Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Anja Harteros has announced that she will no longer perform outside of Europe.  She likes to sleep in her own bed.  She was already performing in Europe most of the time.  If I want to see her live, I will have to travel.  She makes a great impression over the internet.

In other important news baritone Philippe Sly is doing a Klezmer version of Schubert's Winterreise.  I don't make this stuff up.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Eugene Onegin Rerun

Conductor...............Valery Gergiev
Production..............Robert Carsen

Eugene Onegin..Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tatiana...............Renée Fleming
Lensky................Ramón Vargas
Olga....................Elena Zaremba
Prince Gremin....Sergei Aleksashkin

Yesterday I attended the rerun of  Eugene Onegin from the Metropolitan Opera.  This opera has been broadcast live into theaters from the Met on three different occasions with three different men in the title role:  Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien and Peter Mattei.  Because he recently died, the version with Dmitri Hvorostovsky was chosen for re broadcast.  Apparently some theaters decided to show whatever version they had on hand instead of the advertised version.  I'm glad that didn't happen to me because I was there for Dima.  When he steps out onto the stage, he is so beautiful you might want to consider falling in love, too.  This may be his greatest recorded performance.

The production by Robert Carsen is also very easy to love.  Locales are merely suggested rather than depicted.

And another thing to consider is that it is conducted by the great Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.  It was a joy.   If they played something else in your town, complain to Fathom Events.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dresden Amen

I've been complaining about Richard Wagner and the Dresden Amen for years.

In 2005 I said:

"If you don’t mind all that constant modulating, Wagner is wonderful. Except for Parsifal, of course. His use of the borrowed theme of the Dresden Amen which he repeats ad nauseum, always in its original borrowed harmonization, cannot be considered thematic development in any sense. It’s a mistake, a serious lapse in judgment, maybe even a sign of senility. The emperor has no clothes."

The Dresden Amen also appears in Tannhäuser.

In 2012 I said:

"I have been trying to explain it.  I was raised on wonderful Baptist hymns like "Rock of Ages," and when professional concerns led me to participate in the music of other religions, I was forced to become aware of the tradition of adding an "amen" to the end of hymns.  Usually this was a simple plagal cadence, but sometimes it was that most corny and cloying of musical phrases--the Dresden Amen.  Just thinking about it now makes me shudder."

So I decided for no particular reason to look into this.  The man who wrote the Dresden Amen died a little over a decade before Wagner was born.  Wikipedia shows it notated here.  It turns out I should really cut him some slack.  It turns out he was raised in Dresden and was a Kapellmeister in Dresden from 1842 to 1849.  So he's allowed to have the same sentimental attachment to it that I have for things from my own childhood. 

I have only one final comment.  It is absolutely not possible that it showed up accidentally in either of the operas in which it appears.  Maybe it's supposed to make you think of church or god or something.  Apologies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Emerging Stars 2018

Vote here for your favorite emerging star from the 2017-18 season at the San Francisco Opera.  I have arranged them in alphabetical order by last name and have included a credit from last season.

Paul Appleby Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Atalla Ayan La Traviata, Alfredo Germont Met debut yes

J'Nai Bridges Girls of the Golden West no Met

Julia Bullock: Girls of the Golden West no Met

Ellie Dehn Met debut yes Here are her SFO credits:

  •  Le Nozze di Figaro Countess Almaviva 
  •  Don Giovanni Donna Anna 
  •  Così fan tutte Fiordiligi 
  •  La Bohème Musetta 
  •  Carmen Micaëla 
  •  Manon Manon Lescaut 17-18 

Aurelia Florian no Met La Traviata Violetta

Soloman Howard Turandot Met debut yes

Hye Jung Lee: Girls of the Golden West, Nixon in China

Elliot Madore Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Ryan McKinny Girls of the Golden West Met debut yes

Ronnita Miller The Ring 

David Pershall Met debut yes Manon

Davóne Tines Girls of the Golden West no Met

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Musikalische Leitung Kirill Petrenko
Inszenierung Pierre Audi

Amfortas Christian Gerhaher
Titurel Bálint Szabó
Gurnemanz René Pape
Parsifal Jonas Kaufmann
Klingsor Wolfgang Koch
Kundry Nina Stemme

I was overdosed on television, so I waited until the second act to see Wagner's Parsifal from Munich.  The opera started off with the most discussed part of the staging, the fat suits.  Nina was not required to wear a fat suit.  Nor was Jonas.  But I did recognize Golda Schultz.  Most of the Dresden Amens which I always dislike are in Act I, so this turned out to be a good decision for me.

Many people commented that they loved the production, but I felt it explained nothing.  I liked very much the collapsing wall effect, but that was pretty much it.  No subtitles and a production that explains nothing didn't work for me.  Too many things were not portrayed, such as Parsifal baptizing Kundry.

The biggest applause, as always in Munich, was for Kirill Petrenko.  I'm not sure I want to write any more about this.  As a listening experience, it was fabulous.  Such wonderful singing and conducting.  It was an especially good role for Nina Stemme.  I loved her blond wig.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Lucia from Madrid

Conductor : Daniel Oren
Director : David Alden

Lucia : Lisette Oropesa
Edgardo : Javier Camarena
Enrico Ashton : Artur Rucinski
Raimondo Bidebent : Roberto Tagliavini
Lord Arturo Bucklaw : Yijie Shi
Alisa : Marina Pinchuk
Normanno : Alejandro del Cerro

I've never actually seen a live bis in an opera before (they do them all the time in concerts in Italy, usually of something you'd rather not hear again).  When I realized what it was, I burst into tears.  And an ensemble, the sextet, on top of it.  I'm seriously loving this.  Everyone is a shit except Lucia.  She's already pretty insane before the mad scene.   We had a glass harmonica.

