Friday, November 16, 2018

Salzburg 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.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Top American Singers 2018

Order is alphabetical.


Christine Goerke
Lisette Oropesa *
Ailyn Pérez
Sondra Radvanovsky * Is she Canadian now?
Nadine Sierra


Jamie Barton
Joyce DiDonato *
Susan Graham *
Isabel Leonard


Lawrence Brownlee*
Michael Fabiano *
Brian Jagde
Bryan Hymel 
Matthew Polenzani *


Thomas Hampson, baritone *
Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Quinn Kelsey, baritone *
Eric Owens, bass-baritone  *
Morris Robinson, bass 


Anthony Roth-Costanzo

General Comments.

This is my list if I admit only American singers that I have heard.  I haven't done one of these before.  Your favorite might be someone I haven't heard or someone I think of as retired.  Here's a longer list.


Patricia Racette *
xSondra Radvanovsky *  Is she Canadian now?
Christine Goerke
Leah Crocetto
Nadine Sierra
Lisette Oropesa *
Angela Meade
Ailyn Pérez
Amber Wagner  
Erin Morley
Nicole Cabell


Dolora Zajick *
xJoyce DiDonato *
Susan Graham *
Stephanie Blythe
Jamie Barton
Isabel Leonard
Kate Lindsay 
J'nai Bridges


xMatthew Polenzani *
Bryan Hymel
Lawrence Brownlee*
Michael Fabiano *
Jay Hunter Morris
Stephen Costello 
Charles Castranovo 
Russell Thomas 
Brandon Jovanovich
Paul Groves
René Barbera 
xBrian Jagde


Thomas Hampson, baritone *
Dwayne Croft, baritone 

Nathan Gunn, baritone
Quinn Kelsey, baritone *
Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Eric Owens, bass-baritone  *
Greer Grimsley, bass-baritone
Mark Delavan, bass-baritone
Morris Robinson, bass 


Anthony Roth-Costanzo

Saturday, October 27, 2018

La Fanciulla del West in HD

Conductor...............Marco Armiliato
Production..............Giancarlo Del Monaco

Minnie..................Eva-Maria Westbroek
Dick Johnson........Jonas Kaufmann
Jack Rance............Zeljko Lucic

Today was the simulcast of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West in HD from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I have seen this production at least three times before, including here, and it works very well.  They almost seemed like real cowboys.

Due to my love of the version with Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme here, I have come to love this opera very much.  To work it requires a strong spinto soprano with personality and a romantic hero tenor for her to fall in love with, and I find that we have them here in Kaufmann and Westbroek.  We saw them together in Die Walküre at the Met in 2011 where they actually seemed like brother and sister.  In Fanciulla you believe that they fall in love.

In the intermission Eva talked about how much she loves the role, and it was easy to believe it is her favorite.  The part she performed better than anyone before her was the ending.  She goes around one by one to each of her former customers and reminds them of their relationship to that date.  It was deeply touching and beautiful.  I loved it.  I cried and believed that they truly could not hurt her in this way.  It is a time in life where we are in need of unselfish love.

P.S.  I apologize for not writing much about Jonas.  I find that I prefer his DVD with Nina Stemme to this one.


On Friday the Metropolitan Opera Guild honored Anna Netrebko.  Opera Wire in his report of the occasion mentions that Peter Gelb who spoke concerning the blackface controversy surrounding Aida said he talked with Netrebko and,“We discussed which shade she would be, but she resolved the issue by going to a tanning salon,” I am posting this because at the time I said that Anna gets that dark with a tan.  If that's her natural skin with a tan, it can't be blackface.  So there.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Arabella in San Francisco


Conductor Marc Albrecht *
Director Tim Albery *
Production Designer Tobias Hoheisel

Waldner family:
Arabella, elder daughter of the Waldners: Ellie Dehn (soprano) ‡
Zdenko/Zdenka, Arabella's sister: Heidi Stober 
Countess Adelaide Waldner, their mother: Michaela Martens ‡
Count Theodor Waldner, a retired cavalry officer, their father: Richard Paul Fink ‡

