Friday, April 03, 2020

Don Carlo

Conductor-Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Production-Nicholas Hytner

Don Carlo-Roberto Alagna
Elizabeth of Valois-Marina Poplavskaya
Princess Eboli-Anna Smirnova
Rodrigo-Simon Keenlyside
King Philip II-Ferruccio Furlanetto
Grand Inquisitor-Eric Halfvarson

The Metropolitan Opera is treating us in our hibernation to some streams of marvelous past performances.  It is interesting to see these films again.  I am having very different reactions, Don Carlo being no exception.  I feel no inclination to compare Marina Poplavskaya to anyone.  She had a brief but glorious career.  She crossed my path only between 2009 and 2011. I enjoy her today very much.  I think she became a real estate agent in Manhattan.

The peak of Ferruccio Furlanetto's career is the great scene here where he laments that his wife does not love him.  It is a great opera with a great cast.  They are mostly giving us traditional productions.

Smirnova isn't that interesting in the role of Eboli, but she gives a barn-burning "O don fatale."  Each character has a wonderful scene.

This is the era of the Inquisition, and Spain was at its center.  They ruled over a protestant land and killed many people.  As political operas go, this one is at the top of the heap, with glorious music, great characters, and here a beautiful performance.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Conductor...............Maurizio Benini
Production..............Bartlett Sher 

Figaro..................Peter Mattei
Rosina..................Joyce DiDonato
Count Almaviva....Juan Diego Flórez
Dr. Bartolo.............John Del Carlo
Don Basilio.............John Relyea

The Met is streaming Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia that originally played in 2007 while I was driving across the country.  I don't seem to have had much enthusiasm for it, but seeing it now I like it a lot.  This is such a marvelous cast.  Every one is among the best in their class.  At this point in my life Mattei may be my favorite Figaro.  He plays the role with great vigor.  There is a strange, ghost-like man who wanders the stage.  The main trio are young and lively, great singers, actors, musicians.

This opera was originally called Almaviva and ended with the big aria usually heard as the finale to La Cenerantola, here sung by the tenor.  Later Rossini removed it from this opera and assigned it to Angiolina, a coloratura mezzo.  In modern times it is only rarely heard in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and only when a company wishes to particularly honor a tenor.  Juan Diego's performance is excellent.

I find this is highly recommended.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Otto Schenk

Hans Sachs..............Michael Volle
Eva.....................Annette Dasch
Walther von Stolzing....Johan Botha
Magdalene...............Karen Cargill
David...................Paul Appleby
Beckmesser..............Johannes Martin Kränzle
Pogner..................Hans-Peter König

When the Metropolitan Opera presented Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in December of 2014, I must have been in Ohio for Christmas.  The Met is streaming it today, and I realize this is my first time seeing it.  The Sachs was supposed to be Bryn Terfel, I think.  I generally love this opera, but I'm afraid this version is not working for me.  Paul Appleby's David is excellent, but so far he's my favorite.

[I haven't been feeling well.]

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Terrence McNally (November 3, 1938 – March 24, 2020)

American playwright Terrence McNally died today from the corona virus.  In the opera world he is best known as the librettist for three operas by Jake Heggie:  Dead Man Walking (2000), Three Decembers (2008), and Great Scott (2015).  Of these I have seen only Dead Man Walking.  I was also present at the world premier in San Francisco before I started blogging. 

He was most famous for plays and musicals and in 2019 won a lifetime achievement Tony.  Of all his works I have also seen Master Class in New York, a play about Maria Callas.  He loved the arts.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Anna Netrebko's Lucia

The Met streamed Lucia di Lammermoor starring Anna Netrebko.  It was better than I remembered it.  I especially like the production with the ghost.  Here's my original review.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane

 Marc Albrecht | Conductor
 Christof Loy | Stage director 

Sara Jakubiak | Heliane
Josef Wagner | The Ruler, her husband
Brian Jagde | The Stranger
Okka Von der Damerau | The Messenger
Derek Welton | The Doorman
Burkhard Ulrich | The Blind Judge
Gideon Poppe | The Young Man

From Deutsche Oper Berlin on we have Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, 1927.  I am watching it because Lotte Lehmann said Heliane was her favorite role.  It is the outer extreme of post Romanticism.

