Sunday, April 20, 2014

Summer Opera in San Francisco

I thought I would try my hand.  The San Francisco Opera begins its summer season June 1.


Jerome Kern's Show Boat

June 1- July 2, 2014



This Francesca Zambello production comes to us from Chicago Lyric where it received rave reviews.

Heidi Stober will sing Magnolia Hawks, daughter of
Bill Irwin as Cap'n Andy Hawks (No, Bill Irwin is not an opera singer)
Patricia Racette is Julie La Verne, the leading lady of the troupe.
Michael Todd Simpson is Gaylord Ravenal, a gambler 
Morris Robinson as Joe sings "Ole man River"

You may remember Heidi from Magic Flute a couple of years ago.



And here is a brief excerpt from Morris Robinson singing "Ole man River."



This is a classic American Musical that can be well cast with opera singers.

Verdi's La Traviata

June 11- July 13 2014


This opera has two casts.  The first cast is:
Sonya Yoncheva sings Violetta
Saimir Pirgu as Alfredo
Vladimir Stoyanov as Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont.

I saw Saimir Pirgu in this role at Santa Fe opposite the Violetta of Natalie Dessay.  Sonya Yoncheva has been making a big splash lately by replacing Anna Netrebko in Faust in Vienna and New York.  In 2010 she was the Operalia winner. 




The other cast is:
Ailyn Pérez (the 2012 Richard Tucker prize winner) as Violetta,
Stephen Costello (her husband, the 2009 Tucker Prize winner) as Alfredo
Quinn Kelsey is Giorgio Germont.

Ailyn sang one performance of this opera in San Francisco in 2009 when Anna Netrebko cancelled some of the performances.  By now she has sung Violetta at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, Vienna Staatsoper and the Royal Opera House in London.

I have seen her in Faust at Santa Fe, and La Boheme at the Los Angeles Opera with her husband.  I traveled for her.  She makes frequent appearances in selfies around the internet and is a lovely woman and a wonderful singer.  Stephen was most recently here for Moby Dick.  Here Stephen and Ailyn together.



It's another one of those situations where you want to hear both casts.


Puccini's Madama Butterfly

June 15- July 9 2014

Photo by Jon Silla, Opera Carolina.


Patricia Racette will sing Cio-cio-san (her most famous role)
Elizabeth DeShong is Susuki
Brian Jagde is Pinkerton

Brian most recently appeared in San Francisco as Cavaradossi in Tosca.  And if you missed Patricia Racette in San Francisco, you simply don't go to the opera here.



The production by Jun Kaneko is new to the San Francisco Opera.  Bright colors seems to be a trend in American opera.

This is hard.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lieber Jonas

Mein lieber Jonas,
Ich hoere jetzt deine Dichterliebe von Carnegie Hall an.  Ich habe nur eine Frage:  warum singst du dass so tief?  Du bist eigentlich tenor, nicht?  Verzeihung.  Ich habe meine Deutsch am Theater gelernt, und dort sagten wir immer du zu einander.  Ich finde dass du es oft tust (meine Deutsch ist ganz erfunden) and can nur fragen.  Es ist erlaubt Lieder so hoch oder so tief wie man will singen. Man muss nicht der Klavierspieler anhoeren.

Mit freundlichen Gruessen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Item

I was told the other day that there were 25 prop men for the kitchen scene in Falstaff at the Met.  Worth it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Opera Websites

I have not kept it a secret that I was a professional in the software business for 25 years. This culminated in a 4 month all expense paid trip to London which was well documented in this blog. My job was to design software for procurement, a complicated process to analyze, a process about which I knew nothing when I started my job. When I retired, I was awarded a very nice plaque on which I was called "The Architect."  I like to think I am one of the reasons my company is still around.  No one tells me what has happened to all the programs since I retired. Best not to know.

Blogging causes me to come in contact with the websites of many opera companies and festivals around the world. I cannot help having a professional reaction to them. They are almost universally terrible to appalling. We are living in the world of computers, and it is long past due for the opera world to catch up.

What is the easiest thing to find in an opera website? How to buy tickets. We try to sympathize with this perspective, but think it might be best to look at other more successful websites for guidance. There are a number of businesses that exist only in the ether: Amazon and Expedia might be considered examples. These people assume you are there to buy something and focus their attention on what it is you may wish to buy. They push their products to the fore and save the paying for the end.  They keep track of who you are and what you are there to look at.

