Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Il Trovatore from the ROH

Director: David Bösch
Conductor: Richard Farnes

Leonora: Lianna Haroutounian
Manrico, the troubadour: Gregory Kunde
Azucena, his gypsy mother: Anita Rachvelishvili
Count di Luna: Vitaliy Bilyy
Ferrando, his lieutenant:  Alexander Tsymbalyuk

This performance of Verdi's Il Trovatore from the Royal Opera House in London played in my local movie theater.  We were told that when this opera first played in America, it was called The Gypsy's Revenge.

This is my eighth viewing of this opera and my sixth production since I began blogging. Two were Sondra Radvanovsky, two were Anna Netrebko, one was Barbara Frittoli and one was Anja Harteros.  This is what an opera should be.  Here the production focuses on explaining the action.

This is one in a small set of operas I am calling the caravan series:  Il Turco in Italia from Los Angeles, Le Comte Ory from Zurich, Die Meistersinger from Munich and this performance all used a caravan at some point in the action.  In this performance Azucena lives here with her collection of baby dolls.

In this production all of the scenes are staged in the open air instead of the usual giant buildings with no particular identity or purpose.  The count and his army are at war with the gypsies.  He is in love with Leonora who is in love with the troubadour who sings to her from a distance.  If we are in large buildings, we cannot help wondering how a character from one group might casually approach a character from the other group.  If we are in the open air, this is not a problem.

Of this cast Anita Rachvelishvili was the most outstanding.  Her Azucena was intense and a bit mad.  Haroutounian sings beautifully but is not the big voiced singer we find with Radvanovsky, Netrebko or Harteros.  I enjoyed Kunde's singing but find him a bit too old to be Anita's son.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I Puritani

I have only a short comment after hearing parts of I Puritani on the radio from the Met.  Diana Damrau is exactly this kind of singer.  I doubt that she would want to limit her repertoire to bel canto, but she and Javier Camarena were glorious.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We have a new Kammersängerin!

This is Anna Netrebko's honor ceremony to become an Austrian Kammersängerin.
"Ich bin sehr glücklich und stolz über diesen Titel. Österreich ist mein zu Hause geworden und es gibt nichts Schöneres für mich, als hier in Wien zur Kammersängerin ernannt zu werden."  I am hoping she said this in German.  "I am very happy and proud over this title.  Austria has become my home and there is nothing more beautiful for me than here in Vienna to become a chamber singer."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Metropolitan Opera in HD 2017-18

7-Oct-17 Norma, Bellini 

It stars Sondra Radvanovsky, Joyce DiDonato and Joseph Calleja. This is a new production by Sir David McVicar.

14-Oct-17 Magic Flute, Mozart

Here is something interesting.  On purpose they call this the "full length German version" of Julie Taymor's production.  There was a lot of complaining about the shortened version done for children, which I rather liked.  Italian and French operas seem to stay in their native languages, but German is constantly being translated, so original German is nice.

The stars I know are Charles Castronovo, Rene Pape, Christian Van Horn.

18-Nov-17 The Exterminating Angel, Adès

This is the American premier of an opera by Thomas Adès which premiered in 2016 at the Salzburg Festival.  The composer will conduct and the librettist will direct.  Christian Van Horn, Alice Coote, John Tomlinson.  I always go to anything new.

27-Jan-18 Tosca, Puccini

This is yet another new production by Sir David McVicar.  I don't think I'll miss the one it is replacing.  Andris Nelsons will conduct his wife Kristine Opolais.  This performance will also star Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel.

10-Feb-18 L'Elisir d'Amore, Donizetti

The stars of this revival are Pretty Yende who recently subbed for Diana Damrau in I Puritani, Matthew Polenzani, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.

24-Feb-18 La Boheme, Puccini

Would it be a Met season without the Zeffirelli La Boheme?  Probably not.  The stars this time are Sonya Yoncheva, Michael Fabiano, Lucas Meachem.  Marco Armeliato will conduct.

