Monday, January 15, 2018

Carrie Hennessey Puccini Recital

Just when you thought Carrie Hennessey had already done the most impossible recital you could imagine, she does something even more impossible:  Thirteen Puccini arias.  This was accompanied by Jason Sherbundy on the piano, played with the lid all the way up.  The recital is titled To Live and Die for Love, the Heroines of Puccini.

'O mio babbino caro' from Gianni Schicchi. This is Lauretta, and after declaring in this aria that she will jump off the Ponte Vecchio if she cannot have her true love, lives happily ever after.

'Signore, ascolta' from Turandot followed by 'Tu che di gel sei cinta' from Turandot. In the opera these are sung by Liu who commits suicide to keep Calaf's name secret.

'Senza mamma' from Suor Angelica. She finds that her child has died and commits suicide.  Then the pianist played the Intermezzo from Suor Angelica.

We then were treated to three arias from La Bohème. 'Si, mi chiamano Mimi,' followed by 'Donde lieta uscì.'  These are sung by Mimi who dies of natural causes at the end of the opera.  'Quando me'n vo,' which is sung by Musetta who does not die.  Carrie wandered up and down the aisles trying to seduce us.  I think she was successful.


'Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' from La Rondine.  Doretta is not a character in the opera, and in her aria she only falls in love..

'Un bel di' from Madama Butterfly followed by 'Tu, tu piccolo Iddio' also from Madama Butterfly. Cio-Cio-san commits suicide using the Japanese ritual.

'Vissi d'arte' from Tosca.  Is it necessary to explain this?  She leaps off the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome.

Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut came next.  The recital ended with two arias from Manon Lescaut:  'In Quelle Trin Morbide' and 'Sola Perduta, Abbandonata.'  Just before she dies in the desert of Louisiana Manon sings "I don't want to die."  There is, of course, no desert in Louisiana.

Carrie sings big and continued to sing big all the way to the end.  There was no encore and the pianist did all of the talking.  It is difficult to imagine doing something this difficult.  Tristan?  She is a lirico-spinto and avoided the dramatic roles of the ice queen and Minnie.

Carrie has followers who shout and scream.  This is fun.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Die Fledermaus from Glyndebourne

Prince Orlovsky, Herr von Eisenstein
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Director:  Stephen Lawless

Gabriel von Eisenstein tenor/baritone Thomas Allen
Rosalinde, Eisenstein's wife soprano Pamela Armstrong
Adele, Rosalinde's maid soprano Lyubov Petrova
Alfred, a singer teacher tenor Pär Lindskog
Dr Falke, a notary baritone Håkan Hagegård
Dr Blind, a lawyer tenor Ragnar Ulfung
Frank, a prison governor baritone Artur Horn
Prince Orlofsky mezzo-soprano (en travesti) Malena Ernman

I'm always on the lookout for a good Die Fledermaus in German, and I have found one from Glyndebourne.  The deutssche Ausprache [German diction] is excellent.  It is for a long time commonplace to change the book for Fledermaus.  If you see 3 of them from 3 different places, the story will use 3 different versions of the spoken dialog, and I don't mean because it was translated.  In this version they talk quite a lot, thus the importance of good diction, but they skip the part in act I where Dr Falke personally invites Rosalinde to Orlovsky's party.

This is truly an outstanding cast.  Thomas Allen is perfect for Eisenstein, both as singer and as actor.  He is both affectionate and a bit indifferent toward his wife.  There is a joke where he pretends to be a tenor by tuning his wife's piano down.  He knows she prefers tenors.  I like the Rosalinde very much.  The dialog makes clear that Rosalinde and Alfred were former colleagues in the musical theater.

It is mentioned more than once that Prince Orlovsky is 18 and bored.  Bored is nothing new, but I don't recall hearing how old he is.  And Malena Ernman may be the greatest of all cross-dressers.  Why did I not mention her in my cross-dressing discussion?  Partly because I haven't seen her that much.  She doesn't make it to the west coast.  Did you know she sings Olympia and Queen of the night?  I certainly didn't.  She enjoys very much the theatrical side of opera.  She goes around patting the men on the butt.  Genial.  She ornaments the final verse of "Chacun a son gout."  I don't recall ever seeing that.