And what is the hardest thing to find on an opera website? Sometimes it is completely impossible. Who is singing and when will they be in town? Perhaps the webmaster thinks his customer base is ignorant of opera and doesn't know one singer from another. I assure you this is not true. May I suggest that you promote the singers, and their resulting increased prominence will in turn promote you.  I recommend that you pitch the shit out of them, make them sound like the next big thing, start by believing it yourself, and your company will reap the benefits. You might start by finding out who actually is the next big thing, and hiring them (see Parterre). Yes, they might cancel, but that can't be helped. Opera seasons are in the winter and people catch diseases in the winter.

From my perspective this is a huge subject which I could hardly cover in a blog post.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Selfies




Nina Stemme, Renata Scotto, Joyce DiDonato

Nicole Cabell and Joyce DiDonato are together again for Romeo et Juliette (and freaking adorable)
Nicole Cabell, Joyce DiDonato

I was going to do a post about opera selfies, but apparently there is a tumblr account that already does this.  You already knew opera singers were silly.

 
Jonathan Lemalu, Quinn Kelsey, Ailyn Pérez



Don Basilio and Count Almaviva at Teatro Massimo di Palermo!


And doesn't this last one look like an Oscar imitation? It's the cast of La Clemenza di Tito from Chicago Lyric.  Maybe you can recognize Christian Van Horn, Matthew Polenzani and Joyce DiDonato.



From the Opera News Awards. Luca Pisaroni and his wife Catherine, Ailyn Perez and her husband Stephen Costello, Carrie-Ann Matheson, Susan Graham, Kristine Opolais, Joyce DiDonato and three guys I don't know.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

News Flash

On Feb 28 I posted this on Twitter:

Feb 28
Changing vote: now predict Michael Fabiano will win Richard Tucker this year."

Called it.  Congratulations, Michael.

Aprile Millo posted this on Facebook today:
"Michael Fabiano's winning of the award given in memory of the great tenor Richard Tucker in the Tucker Award gives all of us hope and joy who truly love great singing. I love this young fellow and couldn't be happier. You deserve it and it is only just the beginning!!!! Gladiators of music. Rejoice tonight !!!!!"

Incomplete

I felt that my life was somehow incomplete without the Kleiber 1979 Der Rosenkavalier.

Gwyneth Jones Marschallin
Brigitte Fassbaender Octavian
Lucia Popp Sophie
Manfred Jungwirth Ochs
Francisco Araiza tenor





I am truly astounded by how much I like Gwyneth Jones as the Marschallin.  She is very natural and sweet and sings like a lyric soprano.  Which she is.  To whom it may concern:  if you don't have any appropriate dramatic coloratura sopranos to sing Lady Macbeth, then don't put the damn thing on.  Don't go pick out some nice lyric soprano and ruin her life.

It is a truly wonderful presentation of the rose.  Lucia Popp describes for us the smell of the silver rose, and Octavian comes over to smell it, too.  This is usually blocked so that Octavian smells the rose and then looks up to realize that he has fallen in love.  Here he bends his head and Sophie bends close, it appears, to smell his hair instead of the rose.  Then they look each other very close in the eyes for the perfect moment.  Wow.

I once saw Brigitte in this role and was disappointed.  I must confess that here she is perfect.

This opera does not successfully update to a later era.  We are required to adore the sainted Kleiber, but for me he covers the singers far too much.  I often assign blame to the conductor, so here it is necessary to assign credit.  Musically all are performing the same opera.  If the conductor is blamed when each sings his own opera, he must also be credited when they all are all so clearly an ensemble.  His rubato is very complete.  What the hell does that mean, you may ask?  It means it's going on all the time and is very sophisticated.  Rhythm is the main thing in Rosenkavalier.  Intro to the third act is a tad chaotic.  IMHO.  This is due to the fast tempos throughout.  I like a schmaltzier Rosenkavalier.

This opera is like a ballet.  With a ballet someone writes down each step and where it goes in the music.  So it is with Rosenkavalier.  Here the black child carries in the small table with chocolate.  Here the servants line the chairs up in a row.  The entire opera is like that.  You could write the blocking into the score.

This film did not convert me to Kleiber, but I can see if you don't like romantic schmaltz, you might prefer this.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Zurich Le Comte Ory


Timed perfectly to coincide with the opening night of Rossini's Otello in Paris, my DVDs of Le Comte Ory and Otello from Zurich (that is the Opera Awards winning Zurich Opera) have arrived.  Since I saw Otello stream on medici.tv, I am watching Ory first.

