Monday, July 27, 2015

As One

Music Director/Conductor Bryan Nies

Hannah Before: Dan Kempson
Hannah After: Brenda Patterson

Sunday's West Edge Opera presentation was As One by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed.  This opera premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in September 2014 so this was the premiere.

This is an opera for today.  I mean literally today.  I think possibly they decided to present it before it became so very timely.  It is about one person's transgender identity and retraces a life from about 12 years old.

It is theatrically very creative.  A single individual is presented as two characters--one male and one female.  When the story begins, primarily the male personality sings.  They alternate, and in the end only the female is featured.  Both stay present on the stage throughout.  I might have preferred more duets.

Nothing specific is ever said.  No names and generally no place names either.  We move with them to what sounds like the Bay Area after high school, until an almost violent incident occurs.  "What are you?" is asked.

This is followed by moving to an isolated area in Norway for intense introspection and meditation combined with searching for the northern lights.  There is much anguish and much failure to see the storied lights.  Finally a breakthrough occurs, and the northern lights are seen.  "I sent everyone my new name."

It's most like a first person novel.  There are no other singing roles, but situations are created with silent actors.  A group of girls laugh.

I didn't know how I would react to this, but in the end I felt it worked well theatrically, especially considering what a difficult subject it is.  The room was very hot.  The text was clipped and choppy with little help from the music in achieving any lyricism.

Lulu from West Edge

Dr. Schoen & Lulu

Music Director and Conductor: Jonathan Khuner
Stage Director: Elkhanah Pulitzer

Lulu: Emma McNairy
Dr. Schoen: Philip Skinner
Alwa: Alex Boyer
Countess Geschwitz: Buffy Baggott
Wardrobe Assistant/Schoolboy/Groom: Erin Neff
Schigolch: Bojan Knezovic
The Athlete: Zachary Altman
Painter/Journalist/African: Michael Jankosky
Prince/Servant/Marquis: Joseph Meyers
Jack:   Philip Skinner

Saturday night was the opening of Berg's Lulu from the West Edge Opera.  It was presented in the abandoned train station near the tracks in Oakland. 

It could be said that I have been in search of Lulu (see Barbara Hannigan review, see Christine Schaefer review).  Perhaps Lulu is woman, at least woman from a man's perspective.  Occasionally different productions play out the story a bit differently.  In Barbara Hannigan's Lulu I clearly thought that Dr. Schoen wanted Lulu to shoot him, but clearly in this version he wants her to shoot herself so he will not have to go to prison for her death.  She shoots him instead.

West Edge can be very proud of this Lulu.  They held back nothing.  The sexual intensity up to the time Lulu is arrested for murdering Dr. Schoen is spectacular.  Emma McNairy is a brave and talented young woman.  Philip Skinner has a Bay Area following.

Lulu has so many costume changes that she is assigned a dresser who follows her about the stage.  The dialog never refers to her. 

It was extremely well done, but nevertheless with some problems.  The severely reduced orchestra seemed to work well in the parts of the score that are entirely by Berg, but seemed fairly uninteresting in the last two scenes which were orchestrated entirely by Friedrich Cerha. 

The traffic was terrible so we had a rough time getting there and back.  I will have to make more preparations next week.

Lulu is growing on me.  I am gradually coming to the feeling that it is a 20th century masterpiece.  Forgive me if I am slow in arriving at this opinion.

Don't miss this.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Net worth of Netrebko

Here is an article from about Anna Netrebko.

Famous Russian operatic singer Anna Netrebko a really high-earning career. Her salary per show is about €15,000 ($16,000). Netrebko has a total net worth of approximately $6 million as of 2015. Enough to buy herself a luxurious apartments in New York, Vienna, and Saint Petersburg. That’s what we call an interesting real estate portfolio!

Anna started her career in opera in early 1990’s. Today, she belongs to richest and most popular singer of this genre in the world. She studied at Saint Petersburg conservatoire. Her rich repertory includes for example Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Desdemona in Otello, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, and Violetta in La Traviata.

Netrebko dated bass-baritone Erwin Schrott for a while and in 2008 they announced their marriage. However, it never happened. They separated in 2013. Erwin and Anna have one son named Tiago. As of 2015, Netrebko is dating tenor Yusif Eyvazov. The met in 2014 in Rome, Italy when working on Manon Lescaut. In 2015, Anna announced that they are planning to marry soon in Vienna. We hope that everything will go as planned this time.

As a famous opera star with high net worth, Netrebko can afford expensive real estate. But she’s not into large mansions. Anna prefers luxurious apartments in the downtowns of large cities. She already bought an apartment in Vienna for $2.5 million and another one in St. Petersburg. That’s only logical since she has dual citizenship, Austria and Russina. Recently, Netrebko also bought a posh apartment in New York City. She invested $100,000 into it’s renovation and decoration.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I just caught on Joyce DiDonato with Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.  They performed the Berlioz Les Nuit d'ete.   There was a sense of personal originality in Joyce's interpretation that I liked very much.  Vous le vous allez au pay des amours?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


This film is sort of an introduction to sexual harassment, although she is also leading him on.