The stage rotates to show the entertainment.  Doctor Falke reveals many things to Rosalinde about her husband, all of which she forgives, until he tells her that he is actually not a tenor.  Then she threatens to murder him.  Herr and Frau Eisenstein go immediately to the watch seduction which she already knows all about.  "You may remove my mask tomorrow at breakfast."  He answers "Morgen habe ich andere Sorgen."  [Tomorrow I have other problems.]  One of my favorite lines.  Tomorrow he will be in jail.  She steals his watch and leaves. The watch scene is reasonably amusing.

Now comes the Csárdás.  This is the wrong order but works fine.  "Brüderlein und Schwesterlein" for Falke and chorus is a personal favorite.  There's a guy taking photographs.  Oops.

On to the jail.  Frosch's long pantomime is cut.  All proceeds exactly as it should except Orlovsky removes his disguise and shows Malena Ernman.  I smile and sing along.  "Und mein Schlafrock?"  "Requisite."  [And my dressing gown?  Properties.]  In this version everyone is part of the revenge set up, which explains a lot.  A good English translation of the title would be Revenge of the Bat.  I do love it so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Classical Grammy Nominations 2018

The Grammys will be awarded January 28, 2018


Best Orchestral Performance
(Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.)
• Concertos For Orchestra
      Louis Langrée, conductor (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra)
• Copland: Symphony No. 3; Three Latin American Sketches
      Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Detroit Symphony Orchestra)
• Debussy: Images; Jeux & La Plus Que Lente
      Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
• Mahler: Symphony No. 5
      Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)
• Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio
      Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
Best Opera Recording
(Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists.)
• Berg: Lulu
      Lothar Koenigs, conductor; Daniel Brenna, Marlis Petersen & Johan Reuter; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra)
• Berg: Wozzeck
      Hans Graf, conductor; Anne Schwanewilms & Roman Trekel; Hans Graf & Brad Sayles, producers (Houston Symphony; Chorus Of Students And Alumni, Shepherd School Of Music, Rice University & Houston Grand Opera Children's Chorus)
• Bizet: Les Pêcheurs De Perles
      Gianandrea Noseda, conductor; Diana Damrau, Mariusz Kwiecień, Matthew Polenzani & Nicolas Testé; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
• Handel: Ottone
      George Petrou, conductor; Max Emanuel Cencic & Lauren Snouffer; Jacob Händel, producer (Il Pomo D'Oro)
• Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel
      Valery Gergiev, conductor; Vladimir Feliauer, Aida Garifullina & Andrei Serov; Ilya Petrov, producer (Mariinsky Orchestra; Mariinsky Chorus)
Best Choral Performance
(Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.)
• Bryars: The Fifth Century
      Donald Nally, conductor (PRISM Quartet; The Crossing)
• Handel: Messiah
      Andrew Davis, conductor; Noel Edison, chorus master (Elizabeth DeShong, John Relyea, Andrew Staples & Erin Wall; Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir)
• Mansurian: Requiem
      Alexander Liebreich, conductor; Florian Helgath, chorus master (Anja Petersen & Andrew Redmond; Münchener Kammerorchester; RIAS Kammerchor)
• Music Of The Spheres
      Nigel Short, conductor (Tenebrae)
• Tyberg: Masses
      Brian A. Schmidt, conductor (Christopher Jacobson; South Dakota Chorale)
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.)
• Buxtehude: Trio Sonatas, Op. 1
• Death & The Maiden
      Patricia Kopatchinskaja & The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
• Divine Theatre - Sacred Motets By Giaches De Wert
      Stile Antico
• Franck, Kurtág, Previn & Schumann
      Joyce Yang & Augustin Hadelich
• Martha Argerich & Friends - Live From Lugano 2016
      Martha Argerich & Various Artists
Best Classical Instrumental Solo
(Award to the Instrumental Soloist(s) and to the Conductor when applicable.)
• Bach: The French Suites
      Murray Perahia
• Haydn: Cello Concertos
      Steven Isserlis; Florian Donderer, conductor (The Deutsch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen)
• Levina: The Piano Concertos
      Maria Lettberg; Ariane Matiakh, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin)
• Shostakovich: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
      Frank Peter Zimmermann; Alan Gilbert, conductor (NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester)
• Transcendental
      Daniil Trifonov
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.)
• Bach & Telemann: Sacred Cantatas
      Philippe Jaroussky; Petra Müllejans, conductor (Ann-Kathrin Brüggemann & Juan de la Rubia; Freiburger Barockorchester)
• Crazy Girl Crazy - Music By Gershwin, Berg & Berio
      Barbara Hannigan (Orchestra Ludwig)
• Gods & Monsters
      Nicholas Phan; Myra Huang, accompanist
• In War & Peace - Harmony Through Music
      Joyce DiDonato; Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor (Il Pomo D’Oro)
• Sviridov: Russia Cast Adrift
      Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra & Style Of Five Ensemble)
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.)
• Barbara
      Alexandre Tharaud; Cécile Lenoir, producer
• Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto
      Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
• Kurtág: Complete Works For Ensemble & Choir
      Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor; Guido Tichelman, producer
• Les Routes De L'Esclavage
      Jordi Savall, conductor; Benjamin Bleton, producer
• Mademoiselle: Première Audience - Unknown Music Of Nadia Boulanger
      Lucy Mauro; Lucy Mauro, producer
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.)
• Concerto For Orchestra
      Zhou Tian, composer (Louis Langrée & Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra)
      Track from: Concertos For Orchestra
• Picture Studies
      Adam Schoenberg, composer (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony)
      Track from: Schoenberg, Adam: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies
• Requiem
      Tigran Mansurian, composer (Alexander Liebreich, Florian Helgath, RIAS Kammerchor & Münchener Kammerorchester)
• Songs Of Solitude
      Richard Danielpour, composer (Thomas Hampson, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
      Track from: Danielpour: Songs Of Solitude & War Songs
• Viola Concerto
      Jennifer Higdon, composer (Roberto Díaz, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
      Track from: Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Operas in Germany