Conductor Muhai Tang
Production Moshe Leiser & Patrice Caurier (they are growing on me)

Le Comte Ory-Javier Camerena
La Comtesse Adele-Cecilia Bartoli
Isolier (Ory's page)-Rebeca Olvera (Adalgisa in Cecilia's Norma at Salzburg)
Ragonde (La Comtesse's companion)-Liliana Nikiteanu
Le Gouverneur (Ory's tutor)-Ugo Guagliardo
Raimbaud (Ory's co-conspirator)-Oliver Widmer

The opera begins with Ory and his assistant Raimbaud brushing their teeth in flip flops and shorts.  Then they go into the trailer and Ory changes into his outfit as a blind hermit who lures young women.  The men of the town are away on crusade and have left a token force at home to guard the women.  Cough, cough.


I notice I said that Florez did not get an aria at the Met, but here Camarena opens the opera with a lovely aria which he sings in his blind hermit outfit.

Cecilia drives up to visit Ory in a blue Peugeot, called an Ente when I lived in Germany.  I have been searching diligently for a photo of Cecilia in her entrance outfit, in vain.  She has her hair back, steel rim glasses, a fancy collar, white pearl earrings, a dark suit, a handbag and a pair of white gloves, in every way the perfect woman of 1959.  I love this.  Rebeca Olvera in her soldier's outfit as Isolier is also adorable.  This is as close as I could get. 



I find the plot much easier to follow here, and less offensive for some reason.  Perhaps hanky panky among the moderns seems better.  It actually seems funny.  Camarena plays everything straight which makes him seem less slimy.  Pardon me.  I hated the Met version, didn't laugh even once.

In the castle the women are holding up a picture of Charles de Gaulle who was president of France from 1959 to 1969.  We may presume that the husbands are off fighting in Algeria.  I was ready to throw this opera out on its ass, but this is charming.  Bartoli and Camarena are marvelous in French, very suave and cute.  Musically it could not be more sweet and graceful.  This is, of course, the new critical edition, and the Met used the old souped up romantic edition.  I am in danger of becoming a convert.  Perhaps this lightness and graceful subtlety is due at least in part to the lighter orchestration obvious here.  The orchestra is La Scintilla.

The staging of the bedroom trio was also very much superior.  It is clear here that Isolier and the Countess are conspiring against Ory.  They exchange clothing, and Isolier places the Countess lovingly on the floor where it is presumed a mere page would lie.  There is no ambiguity about what is going on. 

Everything is staged and sung, and indeed played to perfection.  If you want an Ory, try this one.

And now the prompter has crawled out of his hole in the floor and is receiving a bow.  That generally means his services were needed.  He faces upstage until one of the actors turns him toward the audience.

Try Presto Classical for early releases of classical material.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Here are the winners of the Opera Awards

The Complete International Opera Award Winners for 2014 are as follows:

  • Accessibility:  Teatro Sociale di Como
  • Anniversary Production (Britten):  Peter Grimes on the beach (Aldeburgh Festival)
  • Anniversary Production (Verdi):  Verdi trilogy – La battaglia di Legnano, I due Foscari, I Lombardi (Hamburg Staatsoper)
  • Anniversary Production (Wagner):  Parsifal (Vlaamse Opera, Belgium)
  • CD (Complete Opera):  Otello (Verdi) (Muti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Resound)
  • CD (Operatic Recital):  Ann Hallenberg – Hidden Handel (Naïve)
  • Chorus:  Bayreuth Festival
  • Conductor:  Kirill Petrenko (Generalmusikdirektor of the Bayerische Staatsoper)
  • Designer:  Paul Brown
  • Director:  Barrie Kosky (Intendant and Chefregisseur of the Komische Oper Berlin)
  • DVD:  David et Jonathas (Marc-Antoine Charpentier) (Bel Air Classiques)
  • Female Singer:  Diana Damrau [congratulations]
  • Festival:  Aix-en-Provence
  • Lifetime Achievement:  Gerard Mortier (posthumous)
  • Male Singer:  Stuart Skelton [congratulations]
  • New Production:  Norma (Salzburg Festival)  [I'm very happy about this.]
  • Opera Company:  Oper Zürich [Happy about this, too]
  • Philanthropist/Sponsor:  Edgar Foster Daniels
  • Readers’ Award:  Joseph Calleja
  • Rediscovered Work:  Cristina, regina di Svezia (Jacopo Foroni) (Wexford Festival)
  • World Premiere:  The Merchant of Venice (André Tchaikowsky) (Bregenz Festival)
  • Young Singer:  Jamie Barton (is she the only American win?)

These awards purport to be International, but are really just British.  The people being awarded to come from all over the world, but the judges are all British.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sophie Koch in Opera News

I enjoyed very much reading the interview in Opera News before Sophie Koch's performance of Werther.  I was especially pleased to read her discussion of the Paris performance and the unusual and noteworthy conducting of Michel Plasson.  So it isn't just me.

I wonder what she would say now.