Arabella's suitors:
Mandryka, A Croatian landowner Brian Mulligan ‡
Matteo, a young officer Daniel Johansson * ‡
Count Elemer, one of Arabella's suitors Scott Quinn ‡
Count Dominik, one o f Arabella's suitors Andrew Manea † ‡
Count Lamoral, one of Arabella's suitors Christian Pursell † ‡

A Fortune - Teller to Countess Waldner: Jill Grove ‡
The Fiakermilli, a cabaret singer Hye Jung Lee ‡

* San Francisco Opera debut † Current Adler Fellow ‡ Role debut

A new production of Strauss's Arabella is currently running at the San Francisco Opera.  This opera is very nice, has lovely music and a perfect ending, as long as you remember that everyone in it is an idiot.  The Waldners have two daughters and no money because papa gambles it all away.  They are trying very hard to find a wealthy and suitable husband for their elder daughter Arabella.  Father remembers his old army buddy Mandryka and sends him a picture of his daughter.

Younger daughter Zdenka goes around in male clothing and calls herself Zdenko because she likes to and because it's less expensive for her parents.  She is "best friends" with a young officer Matteo who sends flowers every day to Arabella.  Zdenko is constantly showing up with love letters supposedly from Arabella.  She rants at older sister about what a great husband Matteo would make.  Meanwhile Arabella is obviously completely uninterested in Matteo.  Many of these people know, including the fortune teller, that Zdenko is really Zdenka, but not a single one ever goes, "Oh. She likes him."  This is such a Duh conclusion that it makes the opera annoying.  All are thinking only of themselves. At the start Heidi looks very masculine in her disguise, but this gradually wears off.

Did I like the production?  It's very gray, too gray.  Yes, they're poor, but they're not really that poor.  Vienna isn't that drab.  Nevertheless, it almost works. It suggests an institutional space.

Did I like the conductor?  He is another of our auditioners for the position of musical director.  His Strauss was better, I thought, than most of the conductors at the Strauss Festival in Berlin.  It felt rhythmically interesting and flowing.  I have the usual complaint that the orchestra was often too loud for the singers.  Ellie warmed into her role slowly and you should have followed her.

Arabella is Queen of the Ball for the last day of Fasching (carnival).  Three counts follow her around and give her presents,  Then the nephew of Father's old friend--old friend has died--shows up to court Arabella.  They fall quickly in love.  Zdenka lures Matteo up to Arabella's room while Arabella is busy dancing.  Zdenka and Matteo make love.  Then we have identity confusion and anger, threats of duels and Zdenka in her night gown no longer looking the least masculine.

Hoffmannsthal died during the creation of this opera which might have worked better with a full libretto by him.  Success depends on beautiful music, which we achieved, and magical romance which did not quite happen.  We should be happy when the music is so good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

American Bach Soloists in Davis

I enjoyed this concert by the American Bach Soloists in Davis on Monday very much.  Above is their conductor Jeffrey Thomas.  This concert consisted of 2 Brandenburg Concertos, No.1 and No.3, and The Hunting Cantata.  One reason for loving this group is because in addition to calling themselves after Bach they also play a lot of Bach.  In this case the entire concert was Bach.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major began the concert.  Of the two concertos this one was the less familiar.  I believe it was chosen because it includes two parts for natural horns which appear again in The Hunting Cantata.  Elizabeth Bloomenstock, the concert mistress, was also a soloists here.

Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major, a very familiar work, orchestrated for three violins, three violas and 3 cellos with continuo, completed the first half.  All 9 designated parts perform as soloists   It is an unusual orchestration both for Bach and for the world at large.  Bach was always trying to stretch himself.