10-Mar-18 Semiramide, Rossini

This is apparently a revival.  From long ago.  Before HD.  I will not be able to resist comparing it to Caballe/Horne or Joyce DiDonato's Munich stream later this month.  Angela Meade, Elizabeth DeShong and our boy Javier Camarena. Benini will conduct.

31-Mar-18 Cosi fan tutte, Mozart

This will be fun to see Phelim McDermott's new production which takes place on Coney Island in the 50s.  The most inspired piece of casting is probably Kelli O'Hara as Despina.  I will no longer be required to miss Cecilia Bartoli in the old production.

14-Apr-18 Luisa Miller, Verdi

This is a revival of an opera I don't really like, but the cast is good. Piotr Beczala, Sonya Yoncheva, Plácido Domingo.  Levine conducts.  This is all the Verdi we get.

28-Apr-18 Cendrillon,  Massenet

This is a new production by Laurent Pelly because it is the first time this opera has ever played at the Met.  We had it in San Francisco in 1982.  We missed Joyce DiDonato in the Rossini, but they made up for it by casting her here.  Alice Coote is Prince Charming.  Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe, Laurent Naouri.

I guessed that Tara Erraught would sing Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, but we don't get to see it.  Nor do we get to see her outing as Nicklausse in Tales of Hoffmann.  I will probably add more things I wish I got to see later.  Anna Netrebko's Tosca, a new role for her.

We don't get to see the new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Weekend in Paris

American Bach Soloists presented a program of French Baroque music in Davis with Jeffrey Thomas conducting.  French music is not as known as German or Italian music of the same period, so for me this was a treat.  Only Rameau is familiar to me.  The program points out that the end of Lully's monopoly made this explosion of music possible.

Some of the pieces employ a chorus and three vocal soloists:  Nola Richardson, soprano, Steven Brennfleck, haute-contre and William Sharp, baritone.  A haute-contre is a kind of high tenor that is found in baroque and classical French music, and may continue on to the bel canto.  I have never heard of an American calling himself this.  Interesting.  It is not to be confused with a countertenor.

Rebel: Les caractères de la danse (1715)

Instrumental pieces from France are usually ballets or collections of typical dances of the period.  The names of the movements are the same as the movements in Bach French Suites, for instance.  There would have been dancing.  Jeffrey suggested we could dance in the aisles, but no one did.

Corrette: Laudate Dominum de coelis (Vivaldi’s “Spring”) (1766)

This is a special thing.  The words of Psalm 148 in Latin have been used to transform Vivaldi's violin concerto Primavera into a motet or what I would probably call a cantata.  It sort of sounds familiar but not quite.  I enjoyed this piece very much with its quality of French sophistication mixed with Italian energy.

There are sections for chorus, an aria for soprano, an aria for haute-contra, and a duet for soprano and baritone.  We have Italian coloratura also reflected in the violin solo.

Rameau: Suite from Dardanus (1739)

This is a selection of dance movements from an opera.  The movements don't have titles.

Mondonville: In Exitu Israel (1753)

And now we are back to another cantata or motet, a piece in sections with chorus and soloists.  This is why it is called a weekend in Paris.  You would not see all these pieces on the same program.  This is intended for periods in the church year when secular music is not permitted.  It employs the text in Latin from Psalm 113.  I am enjoying writing about these pieces since they are completely unfamiliar to me.

I don't recall coloratura, but there was quite a bit of almost comical text painting.  One piece was unmistakably a laughing chorus, very lively and enjoyable.  This composer was known for pieces in this genre.  I loved it.  There is a long solo for baritone.  The singers were very good.

Marais: Suite from Sémélé (1709)

These are again dances from an opera by a relatively unknown composer.

I want to congratulate them for putting together such a varied and fascinating program.  I enjoyed it very much.  They delight through great attention to phrasing.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Classical Grammy Nominations and Winners 2017

Classical Grammy awards have followed their usual pattern.  They prefer more modern, less traditional music.  Mozart no, Corigliano yes.

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.)


  •  Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9--Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)  [Deutsche Grammophon]

  • 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]

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.)


