow.

This played without any intermissions and for me without any warning.  Musically it was very beautiful.  Thank you.  I can recommend this version with added translation.  Without translation listen for "dri karti," three cards in Russian.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bartoli Rossini box

This is the cover of the Cecilia Bartoli Rossini box recently announced from Decca.  It contains everything Rossini she has released, including both CDs and DVDs, plus a few unreleased items. Navigate to Amazon for the complete contents.  It's available for pre-order and will be available on October 5.  I was wishing for a new DVD because I already have everything in the box.  As you know, these are all excellent recordings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Vanessa from Glyndebourne

Conductor:  Jakub Hrůša
Director:  Keith Warner

Erika:  Virginie Verrez
Vanessa:  Emma Bell
Anatol: Edgaras Montvidas
The Old Baroness:  Rosalind Plowright
The Old Doctor:  Donnie Ray Albert

Samuel Barber's Vanessa comes to us from Glyndebourne.  So why is it never produced here?  I saw live in Berkeley a semi-staged version, but have never seen it live fully staged.  The libretto says 1905 in a "northern country," but the presence of short skirts means we must be later than that.  One of the choices for staging an opera is to choose the era of composition, 1958, which seems to be what we have here.  Cardigans.  In this scenario Vanessa began waiting in 1938.  When Anatol appears, he is wearing a WWII style army uniform.  The northern country is suggested through the presence of many blond women.  Constant smoking also suggests a certain era.

The production cannot exactly be explained.  There are giant mirrors which are moved about, but one is never quite sure if the things behind the mirror are reflections, imaginary events or views into another room.  It creates an atmosphere of mystery and perhaps dread.
At the beginning all three women--Vanessa, Erika and the Baroness--are impatiently awaiting the arrival of Anatol who has sent a letter telling of his arrival.  He is late, but there is a snow storm. Erika sings "Must the winter come so soon," the only known piece from this work.  He arrives, and Vanessa pours out her heart to him, thinking he is her old lover of 20 years ago.  She turns and sees that it isn't he at all.  She is mortified and escapes.

Our Anatol is something of a cad.  He is here because all his life he has heard of the beautiful Vanessa and wants to see her for himself.  But if left alone with another woman, he flirts with her.  He flirts with Erika and says, “I am Dmitri the pretender. Be my Marina.”  These two names represent characters from Boris Godunov.  She falls for this, and they spend the night together.  In the complex blocking an additional flirtation with one of the maids is added.

It is important to note that he first asks Erika to marry him, and only when she refuses does he ask Vanessa.  The singing is heavy and intensely operatic.

The production adds detail and atmosphere without obscuring the plot.  It ends with a beautiful ensemble.  Thank you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Emerging Stars 2018 Winner

We have a winner for the emerging star from the 2017-18 season at the San Francisco Opera.  I have arranged them in alphabetical order by last name and have included a credit from last season.

Paul Appleby Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Atalla Ayan La Traviata, Alfredo Germont Met debut yes  *Winner

J'Nai Bridges Girls of the Golden West no Met

Julia Bullock: Girls of the Golden West no Met

Ellie Dehn Met debut yes Here are her SFO credits:

  •  Le Nozze di Figaro Countess Almaviva 
  •  Don Giovanni Donna Anna 
  •  Così fan tutte Fiordiligi 
  •  La Bohème Musetta 
  •  Carmen Micaëla 
  •  Manon Manon Lescaut 17-18 

Aurelia Florian no Met La Traviata Violetta

Soloman Howard Turandot Met debut yes

Hye Jung Lee: Girls of the Golden West, Nixon in China

Elliot Madore Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Ryan McKinny Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Ronnita Miller The Ring 

David Pershall Met debut yes Manon

Davóne Tines Girls of the Golden West no Met

Monday, August 06, 2018

Lohengrin from Bayreuth -- the Blue Lohengrin

Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
Production:  Yuval Sharon

King Heinrich:  Georg Zeppenfeld
Lohengrin:  Piotr Beczala
Elsa von Brabant:  Anja Harteros
Friedrich von Telramund:  Tomasz Konieczny
Ortrud:  Waltraud Meier
Heerrufer:  Egils Silins

The complete Lohengrin from Bayreuth has been posted on YouTube.  Piotr replaced Roberto Alagna in the title role, probably because Christian Thielemann had worked with him in his debut in the role in Dresden.  Piotr is quite successful in this role.  Lohengrin doesn't take on the Heldentenor tone seen in later Wagner.  Anja Harteros is making her Bayreuth debut here.  In her interview she says that Thielemann never does anything the same way twice.

At the beginning of the opera Elsa is already bound as a prisoner.  You will note please that the wings some of the characters wear only appear on the ruling classes.  King Heinrich has them, as do Friedrich and Ortrud, and of course Elsa.  This makes them symbols of position?  When the duel begins, the fighters fly up into the air, which makes the ropes defining the fighting ring irrelevant.  Lohengrin steals Friedrich's wings and is awarded his own set to adorn his costume when he wins the battle.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

S&M Lohengrin

This Lohengrin from Bayreuth turns out to be the S&M version.  Enjoy.

They both have blue hair.  Here's another one with more bondage.  In the first act Elsa has wings.

Here's another.   Piotr Beczała is Lohengrin, Anja Harteros is Elsa, and Waltraud Meier is Ortrud.

You get to make up your own narrative.  This is the first time I have thought Lohengrin ended as it should.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Demon

Conductor: Mikhail Tatarnikov
Director: Dmitry Bertman

Demon: Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tamara: soprano Asmik Grigorian
Angel: countertenor Vadim Volkov
Tamara's nurse: contralto Larisa Kostyuk
Prince Sinodal, Tamara's betrothed: tenor Vasily Efimov

In the semi-staged performance of Anton Rubinstein's The Demon from Russia we have Dima singing gloriously. There appear to be no subtitles. You may look up the plot in Wikipedia, of course. I watched it on YouTube:

Two weeks ago I did not know this work existed.  The music is not very adventuresome but inspires some wonderful singing by this cast.   The idea here is that someone can be condemned for loving inappropriately.  You would want this for Dmitri.   YouTube includes some other versions, including one with Kristine Opolais.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Anja Harteros has announced that she will no longer perform outside of Europe.  She likes to sleep in her own bed.  She was already performing in Europe most of the time.  If I want to see her live, I will have to travel.  She makes a great impression over the internet.

In other important news baritone Philippe Sly is doing a Klezmer version of Schubert's Winterreise.  I don't make this stuff up.