Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Metropolitan Opera in HD for 2019-2020

Turandot by Puccini (October 12),  We open our season with Christine Goerke.  This should be fantastic.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Franco Zeffirelli
  • Turandot Christine Goerke
  • Liù Eleonora Buratto
  • Calàf Roberto Aronica
  • Timur James Morris 
Manon by Massenet (October 26),  I would want this for Lisette and Michael.
  • Conductor Maurizio Benini 
  • Production Laurent Pelly
  • Manon Lisette Oropesa 
  • Chevalier des Grieux Michael Fabiano 
  • Guillot de Morfontaine Carlo Bosi 
  • Lescaut Artur Ruciński 

Madama Butterfly by Puccini (November 9), This is the opera I always skip.
  • Conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi 
  • Production Anthony Minghella
   Cast we get
  • Cio-Cio-San Hui He  She will look the part
  • Suzuki Elizabeth DeShong 
  • Pinkerton Andrea Carè  
  • Sharpless Plácido Domingo
   Cast we don't get:  I like both of these performers very much.
  • Cio-Cio-San Ana María Martínez
  • Sharpless Paulo Szot

Akhnaten by Glass (November 23), I've wanted to see this for quite a while.
  • Conductor Karen Kamensek 
  • Production Phelim McDermott--New
  • Queen Tye Dísella Lárusdóttir 
  • Nefertiti J'Nai Bridges 
  • Akhnaten Anthony Roth Costanzo 
  • High Priest of Amon Aaron Blake 
  • Horemhab Will Liverman 
  • Aye Richard Bernstein 
  • Amenhotep, the Scribe Zachary James  

Wozzeck by Berg (January 11),  Peter Mattei is something to look forward to.  The production comes to the Met from Salzburg where I saw the stream last summer.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production William Kentridge--New
  • Marie Elza van den Heever
  • Margaret Tamara Mumford 
  • The Drum Major Christopher Ventris 
  • The Captain Gerhard Siegel 
  • Andres Andrew Staples 
  • Wozzeck Peter Mattei 
  • The Doctor Christian Van Horn 

Porgy and Bess by Gershwin (February 1),  There are a lot of great singers in this cast.
  • Conductor David Robertson
  • Production James Robinson--New
  • Bess Angel Blue 
  • Clara Golda Schultz 
  • Serena Latonia Moore 
  • Maria Denyce Graves
  • Sportin' Life Frederick Ballentine
  • Porgy Eric Owens
  • Crown Alfred Walker 

Agrippina by Handel (February 29), At last we will get to hear Joyce DiDonato sing a significant Baroque role.
  • Conductor Harry Bicket 
  • Production Sir David McVicar--New
  • Agrippina Joyce DiDonato 
  • Poppea Brenda Rae 
  • Nerone Kate Lindsey 
  • Ottone Iestyn Davies 
  • Claudio Matthew Rose

Der Fliegende Holländer by Wagner (March 14), This is a distinguished cast.  I think this is new to HD.
  • Conductor Valery Gergiev 
  • Production François Girard--New
  • Senta Anja Kampe
  • Mary Mihoko Fujimura 
  • Erik Sergey Skorokhodov 
  • Steuermann David Portillo 
  • Holländer Sir Bryn Terfel 
  • Daland Franz-Josef Selig

Tosca by Puccini (April 11),  This is for Netrebko, of course.
  • Conductor Bertrand de Billy 
  • Production Sir David McVicar
  • Tosca Anna Netrebko
  • Cavaradossi Brian Jagde
  • Scarpia Michael Volle 

Maria Stuarda by Donizetti (May 9)  This is the third David McVicar production in this list.
  • Conductor Maurizio Benini 
  • Production Sir David McVicar
  • Maria Stuarda Diana Damrau
  • Elisabetta Jamie Barton
  • Leicester Stephen Costello
  • Cecil Andrzej Filonczyk
I look forward to new favorites Christine Goerke, Peter Mattei and Lisette Oropesa as well as old favorites Anna Netrebko and Joyce DiDonato.  I've wanted to see Akhnaten for a long time.  It's a rather work-a-day season.