  • 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]

  • 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]
  • 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.)


  •  Steve Reich--Third Coast Percussion  [Cedille Records]

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

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


  • Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway--Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony) Track from: Daugherty: Tales Of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle  [Naxos]

  • Adams, J.: Scheherazade.2--Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)   [Nonesuch]
  • 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.)

This award was a tie.  Winners:

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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.)


  •  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]

  • Bates: Anthology Of Fantastic Zoology--Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) [CSO Resound]
  • 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.))


  •  David Frost

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Refugee (countertenor) Tai Oney
Controller (soprano) Nikki Einfeld
Bill (tenor) Chaz'men Williams-Ali
Tina, Bill's wife (soprano) Amina Edris
Stewardess (mezzo-soprano) Maya Yahav Gour
Older Woman (contralto) Catherine Cook
Steward (baritone) Hadleigh Adams
Minskman (baritone) Eugene Brancoveanu
Minskwoman (mezzo-soprano) Renée Rapier
Immigration Officer (bass-baritone) Philip Skinner

Conductor:  Nicole Paiement
Director:  Brian Staufenbiel

Attention:  spoilers

I enjoyed very much the opera Flight, 1999, by Jonathan Dove presented by Opera Parallèle in San Francisco.  It is that rarest of modern operas:  a comedy.  For some reason people have come to think of opera as serious, people dying serious.

So you aren't sure what to think when two of the characters, refugee and Bill, are injured and fall seemingly dead to the floor.  The characters don't quite know what to do either, and look for somewhere to hide the bodies.  "Not another one!" 

You can think of this as things going on at airports, in this case any random airport.  There is a refugee who is trapped inside the airport.  He is waiting for his brother who has all the documents.  So he spends his time staring at the controller and teasing the other passengers.  His brother has met with a tragic end.  The immigration officer decides to let him remain in the airport forever.

Bill and Tina are going on vacation hoping to revive their fading romance.

The steward and stewardess spend all there spare time getting it on and/or looking for a place to get it on.  This was somewhat more integrated into the opera than fake sex generally is these days.  Sometimes they just get it on and don't really care if anyone is watching.  Steward gets bored with stewardess and looks for entertainment elsewhere.  He and Bill exchange clothing.  Bill is whacked in the head by his wife, deservedly so IMHO. 

Minskman and Minskwoman are a diplomat's family on their way to a new assignment in Minsk.  Minskwoman is pregnant and changes her mind about leaving. 

The opera reminded me a tiny bit of Rossini's The Voyage to Reims.  This is all appropriately chaotic and often funny.  My only problem was that events often went on at the same time, so if you were watching one, you might completely miss the other and end up wondering what happened.

This excellent cast is from not quite everywhere.  Egypt.  New Zealand.  Renée Rapier was my favorite.

It is astounding that they happen to have decided to present an opera about a refugee in the middle of our own refugee crisis.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Leontyne Price

On February 10 Leontyne Price will have her 90th birthday.  This aria from La Forza Del Destino is one she was particularly noted for.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

More Lulu

This is the amazing Barbara Hannigan on her experience with singing Lulu. Lulu may possibly be the most complex role in opera. She grows as ones familiarity with her grows.

Anna Netrebko will become an Austrian Kammersängerin

Wien/Berlin (MH) – Die Sopranistin Anna Netrebko (45) wird zur Österreichischen Kammersängerin ernannt. Wie die Wiener Staatsoper am Mittwoch mitteilte, wird der im russischen Krasnodar geborenen Künstlerin der Titel am 16. Februar verliehen.

This means that the Vienna State Opera has announced that on February 16 Anna Netrebko will become an Austria Kammersängerin or chamber singer.  Some years ago she became an Austrian citizen.

The title is ancient and was previously awarded by the monarch. My memory, but admittedly no reference source, tells me that this refers to singing in the king's chamber and not with singing chamber music.

Here is a list for Austria.
Here is a list for Bavaria.  

Netrebko is so famous in German speaking countries that articles about her appear in popular magazines commenting on her weight.