This is the repertoire of my two seasons at the Ulmer Theater 1975-77.

Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro $Susanna
Rossini  La Cenerentola
Lortzing  Der Wildschütz   UT only
Flotow Martha $Martha              UT only
Gounod Faust $Marguerite
Verdi La forza del destino *
Smetana The Bartered Bride $Mařenka  (mama)
Strauss II Die Fledermaus $Rosalinde
Millöcker Gasparone $Carlotta  UT only
Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades *  (Pauline)
Zeller Der Vogelhändler  $Electress   UT only
Humperdinck Hänsel und Gretel $Hänsel
Strauss Salome  (page)
Puccini La Fanciulla del West *
Kálmán Gräfin Mariza      UT only
Loewe My Fair Lady  (maid)

*  directed by Giancarlo del Monaco

Five of these are works that I have never seen since then.  I truly loved Martha and think it should be performed more often.  All were performed in German except the arias in Figaro.

I wrote about my life there in A Day in the Life.  Some comments about our directors can be found here.  I also wrote a brief essay about a colleague from those days.  $ is for Ursula who was a lyric soprano, followed by the roles she performed.  In parentheses are the roles I performed.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Silvesterkonzert der Berliner Philharmoniker


Antonín Dvořák Carnival Overture, op. 92
Igor Stravinsky Pas de deux from Apollon musagète
Richard Strauss Orchestral Songs Joyce DiDonato mezzo-soprano
Leonard Bernstein 3 Dance Episodes from On the Town
Leonard Bernstein Take Care of this House Joyce DiDonato mezzo-soprano 
Dmitri Shostakovich Suite from The Golden Age, op. 22a

I am here for Joyce, of course.  The Strauss songs were truly wonderful, both for Joyce's singing and for Sir Simon Rattle's conducting.  So Strauss conducting is not dead after all.  I found this on ARTE.