I might have liked to see Tara Erraught in Cenerentola.  Werther with Joyce and Piotr would have been lovely.  Sigh.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sopranos from Platea Magazine

Top row:  Anna Netrebko (m2-HD), Pretty Yende (y3-HD), Anja Harteros (m4)
Middle row:  Lisette Oropesa (y4-HD), Sondra Radvanovsky (m1-HD), Sabine Devielhe (y5)
Bottom row:  Nadine Sierra (y1-HD), Lise Davidsen (y2), Angela Meade (m5-HD)

Platea magazine is in Spanish.  They have subdivided these sopranos into mature and young and ranked them within each category.  Mature 3 is Nina Stemme who is missing from the picture.  I have heard Lise Davidsen only on YouTube and Sabine Devielhe not at all.  You will notice some people are missing, like Diana Damrau and Sonya Yoncheva.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

La Serva Padrona

Ferruccio Soleri | Stage director
Sigiswald Kuijken | Conductor

Donato Di Stefano | Uberto
Patrizia Biccirè | Serpina
Stefano Di Luca | Vespone

I tried to watch this version of Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona, 1733, roughly comtemporary with Handel's Orlando, but it was just people standing around singing with no translations.  The music is charming, but I wanted to know what was going on.

So I turned to this DVD from Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani.

Conductor:  Corrado Rovaris
Stage Director:  Henning Brockhaus

Carlo Lepore | Uberto
Alessandra Marianelli | Serpina
Jean Meningue | Vespone

We are at the beginning of the rococo.  This one staged the opera as though we were at a circus where Uberto was the manager and Serpina one of the acts.  She refuses to get his chocolate and then threatens to marry a nasty military man who will probably beat her.  The third character seems to be a mime.  The music is still charming with the usual mixture of arias and recitatives.  There was a huge war over this in Paris in the days when there was still opera rioting.  It had something to do with Jean Jacque Rousseau.  Serpina tricks Uberto into marrying her, turning la serva into la padrona.  From our perspective it doesn't seem like much to get excited over.

Calefax Reed Quintet

This ensemble, seen last night at CSUS, is a quintet consisting entirely of reed instruments, specifically:

Oliver Boekhoorn, oboe (English horn in at least 2 pieces and soprano recorder)
Ivar Berix, clarinet
Raaf Hekkema, saxophone (alto and soprano?)
Jelte Althuis, bass-clarinet
Alban Wesly, bassoon

They are from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and invented this particular arrangement of instruments.  There's a lot of this going around.  If you call it a Woodwind Quintet, the instruments are flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn.  There is repertoire for this set of instruments.  Calefax create arrangements for themselves and have started to print them.

They played an interesting set of repertoire taken from pieces for organ, piano, orchestra, etc., including a fugue by Cesar Franck and Gershwin's An American in Paris.  I won't pretend to expertise in this area, but I wasn't completely sold on the resulting sonority of their particular instruments.  There is too much overlap in the pitch range and overall sound.  Any standard ensemble has a default expected tone which I did not experience here.

This isn't a criticism of their playing which was excellent.  I'm not sure who composed it, but their encore number was choreographed with each player moving about the stage.  This was fun.  They might consider playing in different formations to see how it affects the sound.  Just saying.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Classical Music Grammy Nominees For 2019 Plus Winners

The Grammys are scheduled for Feb 10, 2019.  I have highlighted the winners.


Best Orchestral Performance

All from the USA.
  • "Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1"
    Manfred Honeck, conductor (Performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
  • "Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 & Symphony No. 4"
    Thomas Dausgaard, conductor (Performed by the Seattle Symphony)
  • "Ruggles, Stucky & Harbison: Orchestral Works"
    David Alan Miller, conductor (Performed by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic)
  • "Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4"
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (Performed by the San Francisco Symphony)
  • Winner:  "Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11"Andris Nelsons, conductor (Performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra

 Best Opera Recording

From many places, many styles.
  • John Adams, "Doctor Atomic"
    John Adams, conductor; Aubrey Allicock, Julia Bullock, Gerald Finley & Brindley Sherratt; Friedemann Engelbrecht, producer (Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Singers)  CD
  • Winner:  Mason Bates, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" Michael Christie, conductor; Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Edwards Parks, Garrett Sorenson & Wei Wu; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (Performed by the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra) CD
  • Lully, "Alceste"
    Christophe Rousset, conductor; Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro & Judith Van Wanroij; Maximilien Ciup, producer (Performed by Les Talens Lyriques; Choeur De Chambre De Namur) CD
  • Strauss, "Der Rosenkavalier"
    Sebastian Weigle, conductor; Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Günther Groissböck & Erin Morley; David Frost, producer (Performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus) DVD
  • Verdi, "Rigoletto"
    Constantine Orbelian, conductor; Francesco Demuro, Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Nadine Sierra; Vilius Keras & Aleksandra Keriene, producers (Performed by the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra; the Men of the Kaunas State Choir) CD

