This is Urlicht from Mahler Symphony #2, Resurrection.
This is mostly an opera blog.
I have been blogging for a long time. When I first started, I had a lot to say. This was fun. But time has passed and I have said a lot of things. I no longer feel issues rising from within. I am also having trouble commenting on opera that I am never live at the performance. I am going to comfort myself by reviewing only things that I feel an inward desire to talk about.
I don't know how long this will last.
P.S. I only have eyes (and ears) for Lise.
Lise Davidsen's new album is out, and I'm having a hard time thinking of anything to say. Listen for yourself?
I chose this track because it is the thing I least expected. I was thinking to criticize her Italian work, and then came this. She is glorious beyond my wildest imagination. Everyone who has experienced her live says you need to be there. Go away stupid virus. I'm doing all I can do. If you wanted something serious and sensible, I apologize. I follow opera for passion alone.
The recording includes Beethoven, Mascagni, Verdi, Cherubini and Wagner. My son said it's amazing, like something from a bye-gone era.
Brünnhilde - Iréne Theorin
Siegfried - Daniel Brenna
King Gunther - Brian Mulligan
Hagen, Alberich's son - Andrea Silvestrelli
Gutrune, sister of Gunther - Melissa Citro
Waltraute - Jamie Barton
Alberich - Falk Struckmann
Götterdämmerung completes the Richard Wagner Ring cycle. This is my first time for this production.
The balance between the orchestra and the three Norns is terrible. Why is this always such a problem? Why don't properly placed microphones solve this? Instead of threads, these strands of fate are fat electrical cables, and when one breaks, the Norms die.
We see Siegfried and Brünnhilde after their night together still blissfully in love. He gives her the ring and goes off to explore. The Rhein valley looks like a refinery.
Siegfried ends up at the posh home of Gunther, Hagen and Gutrune. He has taken the tarnhelm with him and tells them where he got it. He drinks a potion, falls immediately for Gutrune and forgets all about Brünnhilde.
Now we are back with Brünnhilde where she waits for Siegfried. Her sister Waltraute arrives. I like very much Iréne Theorin. I remember that she was an emergency replacement. I'm not sure I think Jamie Barton is a Wagnerian. Waltraute tells Brünnhilde about how much Wotan has changed.
After Waltraute leaves, Siegfried returns with the tarnhelm on his head. The other three parts of the San Francisco Ring had subtitles, but this one does not. It's hard. He takes the ring from Brünnhilde and leads her off.
Alberich shows up to lecture his son Hagen. If the ring is so powerful, why doesn't it work for anyone but Alberich? I have always wondered about this. I'm trying to make it all the way to the end, but it's pretty rough going. Gunther drags Brünnhilde onto the stage in front of a crowd of his subjects. Siegfried has eyes only for Gutrune, and she for him. Siegfried swears he doesn't know Brünnhilde, and she swears things, too, only hers are true and his are not. I enjoy very much how Theorin enthusiastically jumps about in her role.
All the fun parts of this opera are in this act. The Rhein maidens are back, and they are covered in plastic bags full of garbage. Siegfried enters and I'm booing. He's carrying a military style rifle which the maidens take from him. Perhaps none of them can rule the world with the ring because they haven't renounced love. It's harder than you think. The bad acoustics at the San Francisco Opera House are all too apparent in this recording. They give him back his gun and he goes off.
One both hates and loves Daniel Brenna's Siegfried. One loves the singer and hates the character. One is no longer charmed by his egotism. I'm shouting at the screen "You f**d up buddy." Hagen, Gunther and Siegfried are together. Hagen gives Siegfried a potion to reverse the other one, and he tells the story of Brünnhilde in the ring of fire. That means he lied when he swore he didn't know her. So Hagen kills him. The big discovery of this Ring cycle was Andrea Silvestrelli as Hagen. Magnificent.
For the ending we return to Gutrune with Siegfried's body. When Hagen tries to steal the ring from Siegfried's dead hand, S raises it in the air and Brünnhilde appears. It works out as it should. My favorite thing is Brünnhilde gets to be Brünnhilde again. Big finish. I'm crying. The sheet of gold is back where it belongs. It's all about women now. A great ending.
We loved Donald Runnicles, and it's great to see him again.
Lise gave a concert today from Trondheim with James Gaffigan who is their regular guest conductor. The program alternated instrumental numbers and vocal numbers. On Monday Lise gave an all Grieg recital with 100 in the audience. The Norwegian government reimposed the lockdown just before this concert. There are more than no people here but maybe 10? We don't get to see them.
Verdi Overture from the Sicilian Vespers
Verdi "Ma dall 'arido stelo divulsa" from Ballo in Maschera
Verdi Dance from Act III Macbeth
Verdi "Tu che la vanita" from Don Carlo
Beethoven Leonore Overture #3
Beethoven "Abscheulicher" from Fidelio
Wagner Forrest Murmers from Siegfried
Wagner "Dich teure Halle" from Tannhaeuser
It was nice to see so many young women in the orchestra in Trondheim. Lise stays in the wings until just before she sings as though perhaps this were an opera. Each of her numbers is introduced by an instrumental piece by the same composer. So we are hearing instrumental pieces by Verdi. For the second Verdi she comes out in the break which is what is expected. I have heard her sing the Verdi Requiem from a few years ago, but this is the most Verdi opera I have heard. I think she will work her way into the Verdi heroines, and perhaps Don Carlo would make a good start.