Take Care of this House is suitable both for 100 years of Leonard Bernstein and for the blessing on our own White House.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Alma Deutscher's Cinderella

Jane Glover (conductor)
Brad Dalton (stage director)

Vanessa Becerra | Cinderella
Jonas Hacker | Prince
Nathan Stark | King
Claudia Chapa | Emeline (fairy godmother)
Mary Dunleavy | Stepmother
Stacey Tappan | Griselda
Karin Mushegain | Zibaldona
Brian James Myer | Minister

Alma Deutscher, in red in the picture above, is about the same age as this blog.  She is English,  began to play piano at 2 and composed a piano sonata at 6.  She is a prodigy of the sort we seldom see these days.

Alma Deutscher's Cinderella is coming to us from Opera San José via  It premiered in Vienna in 2016 in German.  Our version is in English.  One wishes for this, that the genius of music has not left us.  Her understanding of operatic voices and conventions is astounding.  Thomas Adès might take notice.

The plot is closer to Disney than to Rossini.  Mother goes with her daughters to the ball which includes a song competition.  Highly suitable for an opera, don't you think?  The Prince is the poet and Cinderella is the composer.  It is wonderful how much Alma loves her opera.

The star is Alma herself who plays the piano, violin and at the end the organ.   It is a fairy tale of life, just as it should be.  A very enjoyable night at the theater.  It runs until March on

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Claus Guth La Bohème

Gustavo Dudamel | conductor
Claus Guth | Stage director

Nicole Car | Mimì
Aida Garifullina | Musetta
Atalla Ayan | Rodolfo
Artur Ruciński | Marcello
Alessio Arduini | Schaunard
Roberto Tagliavini | Colline
Marc Labonnette | Alcindoro

This is the La Bohème on the moon from the Paris Opera.  I am assuming that only the people in space suits are real.  One of them is already dead, apparently.  You would, of course, not leave a dead body lying around on the moon any more than you would on earth.  My father was involved in the space program and we all followed it very closely.  This seems like complete nonsense to me.  People are having space travel hallucinations.  So who cares?

The music is fine.

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Opera Year in Review KK Opera Awards

It's time for the 2017 KK Opera Awards.

Jonas Kaufmann returned to opera in 2017, and while he didn't appear anywhere near me, I managed to see him in three operas:  Giordano's Andrea Chénier live streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper, a delayed movie broadcast of Verdi's Otello from London's Royal Opera House, and the French version of Verdi's Don Carlos presented at the Opera Bastille in Paris.  These will show up below in their respective categories.

New operas for me in 2017 were
That's 14 new operas, one more than last year.  Six were live, one was an HD simulcast, one was from PBS, two were from YouTube, Oberon was a live stream, etc.  I'm pretty aggressive in finding things that interest me.  It's important that one of these operas is by Rameau who continues to arouse my imagination.   Girls of the Golden West is the newest.  Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci and Theodora by Handel, viewed for their productions, were both performed a few years earlier and are not eligible for awards for this year.  I feel I still haven't seen Oberon.

The performance I most wish I had seen is Thaïs from the Met starring Ailyn Pérez and Gerald Finley.  The audio was wonderful, but an HD would have been even better.

  • BEST NEW (to me) OPERA AWARD  I was pretty fuddy duddy here since I seem to have liked the older operas better.  I can only award to performances that took place this year, so the candidates are:  Le Temple de la Gloire by Rameau, The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martín y Soler, Autumn Sonata by Sebastian Fagerlund, The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès, and Girls of the Golden West by Adams.  I seem not to be able to forgive Adès for the screeching sopranos. The winner is Le Temple de la Gloire by Rameau for the beauty of its music and its theatrical concept.  

  • BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD  Neither of the two Wagner operas I saw merited an award.  The candidates are  Gounod's Roméo et Juliette from the Met, Dvorak's Rusalka from the Met, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin from the Met, Carmen from Aix-en-Provence, Weber's Oberon from Munich, Thomas's Hamlet from West Edge, and Massenet's Manon from San Francisco.  This was the better of Netrebko's Eugene Onegin.   Roméo et Juliette was extremely sexy.  I enjoyed several of these but award to ManonThe drabness of the sets didn't really suit this opera, but the acting and musical elements were great.  

  • BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD  The candidates are La Bohème from San Francisco, Turandot from San Francisco, Giordano's Andrea Chénier from Munich, and Giordano's Andrea Chénier from La Scala Milan.  The Munich Giordano with Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros was absolutely wonderful, a complete triumph.  Milan was a close second.

  • BEST RICHARD STRAUSS AWARD  The candidates are Der Rosenkavalier from the Met and Elektra from San Francisco with Christine Goerke.  Both were wonderful, but Der Rosenkavalier was for the ages.

  • BEST MODERN OPERA AWARD  The candidates are Bel Canto by Jimmy López, Berg's Wozzeck with a production that may come to the Met soon, Autumn Sonata by Sebastian Fagerlund, Flight  by Jonathan Dove, La Voix humaine by Poulenc, The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès and Girls of the Golden West by John Adams..   The first three are fairly subdued while The Exterminating Angel was quite intense.  The pickings were pretty slim, perhaps too slim to justify an award.  I've decided to come out of left field and award to Autumn Sonata.  Opera used to be like this.  Life used to be like this.

  • BEST TRADITIONAL STAGING AWARD  I award to Giordano's Andrea Chénier from La Scala Milan.  This was outstanding, though a bit dark at times.


  • BEST TRANSFORMATION OF AN OPERA INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT  The candidates are Carmen from Aix-en-Provence, and Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber from Munich, both of which changed traditional opera plots into condemnations of psychoanalysis, and both of which rewrote the spoken dialog.  Or something.  Who can be sure?  The winner is Carmen.  You knew that.
  • BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SOPRANO  Christine Goerke in Elektra
  • BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MEZZO  Elīna Garanča in Der Rosenkavalier
  • BEST PERFORMANCE BY A TENOR  Vittorio Grigolo in Roméo et Juliette
  • BEST PERFORMANCE BY A BARITONE  Quinn Kelsey in Rigoletto.
  • BEST OPERA OF THE YEAR  This has to go to Der Rosenkavalier.

Equal Time

Netrebko deserves equal time with Harteros, don't you think?  "Io son d'amore."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Andrea Chénier from La Scala

Conductor Riccardo Chailly
Staging Mario Martone

Andrea Chénier Yusif Eyvazov
Maddalena di Coigny Anna Netrebko
Carlo Gérard Luca Salsi
La mulatta Bersi Annalisa Stroppa
La Contessa di Coigny Mariana Pentcheva
Madelon Judit Kutasi
Roucher Gabriele Sagona

Giordano's Andrea Chénier is an opera about the French revolution.  The only other one I can think of is Dialogues of the Carmelites which sees the terror from a somewhat different perspective.  It is curious that no opera sees the revolution from the side of the revolutionaries.

This is a wonderful traditional staging from La Scala Milano.  In the first scene the staging is very clear with the revolutionaries' faces appearing through the windows. As I work my way through the scenes, they are all well done and easy to follow.  Not too much detail, not too little.  This is lovely, with well handled chorus, and all the elements of an excellent traditional staging.

"Viva la morte insiem."  Long live death together.  Sort of a self cancelling phrase.  I have been listening to German versions of Italian operas for so long I have forgotten what the Italian version sounds like.  Yusif is actually more highly regarded in Italy.  His steely tone cuts right through the orchestra when necessary.  He and Netrebko are gradually merging into each other.  Will we like the result?

I love this opera and have very much enjoyed its recent popularity.  I realize it will soon disappear, but that's no reason not to love it now.  The poet falls in love and stays behind in France to protect his love.  As a result, he is executed.  It is an opera about love. Maddalena tells us that an angel has kissed her.  This is the exterminating angel.  He has marked her for death.

Chailly knows his Italian repertoire and gives us a stylistically excellent reading. Lovely.  This is the one.