In Act I there are three characters:  The Stranger, the Ruler and his wife Heliane.  She is the only one with an actual name.  The Ruler is pissed because his wife doesn't love him.  So he kills anyone who seems happy, including The Stranger who wanders into town and cheers people up.  While he is in jail awaiting his execution, Heliane comes in to comfort him.  She announces herself as the Queen.  This is one of the wildest scenes in opera.  At The Stranger's request she first takes down her hair, then takes off her shoes, and finally takes off everything else.  Is this part of comforting?  So did Lotte like the nudity?  Husband comes back and things go from bad to worse.  The music is very intense.

In Act II Heliane is tried for being unfaithful to her husband.  The blind Judge enters, and both The Ruler and Heliane call him Father.  He speaks to Heliane as though she were a child, so I presume that he is her father.  She testifies in a long amazing aria "Ich ging zu ihm."

The Stranger comes into the courtroom and asks to be left alone for a moment with Heliane.  The King and the Judge allow this.  Our Stranger is very persuasive and gets Heliane to kiss him "for the first and last time."  She does, and he stabs himself and dies.

The chorus enters complaining that The Stranger has been taken from them.  She tells her husband she is pure and he decides that if she is pure she will bring The Stranger back to life.  The act ends with her swearing that she will.

The ending in Act III is complex.  The Stranger rises from the dead, but this only enrages the King who stabs his wife.  You should know it has a happy ending.  What is one to make of such a thing?  They played it very low key, but the music is large and soaring.  I'm glad I took the time to see it.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Corona Crisis

Sadly, one cannot help wondering about the possible devastation to our art form as a result of all the cancellations.  We must come back with love.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Pie Jesu

A piece I love by the artist I have always loved most. She has hidden herself in this music.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020


Apparently if you had a "what the hell was that" reaction to Agrippina, that is exactly what was desired.

We had a preview of Kate Lindsey's athleticism in San Francisco in 2015 when she played Cherubino in Nozze di Figaro and turned cartwheels on stage.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Agrippina in HD

Conductor...............Harry Bicket
Production..............David McVicar

Agrippina.............Joyce DiDonato
Nerone, her son.........Kate Lindsey
Claudio, her husband the emperor.....Matthew Rose 
Poppea, her rival..........Brenda Rae
Ottone..................Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
Narciso.................Nicholas Tamagna (countertenor)
Pallante................Duncan Rock
Deborah Voigt announced that Handel's Agrippina, 1709, was the oldest opera ever presented at the Met.  As I mentioned after the last time I saw it, it was composed for Venice early in the era of Neapolitan opera.  That means lots and lots of da capo arias and a happy ending.  What is more Venice than Naples is the mixing of comic and serious elements.  The Venetians weren't fussy about that stuff.

This is the most I have enjoyed a Baroque opera maybe ever.  This is regie, of course.  The clothes are modern with lots of WWII military uniforms.  There is a bar scene where all the characters seem to meet by accident.  Maybe it's on the frequently mentioned Campidoglio. When Rome conquers England, they return with Elizabeth II's crown.  One of the scenes showed the ceiling of the Pantheon which brought some character to the mostly abstract sets.

What makes this a great opera is the well designed plot.  No matter how difficult the complexities are for our heroine, she conquers them all.

I was going to say there is no hit tune until Nerone sang "Come nembo" while snorting cocaine.  This is known because Bartoli recorded it.  The most unusual thing about this production is the staging of the character Nerone.  I think we are to presume that he is a very athletic, well-tattooed juvenile delinquent.  He loves his mother and acts up continuously.  Kate Lindsey said she had to train for this role.  We believe her.  Her rendition of "Come nembo" was excellent.

The music was always excellent, but no one topped the magnificent Joyce DiDonato who created a wonderful, perfectly believable evil character and topped it with gorgeous singing.