 Best Choral Performance

  • Chesnokov's "Teach Me Thy Statues"
    Vladimir Gorbik, conductor (Performed by Mikhail Davydov & Vladimir Krasov; PaTRAM Institute Male Choir)
  • Kastalsky's "Memory Eternal"
    Steven Fox, conductor (Performed by the Clarion Choir)
  • Winner:  McLoskey's "Zealot Canticles"
    Donald Nally, conductor (Performed by Doris Hall-Gulati, Rebecca Harris, Arlen Hlusko, Lorenzo Raval & Mandy Wolman; The Crossing)
  • Rachmaninov's "The Bells"
    Mariss Jansons, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master (Performed by Oleg Dolgov, Alexey Markov & Tatiana Pavlovskaya; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks)
  • "Seven Words From the Cross"
    Matthew Guard, conductor (Performed by Skylark)

 Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

  • Winner:  "Landfall"
    Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet
  • "Beethoven, Shostakovich & Bach"
    The Danish String Quartet
  • "Blueprinting"
    Aizuri Quartet
  • Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring Concerto for Two Pianos"
    Leif Ove Andsnes & Marc-André Hamelin
  • "Visions and Variations"
    A Far Cry

 Best Classical Instrumental Solo

  • Bartok's "Piano Concerto No. 2"
    Yuja Wang; Simon Rattle, conductor (Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker)
  • Biber's "The Mystery Sonatas"
    Christina Day Martinson; Martin Pearlman, conductor (Performed by the Boston Baroque)
  • Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46; Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26"
    Joshua Bell (Performed by the Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields)
  • Glass, "Three Pieces in the Shape of a Square"
    Craig Morris
  • Winner:  Kernis' "Violin Concerto"
    James Ehnes; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Performed by the Seattle Symphony)

 Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

Two of five are countertenors. None of the usual bunch.
  • "ARC"
    Anthony Roth Costanzo; Jonathan Cohen, conductor
  • "The Handel Album"
    Philippe Jaroussky; Artaserse, ensemble
  • "Mirages"
    Sabine Devieilhe; François-Xavier Roth, conductor
  • Schubert, "Winterreise"
    Randall Scarlata; Gilbert Kalish, accompanist
  • Winner:  "Songs of Orpheus — Monteverdi, Caccini, D'India & Landi"
    Karim Sulayman; Jeannette Sorrell, conductor; Apollo's Fire, ensembles

 Best Classical Compendium

  • Winner:  Fuchs, "Piano Concerto 'Spiritualist'; Poems of Life; Glacier; Rush"
    JoAnn Falletta, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
  • "Gold"
    The King's Singers; Nigel Short, producer
  • "The John Adams Edition"
    Simon Rattle, conductor; Christoph Franke, producer
  • "John Williams at the Movies"
    Jerry Junkin, conductor; Donald J. McKinney, producer
  • Williams' "Piano Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Seranade to Music; Flos Campi"
    Peter Oundjian, conductor; Blanton Alspaugh, producer

 Best Contemporary Classical Composition

  • "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs"
    Mason Bates, composer; Mark Campbell, librettist
  • "Air Glow"
    Du Yun, composer
  • "Great Scott"
    Jake Heggie, composer; Terrence McNally, librettist
  • Winner:  "Violin Concerto"
    Aaron Jay Kernis, composer
  • "Vespers for Violin"
    Missy Mazzoli, composer


Best Engineered Album, Classical

  • "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs"
    Mark Donahue & Dirk Sobotka, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Performed by Michael Christie, Garrett Sorenson, Wei Wu, Sasha Cooke, Edwards Parks, Jessica E. Jones & Santa Fe Opera Orchestra)
  • "Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1"
    Mark Donahue, engineer; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Performed by Manfred Honeck & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
  • "John Williams at the Movies"
    Keith O. Johnson & Sean Royce Martin, engineers; Keith O. Johnson, mastering engineer (Performed by Jerry Junkin & Dallas Winds)
  • "Liquid Melancholy — Clarinet Music of James M. Stephenson"
    Bill Maylone & Mary Mazurek, engineers; Bill Maylone, mastering engineer (Performed by John Bruce Yeh)
  • Winner:  "Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4& 11"
    Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Performed by Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)
  • "Visions and Variations"
    Tom Caulfield, engineer; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (Performed by A Far Cry)

Producer Of The Year, Classical

  • Winner:  Blanton Alspaugh
  • David Frost
  • Elizabeth Ostrow
  • Judith Sherman
  • Dirk Sobotka

Here is a post script due to the presence of Renee Fleming.

