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 medici.tv.

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.

Season Opener for Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera

The 2018-19 concert season of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera featured guest conductor Andrew Grams with guest violinist Angelo Xiang Yu playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  They were fun together with their surprisingly matching over the top enthusiasm.  This was met with great audience excitement.  Yu played an encore of a solo version of the Meditation from Thais by Massenet.

The concert finished with Schumann's Symphony No. 4.  Maestro Grams brings much excitement to his performances.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Samson et Dalila in HD

Conductor................Mark Elder
Production...............Darko Tresnjak

Samson..................Roberto Alagna
Dalila.....................Elina Garanca
High Priest.............Laurent Naouri
Abimélech..............Elchin Azizov

Today was the HD broadcast of Camille Saint-Saëns' opera Samson et Dalila.  There was a lot of complaining about this very flashy production, but except for the rather perverse ballet I loved it.  I can't help wondering if the Philistines would have dressed so colorfully and the Israelites in contrast so drably.  One imagines really more similarity.  The production handled well the task I normally assign to it--explaining the plot.  Each transition of the story is well demonstrated.

What made this performance work so much better than any I have seen before was our extraordinary pair of very sexy lovers.  Both Roberto Alagna and Elina Garanca sang beautifully.  Roberto explained in the intermission that he is allergic to smoke, which I assume referred to the flames seen all about the stage in the form of both torches and fixed flames.   Perhaps by this performance they were successful in curtailing the smoke.  I was happy to see that both Roberto and Elina received loud standing ovations.  It was a pleasure to hear and see them.

Laurent Naouri, Natalie Dessay's husband, is a lovely cheerful person who has to work very hard to seem villainous. 

If you missed this, go on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Releases

Cecilia Bartoli will release at the end of November a new second CD of arias by Vivaldi.  Here is a sample.

At the end of October Javier Camarena will release a new CD called Contrabandista which includes a duet with Bartoli.

This release by Jonas Kaufmann includes your choice of CD or DVD.  It's number one on the classical charts in Germany.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Les Huguenots

Director:  Andreas Kreigenburg
Conductor : Michele Mariotti et Łukasz Borowicz

Marguerite de Valois, catholic queen : Lisette Oropesa
Raoul de Nangis, protestant: Yosep Kang
Valentine: Ermonela Jaho
Urbain, Queen's page: Karine Deshayes
Marcel, Raoul's servant: Nicolas Testé
Le Comte de Saint-Bris : Paul Gay
La dame d’honneur : Julie Robard‑Gendre
Une bohémienne : Julie Robard‑Gendre
Cossé, un étudiant catholique : François Rougier 
Le Comte de Nevers : Florian Sempey 
Tavannes, premier moine : Cyrille Dubois
Méru, deuxième moine : Michal Partyka
Thoré, Maurevert : Patrick Bolleire
Retz, troisième moine : Tomislav Lavoie
Coryphée, une jeune fille catholique, une bohémienne : Élodie Hache
Bois-Rosé, valet : Philippe Do
Un archer du guet : Olivier Ayault
Quatre seigneurs : John Bernard - Cyrille Lovighi - Bernard Arrieta - Fabio Bellenghi

From Paris Opera Bastille I have found a film of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, 1836, which I wanted to watch live on Thursday.  The action takes place in 2063[?] according to a text on the screen.  The Catholic men wear clown-like ruffs around their necks while the protestants look a bit more like business men.

In Roberto Devereux we heard "God Save the Queen" in the overture.  In this opera the well known tune incorporated into the story is Luther's "Ein feste Burg."  This is to represent Protestantism.  Les Huguenots precedes Roberto Devereux.  We know that Meyerbeer was Wagner's patron and got him his start in composing operas, which might help to explain the presence of the Dresden Amen in Tannhäuser and Parsifal.  In spite of his rants against Meyerbeer, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.  Perhaps it serves to suggest an aura of religious feeling.  I digress.

I'm finding the production pretty hard going.  I have no background with this opera.  I am here to see Lisette Oropesa, and here at the mid point I must say she is magnificent.  The first scene is men and the second is women, with the queen's page going back and forth between them.  What is one to make of religious persecution in the future?  The set in Act II is very beautiful and includes a bit of nudity.

I am exploring this opera and am surprised to see a male chorus singing "Rata plan"  See also Donizetti's La fille du régiment, and Verdi's La Forza del Destino.  Again, this opera  appears to be the first.  I didn't realize how much borrowing went on.  There's a lot of choral work which I am finding unattractive.  Verdi bombast is somehow more fun.  Things going on in my soul are also interfering with my enjoyment of this opera.  I am tired of hatred and violence.

There is a line across Europe across the Alps dividing the descendants of  Roman culture and the descendants of Vikings, Germans, etc.  The former group remained catholic while all of the north, except maybe Poland, changed to protestant.  I have always felt that when Luther went to Rome, he was mostly experiencing culture shock.  However, in the Catholic countries were also pockets of Protestantism.  There were two results:  war and immigration to America.  My German friends would always ask why we had so many religions in America.  Because when you chased them out of Europe, they came to us.  Again I digress.

Yosep Kang has a very beautiful tenor voice but fluffs a high note later on.  As a lyric tenor he's wonderful.  As a dramatic tenor not so much.  Ermonela Jaho hasn't had much to sing in the first half but sings a lot in the later acts. Jaho is well known in Europe but has not really crossed my path that much.  All the big coloratura show pieces are for the queen while Valentine is a full lyric type with very little coloratura.    That seems to be the pattern with Meyerbeer.  All the coloratura arias are for a specific voice.  I admit to not being wild about any of these operas.