From Universal Music:

Cecilia Bartoli, an exclusive Decca Classics artist, is Universal Music’s best-selling core classical artist with sales to date in excess of 10 million units. Having spent more than 100 weeks in total in the international pop charts, she has also won numerous classical awards including five Grammys (U.S.), ten ECHO Awards, one Bambi (Germany), six Gramophone Awards, two Classical Brit Awards (UK) and a Victoire de la Musique (France).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bluebeard's Castle in HD

Nadja Michael and Mikhail Petrenko

I have finally seen the Bartok Bluebeard's Castle that was paired with Iolanta live from the Met on Valentine's Day.  I didn't feel they made a good pairing and felt I might enjoy Bluebeard by itself.  This seems to have been wise.  This is my fourth time with this opera since I started blogging (see here, here and here).

This isn't an opera in the traditional sense.  The plot is a grown-up fairy tale about a woman who marries a man with a reputation in the neighborhood.  The story that is passed around is that he marries and then takes each wife inside his large, dark castle and murders her.  It can be played one of two ways:  Judith is insatiably curious and can think of no other way to get inside the castle than to marry Bluebeard.  Or she is actually in love with him and wishes to triumph over gossip.  I've seen it both ways.  Here I think we have the second perspective.

Structurally its operatic component exists to provide a program for a wonderful and deeply mysterious tone poem.  The characters speak in short sentences.  The desire to illustrate the meager plot with beautiful, mysterious or even disturbing illustrations is irresistible.

A few things made this particular production by Polish director Mariusz Trelinski unusual.  The singers are genuinely featured instead of being dwarfed by the pictures.  The focus is generally on the amazing performance of Nadja Michael as Judith.  It is virtually a ballet.  Or perhaps something choreographed by Martha Graham.   Mikhail Petrenko's Bluebeard is also outstanding.

Usually the opening of the doors is emphasized.  We see an actual door and a picture opens up.  But here there was no suggestion of actual doors, just atmospheric sets and pictures.

Live women hovered in the background, more than the expected 3, giving the impression that Judith lives on in this mysterious place where it will now be for her a kind of eternal night.

Bluebeard is not reality.  Any production will not provide you with a reasonable narrative story.  One needs to relax and enjoy it.  This version brings together a number of superior elements --  great singing, great conducting and a visually fascinating production.

Conductor Valery Gergiev was just right.

Opera Overload

Help.  I just can't do it all. Things that went on this weekend:

  1. Carmen streamed from Orange with Jonas Kaufmann.  I might still be able to watch this in delay on

  2. Arabella with Anja Harteros streamed from Munich.  The streams from Munich are a one time shot, so I watched it.  It was the best choice in my opinion.  Harteros brought her fully into modern life IMHO.

  3. Alcina with Philippe Jaroussky was supposed to stream on the Opera Platform but came up :(.  They apologized but is that enough?  I might be able to find an alternate source for this.

  4. PBS ran the Iolanta/Bluebeard in the middle of the night.  I DVRd it and watched Iolanta again.  I need to see Bluebeard's Castle for the first time and must set aside a time for it.

Occasionally I should get up and go outside.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Jon Vickers (October 29, 1926 – July 10, 2015)

In 2006 I wrote this about Jon Vickers:

"One is supposed to adore Nilsson, the incomparable Wagnerian soprano, the incomparable Isolde, and she is all that, but it is Jan Vickers that most impresses here. This is a Tristan to die for. He has the knife edge of the Heldentenor to its Nth degree, but he also has soul, a tragic beauty of phrasing that is simply not to be missed."

Here are the best bits:

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Conductor Philippe Jordan
Production Andreas Dresen

Graf Waldner Kurt Rydl
Adelaide Doris Soffel
Arabella Anja Harteros
Zdenka Hanna-Elisabeth Müller
Mandryka Thomas J. Mayer
Matteo Joseph Kaiser

I'm not sure Strauss' Arabella, streamed live today from the Bayerische Staatsoper, is a great opera.  I'm not sure it matters.  The plot is a bit dicey.  Broke family has two daughters.  To prevent the expense of marrying two daughters, the younger daughter pretends to be a boy.  Complications ensue.

I am truly astounded by the contrast between the Arabella of Renée Fleming, reviewed here, and the Arabella of Anja Harteros.  With Renée it's all in the details, and it can be awkward when the other singers don't follow her lead.

With Harteros it's all in the big picture.  She is in the midst of her colleagues and is always stylistically with them.  It is the sheer scope of her musical vision that separates her from the crowd.  The emotions are large, extending out into the universe.  In general this was Strauss as Wagner.  Big tone.  Excessively big in my opinion.  They brag about how many microphones they have, so balance the orchestra a bit smaller, please.

Thomas J. Mayer was pleasingly rough without becoming violent.  His voice is showing some wear.  The one I would worry about is Zdenka.  Matteo could go postal.

Europeans are accustomed to architectural stage settings by now.  Giant staircases are a common theme.  For me the ending with the giant staircase completely worked.  Arabella and Mandryka in this vision are a bomb waiting to explode.  I'm not sure Mandryka deserves her, but she will bring him an exciting life.  She walks slowly down the long staircase holding her drink and then throws it in his face.  I enjoy Harteros for the power of her phrasing and the power of her acting.

The best opera makes you care about the characters.  Their lives become your life.  There are many paths leading to this conclusion.  For me this was one.

Sempre Libera

No offense, Natalie.  Viva Lisette.