Thursday, December 08, 2016

Hvorostovsky withdraws from Opera

From Dmitri:

To all my friends, fans and colleagues:
It is with great sadness that I must withdraw from opera performances for the foreseeable future.
I have been experiencing balance issues associated with my illness, making it extremely difficult for me to perform in staged productions.

I will continue to give concerts and recitals as well as make recordings. Singing is my life, and I want to continue bringing joy to people worldwide. With this pause in my operatic career and more rest in between each engagement, I hope to have more time to focus on my health and treatment. Thank you for all your love, messages and well wishes. Your support is felt and means the world to me.

With love,

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Another Elektra with Janis Martin

Oper Köln 24-November-1985
Conductor - Gerd Albrecht

Janis Martin
Kathryn Montgomery-Meissner
Helga Dernesch
Hermann Winkler
Harald Stamm

Janis is convincingly a soprano here--perhaps the first time I have thought so.  

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Classical Grammy Nominations 2017

There's some interesting stuff on here. Maybe I should buy something.

Best Engineered Album, Classical  (An Engineer's Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.))

  • Corigliano: The Ghosts Of Versailles-- Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette, Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra)  [Pentatone Music]
  • Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L'Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement--Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony)  [Seattle Symphony Media]
  • Reflections--Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene)  [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
  • Shadow Of Sirius--Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin &; The University Of Texas Wind Ensemble)  [Naxos]
  • Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9--Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)  [Deutsche Grammophon]

Best Orchestral Performance(Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.)

  • Bates: Works For Orchestra--Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)  [SFS Media]
  • Ibert: Orchestral Works--Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande) Chandos]
  • Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100--Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) [RCO]
  • Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero's Rooms--Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)  [Dacapo Records]
  • Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9--Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)  [Deutsche Grammophon]

Best Opera Recording (Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists.)

  • Corigliano: The Ghosts Of Versailles--James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus) [Pentatone Music]
  • Handel: Giulio Cesare--Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico)[Decca]
  • Higdon: Cold Mountain--Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program For Singers)  [Pentatone Music]
  • Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro--Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra Of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt) [Deutsche Grammophon]
  • Szymanowski: Król Roger--Antonio Pappano, conductor; Georgia Jarman, Mariusz Kwiecień & Saimir Pirgu; Jonathan Allen, producer (Orchestra Of The Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus)  [Opus Arte]

Best Choral Performance  (Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.)

  • Himmelrand--Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
  • Janáček: Glagolitic Mass--Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir Of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor) [Chandos]
  • Lloyd: Bonhoeffer--Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; The Crossing) [Albany Records]
  • Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1--Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir)  [Warner Classics]
  • Steinberg: Passion Week--Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)  [Naxos]

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance (For new recordings of works with chamber or small ensemble (twenty-four or fewer members, not including the conductor). One Award to the ensemble and one Award to the conductor, if applicable.)

  • Fitelberg: Chamber Works--ARC Ensemble  [Chandos]
  • Reflections--Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene  [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
  •  Serious Business--Spektral Quartet  [Sono Luminus]
  • Steve Reich--Third Coast Percussion  [Cedille Records]
  • Trios From Our Homelands--Lincoln Trio  [Cedille Records]

Best Classical Instrumental Solo (Award to the Instrumental Soloist(s) and to the Conductor when applicable.)

  • Adams, J.: Scheherazade.2--Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)   [Nonesuch]
  • Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway--Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony) Track from: Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle  [Naxos]
  • Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy--Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)  [Ondine]
  • Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9--Kristian Bezuidenhout  [Harmonia Mundi]
  • 1930's Violin Concertos, Vol. 2--Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra)  [Canary Classics]

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album (Award to: Vocalist(s), Collaborative Artist(s) (Ex: pianists, conductors, chamber groups) Producer(s), Recording Engineers/Mixers with 51% or more playing time of new material.)

  • Monteverdi:  Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel)  [Archiv Produktion]
  • Mozart: The Weber Sisters: Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion)  [Erato]
  • Schumann & Berg: Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist  [Decca]
  • Shakespeare Songs: Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker)  [Warner Classics]
  • Verismo: Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia)  [Deutsche Grammophon]

Best Classical Compendium (Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s) and Engineer(s) of over 51% playing time of the album, if other than the artist.)

  • Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle: Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer  [Naxos]
  • Gesualdo: Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer [ECM New Series]
  • Vaughan Williams: Discoveries: Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer  [Albion Records]
  • Wolfgang: Passing Through: Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists)  [Albany Records]
  • Zappa: 200 Motels - The Suites: Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers [Universal Music]

Best Contemporary Classical Composition(A Composer's Award. (For a contemporary classical composition composed within the last 25 years, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year.) Award to the librettist, if applicable.)