The Beethoven and Wagner I have heard before, of course, but they are wonderful again. This concert is all Lise sings big, which is what she is famous for. I find her very exciting.
After the end of the concert, Decca released the new recording which can be found on lisedavidsen.com. Only the third aria from the Thursday concert is from the new recording. She is very wonderful and has a style uniquely her own. Future things include a recording of Fidelio and a whole Grieg album. Forgive me if I can't act like this glorious soprano is all new to me. James Gaffigan recommends being in the room with her. I'm working on it.
James Gaffigan is very lively and entertaining in addition to being a good conductor. I enjoyed him.
Update: It's out. It's fabulous. My son called it amazing, like something from a bygone era.
I am dangerously close to becoming a fanzine for Lise. She announced her new album this morning. It comes out here in the US at the end of April, and that's a long time. I love the photo. She is aiming for greatness and should succeed.
Sometimes I post films of music just because I love them. This film of Jonas Kaufmann singing Schumann's Dichterliebe is an example. I tried while I was still singing to fit in things that I wanted to perform. Many I succeeded, but a few I did not. I regret that I never sang Dichterliebe, a truly glorious cycle. I wanted very badly to play Orlovsky, but no one seems to have been able to picture me as a guy. Sigh.
For me you cannot beat Jonas in Lieder. Enjoy.
Jonas has said this before, and I've heard it from others as well. Without an audience it's not the same. If I could give him a hug, I certainly would. Bravo. There's no one like you.
Mime: David Cangelosi
Siegfried: Daniel Brenna *
The Wanderer (Wotan): Greer Grimsley
Alberich: Falk Struckmann
Fafner: Raymond Aceto
Forest Bird: Stacey Tappan
Erda: Ronnita Miller
Brünnhilde: Iréne Theorin
I am enjoying that at the beginning of Siegfried Mime is banging in the rhythm of the score. We are up to the part of the San Francisco Ring that I have not seen before. The last time I simply was too tired to do four long operas in a row. This is part of the caravan series. Mime and Siegfried live in a busted up caravan. We actually get a bear--not an actual bear.
Wotan comes in to check on Siegfried. I actually love Greer's harsh, growly voice as Wotan. Mime and the The Wanderer are exchanging riddles and Mime recognizes that this is Wotan. He is too dumb to figure out who it is who has never known fear. We figure this out easily. How about someone who brings a live bear home with him? The reforging of the sword is very convincing. In retrospect I suspect that Mime is pretending not to know.
This scene with Alberich and The Wanderer is reminding my of my rule of 3 baritones. "Never go to an opera with three baritones." This is a hell of a lot of snarling and growling. Wotan by himself is fine. Wotan wanders from place to place seemingly to provide Wagner with someone to explain what is going on. I insist on my no explaining/all showing philosophy. These operas are so long because someone is always explaining something.
The character of Siegfried in the person of Daniel Brenna is enjoyable. The production seems to work in spite of the fact that the dragon is a machine. Theoretically the machine should disappear when Siegfried takes the Tarnhelm from Fafner.
I like more and more the Wotan of Greer Grimsley. However, he summons Erda and then doesn't really ask her anything. He predicts the end of the gods, including her. Then when Siegfried breaks Wotan's spear with Notung, all truly is over.
This is very cool. "Mother, behold your fearless child." He's terrified of a sleeping woman. Herr Wagner, at last you have done it. He kisses her awake like sleeping beauty. We waited a very long time, but this is the best thing ever. He thanks his mother for giving him life. If it only ended here!
The scandal that swirled around the end of James Levine's career at the Met seemed ho hum to me. Why? Because I'd heard about it years ago and assumed someone somewhere was protecting him. When I wrote about him here I was interested mainly in his musical legacy. I think in the old days it was assumed that there was a lot of fooling around. I remember a professor at I.U....
I'm happy with how the Met is now, so Levine's departure has meant a lot less to me than I expected.
Here are the Classical Grammy winners for 2021. The most import award for this year is a Lifetime Achievement Grammy awarded to Marilyn Horne. Congratulations.
Because of my own personal prejudices, I am happy for the Ives win, Porgy and Bess win (but would have also been happy for Agrippina), and a piece by Michael Tilson Thomas sung by Isabel Leonard. I am unfamiliar with the rest.
75. Best Orchestral Performance
Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.
76. Best Opera Recording
Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists.
77. Best Choral Performance
Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.
78. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
For new recordings of works with chamber or small ensemble (twenty-four or fewer members, not including the conductor). One Award to the ensemble and one Award to the conductor, if applicable.
79. Best Classical Instrumental Solo
Award to the Instrumental Soloist(s) and to the Conductor when applicable.
80. Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
Award to: Vocalist(s), Collaborative Artist(s) (Ex: pianists, conductors, chamber groups) Producer(s), Recording Engineers/Mixers with 51% or more playing time of new material.
81. Best Classical Compendium
Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s) and Engineer(s) of over 51% playing time of the album, if other than the artist.
82. Best Contemporary Classical Composition
A Composer's Award. (For a contemporary classical composition composed within the last 25 years, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year.) Award to the librettist, if applicable.
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