Apparently it is the habit of this group to add movements to established works. Brandenburg No.3 has only two movements, but an allegro from a trio sonata transcribed from an organ piece was inserted between the other two movements.  The players reorganized themselves.  The complex concerto was well played.

For me the treat of this concert came after the intermission:  The Hunting Cantata, a work written to praise the Margrave of Brandenburg Schwedt.  The Margrave was named Christian, a word that appears several times in the text.  I found it interesting that they would use his first name.  Apparently he was much loved and enjoyed hunting.  The hit tune from this work I had not heard before is "Sheep may safely graze." 

The performance began with the Allegro from Oboe Concerto in F Major featuring the oboist Stephen Bard?  The vocal soloists were:
  • Hélène Brunet soprano (Pales)
  • Julie Bosworth soprano (Diana)
  • Derek Chester tenor (Endymion)
  • Mischa Bouvier baritone (Pan)
The Hunting Cantata is the most cheerful and lively piece by J.S. Bach I have ever heard.  It is fun and was of course very well performed.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Richard Tucker

I watched the Richard Tucker Gala on

Stephanie Blythe | Mezzo-soprano (1999)
Javier Camarena | Tenor
Yusif Eyvazov | Tenor
Michael Fabiano | Tenor (2014)
Christine Goerke | Soprano (2001)
Quinn Kelsey | Baritone
Angela Meade | Soprano (2011)
Anna Netrebko | Soprano
Nadine Sierra | Soprano (2017)
Christian Van Horn | Bass-baritone
New York Choral Society, Members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Marco Armiliato | Conductor

They are all like old friends.  I am embarrassed to say I needed a program.  Someone has found one for me, but it's still hard to work out.

Opening Speech Barry Tucker 

Giuseppe Verdi, Nabucco sung by our winner Christian Van Horn.

Jerónimo Giménez / Manuel Nieto, El Barbero de Sevilla
II: "Me llaman la primorosa" with Nadine Sierra.

Giuseppe Verdi, Luisa Miller
II: "Quando le sere al placido chiaror d'un ciel stellato" with Michael Fabiano

Richard Strauss, Ariadne Auf Naxos, Op. 60
"Es gibt ein Reich" with Christine Goerke.  Wonderful. 

Small speech by Javier Camarena telling how he was robbed and was thus wearing Richard Tucker's cuff links and studs.  Good luck?

Manuel Garcia, Florestan
II: "Dieu!... pour venger un père, faut-il devenir assassin…" by Javier Camarena from his CD, spectacularly sung.

Giuseppe Verdi, I Lombardi Alla Prima Crociata
II: "Oh madre, dal cielo…No, no! giusta causa" with Angela Meade also spectacularly sung.

Giuseppe Verdi, Falstaff
II, 1: "È sogno? o realtà?" with Quinn Kelsey.

Giuseppe Verdi, Il Trovatore
III, 2 - Scena ed Aria : "Ah! Sì, ben mio"
with Yusif Eyvazov.

Giuseppe Verdi, Don Carlo (revised version in 4 acts)
III, 1: "Ella giammai m'amo!" with Christian Van Horn

Gioachino Rossini, Armida
"Amor! Possente nome" a duet with
Angela Meade and Javier Camarena.

Pietro Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana
Regina Coeli...Inneggiamo with Christine Goerke.

Leonard Bernstein, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Take Care Of This House with Stephanie Blythe.

Jules Massenet, Manon
"Toi! Vous!" (St. Sulpice duet sung Nadine Sierra and Michael Fabiano.)

Vincenzo Bellini, I Puritani
II: "Riccardo! Riccardo!" with Quinn Kelsey and Christian Van Horn.

Georges Bizet, Carmen
"L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" with Stephanie Blythe.

Umberto Giordano, Andrea Chénier
IV: "Vicino a te s'aqueta" big finish provided by Anna Netrebko and
Yusif Eyvazov.

It was a terrific concert in the Richard Tucker style of big voices.  For some reason I expected an ensemble at the end but did not get it.