  • Bates: Anthology Of Fantastic Zoology--Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) [CSO Resound]
  • Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway--Michael Daugherty, composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony): Track from: Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle [Naxos]
  • Higdon: Cold Mountain--Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & The Santa Fe Opera) [Pentatone Music]
  • Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto--Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia): Track from: Bassoon Concertos - Theofanidis, Hummel, Mozart [Estonian Record Productions]
  • Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky--C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) Track from: Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky [VBI Classic Recordings]

Producer Of The Year, Classical (A Producer's Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.))

  • Blanton Alspaugh 
  • David Frost 
  • Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin 
  • Judith Sherman 
  • Robina G. Young

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Production: Harry Kupfer

Boris Timofeyevich Izmailov, a Merchant: Anatoli Kotscherga
Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov, his son: Sergey Skorokhodov
Katerina Lvovna Izmailova, wife of Zinoviy Borisovich: Anja Kampe 
Sergei, a workman employed at the Izmailovs: Misha Didyk
Aksinya, a workwoman employed at the Izmailovs: Heike Grötzinger
Sonyetka, a convict: Anna Lapkovskaja

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Dmitri Shostakovich streamed today from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  I have seen this opera twice before, both times at the San Francisco Opera.  This is different somehow.  Kampe is marvelous, but the most applause goes to Petrenko.

This is an opera about a bored housewife.  It begins with her complaining that everyone else has something to do while she just sits around.  The sets are all dark and metallic.  Her room is in the middle of the factory, an incongruity that nevertheless clarifies the action in the first two acts.  She acquires a lover in the person of Sergei, a ladies man.  Their relationship is discovered first by Boris whom Katerina poisons.  Then Zinoviy returns early from his trip and finds Sergei's pants.  He whips Katerina with Sergei's belt and is in turn strangled with this same belt.  There was sex which could have been sexier.

In Act III Katerina and Sergei marry, but soon the body of Zinoviy is discovered and they are sent off to Siberia.  The clothing looks authentically twentieth century Russian without being either colorful or interesting.

The final set looks like a ship with an unnecessary gang plank at the rear.  Sergei has a new lover, Sonyetka, and is trying to get rid of Katerina.  Instead Katerina shoves her off the gang plank, slips and falls in after her.  This was portrayed with great clarity, something I'm always looking for.

The singing was spectacular.  The ensemble of the Bayerische Staatsoper is very impressive.  One should not expect to see a better version.  Our announcer, who I believe is Intendant Nikolaus Bachler, lumped this opera together with Wozzeck and Peter Grimes as the three great tragedies of twentieth century opera.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Music on Air France

Ravel Le tombeau de Couperin
Dutilleux L'arbre des songes *
Delage Four Hindu Poems
Dutilleux Métaboles
Ravel Daphnis and Chloe – Suite No 2

Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Leonidas Kavakos violin *
Julia Bullock soprano
London Symphony Orchestra

While browsing through the airplane entertainment, I found this wonderful concert from last January with exciting music of a certain period.  Every piece displayed colorful orchestration. 

I also found a film of Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov from their Asian tour last March.  They performed first Verdi, from Trovatore, and verismo, ending the official concert with "Vicino a te" from Andrea Chenier.  This last was quite thrilling and suggested that they might try this opera together.  I may change my choice to this one.

Anna's move towards late romantic repertoire makes possible this pairing with her husband.  This concert makes a good case for his place beside her.  He tears up a bit here at the end of  "Vicino a te".

Friday, December 02, 2016

Cavalleria Rusticana in Paris

Cavalleria Rusticana 

Conductor for both: Carlo Rizzi
Director for both: Mario Martone

Santuzza: Elīna Garanča
Turiddu: Yonghoon Lee
Lucia: Elena Zaremba
Alfio: Vitaliy Bilyy
Lola: Antoinette Dennefeld

Sancta Susanna 

Susanna: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Klementia: Renée Morloc
Alte Nonne: Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo

On November 28 we attended Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana paired with Sancta Susanna by Paul Hindemith at the Paris Opera.  This double bill was performed without intermission.  Curious, we said to ourselves.  Why would they do that?  And who ever heard of Sancta Susanna?  Well, it turns out that this opera premiered in 1922 in Frankfurt and was a terrific scandal.  I think the modern day European is much harder to scandalize.

The production for Cavalleria Rusticana reminded me of the Cavalleria Rusticana production at the Met. Just furniture and no set.  Normally the Easter mass is celebrated inside a church which appears in the set and Santuzza stands outside.  Here there is no set, so the mass is celebrated on the stage in our view.  My experience of the mass shows the crowd much more active than here.  People stand and sit, occasionally speak, and move to the front to receive the wafer, but here they only mime, of course.  The characters are in front.  I think it was staged this way to emphasize the importance of religious imagery in the story.  The large crucifix becomes a character.