The greatest influences on Wagner seem to be Meyerbeer and Liszt, Meyerbeer for the heavy orchestration and dramatic style, Liszt for the invention of the tone poem which provides the through-composed concept applied to the full act of an opera.  I have to say I very much prefer mythology to politics for opera plots.  The only hit tune from this opera, other than the borrowed one, is the page's aria in act I.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Aida from New York

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Production:  Sonja Frisell

Aida:          Anna Netrebko
Radamès:   Aleksandrs Antonenko
Amneris:    Anita Rachvelishvili
Amonasro: Quinn Kelsey
Ramfis:      Dmitry Beloselskiy
King:          Ryan Speedo Green
Messenger: Arseny Yakovlev [Debut]
Priestess:    Gabriella Reyes, not seen [Debut]

Today was the simulcast of Verdi's Aida from the Metropolitan Opera starring Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili.  This performance series was the first time these two great ladies had sung together.  They were perfection together and brought us a new Aida in spite of the same old production we have been seeing since 1988.  The scene with the two women together was the best I've ever seen.  Anna Netrebko brings an intensity to the role of Aida that exceeds all. Anita was much more a woman in love than the usual revengeful bitch.  These two ladies will sing together again in Adriana Lecouvreur later this season.

The film director has a lot of influence over the impression made by an HD broadcast.  In this case the emphasis was on the two women in love with Radamès.  Camera shots were often chosen for intimacy rather than pomp and melodrama.

Quinn Kelsey was beautiful as the Ethiopian King.  The only disappointment was in the Radamès of Aleksandrs Antonenko.  I heard so much grousing about him that I expected him to be rather more horrible than actually turned out to be the case.  However, it is still true that Anna deserved better.  I remember when Pavarotti made his debut in the role in San Francisco years ago, that there was a lot of grousing then, too.  I often wonder about the modern state of opera singer training.  He could benefit from better physical conditioning.

Nicola Luisotti was his usual wonderful self.  I found that the shift of emphasis off of war and on to romance found in this performance made for a very pleasurable Aida experience.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Le Prophete from France

Conductor:  Claus Peter Flor
Director:  Alfonso Caiani

Jean de Leyde, tenor, John Osborn
Fidès, Jean's mother, mezzo-soprano, Kate Aldrich
Berthe, Jean's bride, soprano, Sofia Fomina
Jonas, an Anabaptist, tenor, Mikeldi Atxalandabase
Mathisen, an Anabaptist, bass or baritone, Thomas Dear
Zacharie, an Anabaptist, bass, Dimitry Ivashchenko
Oberthal, a feudal count, bass, Leonardo Estevez

Meyerbeer's Le Prophete (1849) came to me from Toulouse by way of Culture Box.  My only live experience of Meyerbeer was L'Africaine at the San Francisco Opera.  I begin to think Meyerbeer is neglected, perhaps not in France but certainly here.  Perhaps Yannick will change this.

Giocomo Mayerbeer was a truly international composer as very few are.  He was born in Berlin of rich Jewish parents, studied and composed extensively in Italy in the time of Rossini, and then established himself in Paris and Berlin. We know him primarily for his French operas.  However, Robert le Diable was written for Berlin.  It is hard to grasp that such a prominent composer is virtually unknown to me.  As would be expected, his works are orchestrated in the German style, emphasize chorus like a French opera and don't particularly follow the Italian ideal of bel canto.  I think I should delve further before making any decisions about him.  He is the main proponent of Grand Opera, a style that includes:

(a) obligatory spectacular scenes,
(b) death, not happy endings, in librettos by Scribe, (including this one),
(c) potpourri overture,
(d) extended ornate arias, though less ornate than bel canto,
(e) chorus and ballet, and
(f) a new heavier type of dramatic tenor as the featured hero.

Two of his most famous operas concern European religious minorities, here the Anabaptists.  They are at war with the main population.  We in America have had a great political civil war, but until the recent events have never experienced religious wars.  Many may dislike people from other religions, but the phenomenon of taking up arms against them has not happened.  We love our religious freedom.

You have to enjoy John Osborn to like this performance.   There is a lovely duet between Aldrich and Fomina.  Two hours in we have kitschy almost naked ladies.  People are singing in Latin.  There is a huge role in this opera for mezzo, Fidès, originally sung by Pauline Viardot.  I like Kate Aldrich but imagine Viardot must have been heavier.  I think this whole scene is supposed to be in a church.

Jean makes a big entrance in a crown and white robe.  He says he's the son of god and Fidès calls out "my son."  He says "who is this woman?" Someone says she blasphemes.  Women surround her.  She sees that things will go bad for him if he admits she's her son.  He's supposed to be god's son.  So then the coronation goes on.

This music is interesting and often quite beautiful.  It follows in the footsteps of Gluck who was very influential in France.  There is no discernible recitative, but there are arias.  The orchestration is like Berlioz to my ears.  For my ears it's more musically sophisticated than bel canto.  There is only occasional ornamentation with nothing like the extended coloratura found in the bel canto operas of the era.  However, at the beginning of Act V there is an enormous, florid aria for Fidès.  Viardot may have insisted.  The music is pleasing, but the plots are outside our knowledge.  It is not, I think, a coincidence that I have only seen L'Africaine which is about Vasco da Gama, someone we learned about in school.  I predict Le Prophete will never be popular here.

The biggest problem with this performance is that the voices need to be heavier.  Here toward the end is an incredible trio.  All in all I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Kaufmann's Four Last Songs

Look what I found. Our boy sings the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss.  It was posted today and sung on Monday.  I am posting before listening.  The balance with the piano is bad.  Click on the word YouTube in the picture to navigate to that application.