Best Musical Theater Album:

  • Winner:  “The Band’s Visit” — Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Katrina Lenk & Ari’el
    Stachel, principal soloists; Dean Sharenow & David
    Yazbek, producers; David Yazbek, composer & lyricist
    (Original Broadway Cast)
  • “Carousel” — Renee Fleming, Alexander Gemignani, Joshua Henry,
    Lindsay Mendez & Jessie Mueller, principal soloists;
    Steven Epstein, producer (Richard Rodgers, composer;
    Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist) (2018 Broadway Cast)
  • “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” — Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper, Ben Daniels, Brandon
    Victor Dixon, Erik Grönwall, Jin Ha, John Legend,
    Norm Lewis & Jason Tam, principal soloists; Harvey
    Mason, Jr., producer (Andrew Lloyd-Webber,
    composer; Tim Rice, lyricist) (Original Television Cast)
  • “My Fair Lady” — Lauren Ambrose, Norbert Leo Butz & Harry
    Hadden-Paton, principal soloists; Andre Bishop, Van
    Dean, Hattie K. Jutagir, David Lai, Adam Siegel & Ted
    Sperling, producers (Frederick Loewe, composer; Alan
    Jay Lerner, lyricist) (2018 Broadway Cast)
  • “Once On This Island” — Phillip Boykin, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl
    Darrington, Hailey Kilgore, Kenita R. Miller, Alex
    Newell, Isaac Powell & Lea Salonga, principal soloists;
    Lynn Ahrens, Hunter Arnold, Ken Davenport, Stephen
    Flaherty & Elliot Scheiner, producers (Stephen
    Flaherty, composer; Lynn Ahrens, lyricist) (New
    Broadway Cast)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Arias in Modern Operas

There has been an argument on line about modern operas lacking arias. That was my complaint about It's a Wonderful Life. Here are some arias so you can judge for yourself



Monday, January 28, 2019

Orphée et Eurydice from Chicago

 Orphée, Amour

Harry Bicket Conductor
John Neumeier* Director, Choreographer, Set, Costume & Lighting Designer

Dmitry Korchak, tenor Orphée
Andriana Chuchman, soprano Eurydice
Lauren Snouffer, soprano Amour

PBS has brought us Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice from Lyric Opera of Chicago with the Joffrey Ballet.  It's rather more like a ballet with three singers. If you are annoyed by the presence of ballet in opera, this is not the version for you.  In the French version of 1774 which we are seeing here Orphée is sung by a high tenor, called a haute-contre. Each time you see this opera it's different, apparently.

The outfits should tell you it's regie.  We are at a rehearsal, and Eurydice is late.  When she finally comes in dressed as a dancer, Orphée berates her for wanting to show off her stills, and she slaps his face and goes off in a huff.  Then she dies in an auto crash.  After lamentation, Amour explains the bargain he must make with the gods.  Eurydice will return with him from hell as long as Orphée does not turn and look at her.  He rejoices in a really quite spectacular coloratura aria.

Hell is a ballet with chorus. The entire opera is in a way a solo for the tenor.  I wish I liked him better.  I think I like the production.  It is an excellent idea for the Joffrey.  During a long ballet our tenor is holding a score to the Italian version Orfeo ed Euridice.  About 54 minutes in, after a long ballet, the soprano has her first singing.  She tells us how peaceful it is in hell.  The singers are sometimes choreographed into the dances. 

I feel this opera requires a great star to pull it off.  The music is rather monotonous.  The resurrected Eurydice stays under her veil, and when he tries to remove it, she disappears.

News -- New Maestro for Philharmonia Baroque

British conductor Richard Egarr has been named to succeed Nicholas McGegan as conductor of the Berkeley orchestra Philharmonic Baroque.  Read here about McGegan's retirement, and read here for more information about Egarr.  I hope everyone will be happy with this change.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Sacramento Philharmonic does Beethoven

In Sacramento a Beethoven Festival has been created from a spectacularly disastrous concert in Vienna in 1808 where everything was composed and performed by Beethoven.  It was intended to be a benefit for Beethoven, but everything seems to have gone wrong.  For one thing it was freezing cold inside the venue.  It was Beethoven's final public appearance as a soloist because he was obviously going deaf.  Concerts that lasted 4 hours were not uncommon in Beethoven's time, but we are not so enduring and have divided it into two concerts.  It is important to remember that at this time Berlioz had not yet invented standing in front of an orchestra and waving a stick.  Beethoven would probably have sat at the piano the entire time.