Though I have written extensively about Elīna Garanča, this is my first live experience of her.  In this house her voice was large, full and very suitable for a wonderful Santuzza.  I withdraw all previous reservations about her transition to spinto mezzo.  The singing was spectacular, but the production very much muted the physical parts of her characterization.  Yonghoon Lee is improving.  He looks good and sounds dramatic.

After a brief pause, the curtain rose on the physical parts of the set.  Sancta Susanna was presented as a small chamber surrounded by a giant blank wall.  We had visited the death chamber of Vincent van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise the day before and thought Susanna's chamber very much resembled it.  Susanna is a nun dressed in white.  Other nuns appear dressed in black and white.

I was explaining to my son that this is expressionism, an art style that consists of realistic details without context.  Then I thought, "oh."  Thus the giant blank wall.  

We are told that Susanna is dying.  The window in her chamber is open, and she intensely enjoys the scents.  Sister Klementia begins a cautionary tale about a woman seen naked in the woods some 30 or 40 years ago.  A space below the chamber opens up, and we see a nude woman and a crucifix much like the one in the previous opera.  Susanna suddenly rips off her habit, revealing her I must say rather gorgeous breasts and declares herself to still be beautiful.  She runs out and throws herself onto the reclining crucifix.  There is much lamenting and confusion.  This is sort of a wtf opera.

Clearly only the beautiful Anna Caterina Antonacci could be expected to pull this off.  Her acting is superb here but the role is a bit contralto for her voice.  As you know, I do not read explanations of what this is supposed to mean before going, but it does seem to me the pairing of these two operas is intended as a religious commentary.  Santuzza tells us that she has been excommunicated but without explanation.

Symbols can be more powerful than reality, and clearly that is the intention here.  It was only partially successful.  It was oddly pleasing to hear Hindemith who is of course nothing like Mascagni but not in any way shocking to modern ears.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Darling Corie

A one act opera called Darling Corie by Elie Siegmeister played at Sacramento State last night.  In the middle of the twentieth century there were several American composers who affected an "American" musical style, and this one is definitely in that camp.  There's also a traditional song called "Darling Cory." The arias sound like folk songs.

We are in small town America where darling Corie has come of age.  One of the young men has chosen her, but she doesn't return his interest.  Her father recommends being tough with her.  A stranger arrives who immediately attracts her attention.  He has nice clothes and money and is sweet to her.  One thing leads to another.

Conductor and director:  Omari Tau

Corie:  Elise Savoy
The Stranger:  Jordan Krack
Johnny:  Enrique Gil Guizar
Preacher:  Walter Aldrich

There is quite a bit of chorus.  No supertitles.  They made the most that could be made of this opera.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mama Rose

This of course refers to Jonathan Kent’s production of Gypsy, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, filmed from the West End in London and shown recently on  Great Performances on PBS.

Above are Imelda Staunton as Rose and Lara Pulver as Louise, or Gypsy Rose Lee.  The show brings a lot of memories for me.  I vividly recall fantasizing myself in the role of Mama Rose, the star of the show in spite of the title.  She waited until it was too late to have a career herself.  As of course did I.  I also remember Gypsy Rose Lee on her television talk show. She would flirt with the camera.  I have also read her murder mystery called The G-String Murders.

A number of famous women have done Mama Rose:  Ethyl Merman, who is very easy to imagine in the role, Angela Lansbury, and Tyne Daly to name 3.  Imelda Staunton is intensely bitchy in the part, intensely angry and completely believable.  It is a far different experience from the "nice" movie.  The show has only a few hit tunes which are repeated.  If you missed it on TV, watch it on the PBS website.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016


Gramophone Magazine, when reviewing Anna Netrebko's new Verismo album, complained that it included repertoire not actually verismo.  I would like to suggest that when originally coined, the term verismo referred to the plots of operas which showed a certain realism in their stories.  They concerned themselves with middle and lower class people instead of the usual upper class types.  Of course, opera has always included lower class people, but they were common only in comedy.

I would like to suggest that as we look back on the period, our attention is less on the plot elements and more on the overall musical style.  In a verismo opera that means little to no coloratura.  The singers show a somewhat lower larynx position and trend toward spinto.  The accompanying music also has a distinct, immediately recognizable style.

In short would anyone say that La Gioconda is closer to Verdi than to Puccini?  I think not.  A broader definition of verismo now exists, and it is nonsense to carp about it.