Our series of two concerts are created around conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane.  People who conduct and play as soloists at the same time are regularly seen at the Sacramento Philharmonic.  This works better than you would think. 

First Concert January 19

Piano Concerto No. 4
Kahane, our conductor/pianist, was a definite hit in this piece and handled both his tasks well.  After the concerto, he played an extemporized solo version of "America the Beautiful." 

"Ah, Perfido" concert aria.
Soprano Mary Evelyn Hangley
She was fine in this piece, but I couldn't help thinking her Italian diction could have been better.

Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”
This is a program symphony, which means there is an associated story.  Heiligenstadt, a town up the Danube from Vienna, was a favorite place for Beethoven to compose, and the story is sort of an homage to this place.  The ensemble became a bit ragged toward the end.

Second Concert January 26

Choral Fantasy
Conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane
Soprano:  Liisa Davila, Mezzo Soprano:  Julie Miller, Tenor:  Jonathan Smucker, Bass:  Phil Skinner,
Tenor:  Salvatore Atti, chorus.
The Choral Fantasy is a one of a kind piece.  It starts off like a piano sonata, then is joined by the orchestra for a while.  Just about when you are wondering why there is a chorus on the stage, a group of soloists join the group as a small ensemble.  Finally the chorus also sings to end in an impressive finale.  I can't think of anything like it.  This is a fun piece with nice work for the piano.  It was enjoyably performed.

Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus from Mass in C Major
Soprano:  Liisa Davila, Mezzo Soprano:  Julie Miller, Tenor:  Jonathan Smucker, Bass:  Phil Skinner
This is not the most fascinating mass, but all performed well.

Symphony No. 5
This concert was sold out, a first for the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.  The presence of Beethoven's Fifth undoubtedly provides the explanation.  Believe it or not, it continues on after the famous 4 note theme.  This was the highlight of the concert.  It is an impressive piece, but you didn't need me to tell you that.  Kahane stood on the podium for this.  I enjoyed his work.  He forcefully prevented the audience from applauding between movements.

Performing this two concert series was a kind of musicological experiment in discovering performance practices in Beethoven's time.  The disasters found at Beethoven's original concert were entirely avoided. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

San Francisco Opera Season 2019-2020

The San Francisco Opera has announced its next season.   The first important thing to notice is that there are only 8 operas.

Gounod's Romeo and Juliet

Romeo Bryan Hymel,  Juliet Nadine Sierra.  This pair should be able to generate some heat, the key to a successful Romeo and Juliet.I notice they are not singing in our performance, so we will have to change.
1 September 6–October 1, 2019

Britten's Billy Budd

Captain Vere William Burden, Billy Budd John Chest *, John Claggart Christian Van Horn, Mr. Redburn Philip Horst, Mr. Flint Wayne Tigges with staging by Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage.
September 7–September 22, 2019

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

Figaro Michael Sumuel, Susanna Jeanine De Bique *, Count Almaviva Levente Molnár *, Countess Almaviva Jennifer Davis *, Cherubino Serena Malfi *.  I am not familiar with these singers.  This is part of a multi-season trilogy of all three Mozart/da Ponte operas with a narrative linking their stories
October 11–November 1, 2019

Puccini's Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut Lianna Haroutounian [Nedda this season], Chevalier des Grieux Brian Jagde [Mario Cavaradossi this season], conducted by Nicola Luisotti
November 8–26, 2019

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel

Hansel Sasha Cooke [Orlando this season], Gretel Heidi Stober [Zdenka this season], The Witch Robert Brubaker
November 15–December 7, 2019

Verdi's Ernani

Ernani Russell Thomas, Elvira Michelle Bradley *, Don Carlo Simone Piazzola *, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva Christian Van Horn
June 7–July 2, 2020

Handel's Partenope

Partenope Louise Alder *, Rosmira Daniela Mack, Arsace Franco Fagioli *, Armindo Jakub Józef Orliński *, Emilio Alek Shrader, Ormonte Hadleigh Adams.  This is a repeat from 5 years ago with some of the same cast.  Our Arsace this time will be the fabulous countertenor Franco Fagioli.
June 12–June 27, 2020

Mason Bates' The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Edward Parks *, Laurene Powell Jobs Sasha Cooke, Steve Wozniak Garrett Sorenson, Kōbun Chino Otogawa Wei Wu *.  This is co-produced with the Santa Fe Opera where it has already played.  Our cast is the same.  Quote from Wikipedia:  "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs was the most popular new opera in Santa Fe Opera’s history and one of the top-selling operas in the company's history."
June 16–July 3, 2020