I am speaking, of course, of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor streamed live from Teatro Real Madrid.  The set is like your high school gym.  There's a radiator.  I think the theme is "you'd go nuts too if everyone you knew was this awful."  We're doing a play within a play.  At the end of the mad scene the chorus claps very slowly.  It's not at all like the loud shouting from the real audience.  The production does nothing to explain the opera but focuses entirely on the atmosphere.

The singing and for me also the acting were very good.  I love Lisette, but she will need to stay light in this role.  I came for Lisette and Javier, two of my favorites of the young singers, and they did not disappoint.  Javier wears a kilt in this, a first for me.

Lisette has also performed the ROH Lucia which I reviewed with Diana Damrau.  This version will be available on OperaVision for a while.  If you missed the live stream, watch it now.

Thursday, July 05, 2018


Sondra Radvanovsky got a bis last night at the Paris Opera in Il Trovatore for "D'amor sull'ali rosee." This is the first bis for a woman in the history of the Opera Bastille. Bis means encore. Encores are back but they are almost always tenors.  Congratulations are in order.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Iolanta / Perséphone

Conductor:  Teodor Currentzis
Production:  Peter Sellars

These two operas -- Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (1892) and Stravinsky's Perséphone (1934) -- were presented together at Teatro Real in 2012.  Both were staged by Peter Sellars.  I am considering this as the end of my Peter Sellars project.


René, King of Provence, bass, Dmitry Ulianov
Robert, Duke of Burgundy, baritone, Alexej Markov
Count Vaudémont, a Burgundian knight, tenor, Pavel Cernoch
Ibn-Hakia, a Moorish physician, baritone, Willard White
Alméric, armor-bearer to King René, tenor, Vasily Efimov
Bertrand, doorkeeper of the castle, bass, Pavel Kudinov
Iolanta, blind daughter of King René, soprano, Ekaterina Scherbachenko
Marta, Bertrand's wife, Iolanta's nursemaid, contralto, Ekaterina Semenchuk
Brigitta, Iolanta's friend, soprano, Irina Churilova
Laura, Iolanta's friend, mezzo-soprano, Letitia Singleton

Iolanta is a fairy tale sung in Russian.  It was not brought to its full effect in its semi-realistic setting at the Met in 2015.  The magic was missing.  We are presented here with abstractions.  Door frames are topped with mysterious dark objects that sometimes suggest birds.  Instead of a film, we have still pictures.  Iolanta carries a cane, as the blind often do.  Her own chamber music group accompanies her.  I think we may presume they are singing the original text rather than the Soviet approved one.

28 minutes in we have movement just in time for the wonder of Willard White.  I find this abstraction very beautiful, but when they sing of roses, no roses appear.  I like the soprano very much, but the tenor could be better.  This is Sellars' area of expertise.  He isn't here to provide you with pretty scenery.  He's here to provide you with a spiritual experience.


Eumolphe, tenor, Paul Groves
Perséphone Speaker, Dominique Blanc
Perséphone dancer, Sam Sathya
Demetra, dancer, Chumvan Sodhachivy
Pluton, dancer, Khon Chansythyka
Mercure, Démophoon, dancer, Nam Narim

Perséphone is a Greek myth about the underworld, here sung in French.  We are in the same set as the previous work, and visually the two are similar.  There is a tenor, a speaker, a chorus and dancers from Cambodia but no choreographer.  The director seems to have collaborated with the dancers.  The music is serene for Stravinsky.

A line caught my eye:  "never chase after what your eyes gaze on too lovingly."  The story of my life.

The pairing of these two works is genius.  The entire thing is a meditation on beauty.  Life is beautiful.  Love it more.  Do not go into the darkness never to return.  Open your heart to beauty.  Thank you, Peter.

Since I am counting this as the end, I repeat the score card here.  It omits works where Sellars is the librettist.

Score card:

Great things:  Mozart La Clemenza di TitoHandel Theodora, Bach Matthew Passion, Iolanta / Perséphone
Hits:  Saariaho L'Amour de LoinMozart Don Giovanni, Nixon (1st)
So so: Mozart Figaro, Giulio Cesare
Misses:Vivaldi Griselda, Adams The Death of KlinghofferNixon (2nd)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Il Trovatore Rerun

Conductor:  Marco Armiliato
Production:  David McVicar

Leonora:  Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Azucena:  Dolora Zajick (mezzo-soprano)
Manrico:  Yonghoon Lee (tenor)
di Luna:  Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)
Ferrando:  Štefan Kocán (bass)

This is the performance of Verdi's Il Trovatore where Dmitri Hvorostovsky steps forward and is showered with white roses from the orchestra.  Since he originally sang this Met Live in HD performance, he has died.  I cried in the theater today.  Everything is simply wonderful.  It plays again in the evening so be sure to see it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Die sieben Todsünden

Die sieben Todsünden [Seven Deadly Sins], 1993, by Kurt Weill with text by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Peter Sellars, represents the intersection of two of my obsessions:  Weill and Sellars.  One will probably run out soon, but the other is forever.  This work is called a ballet with song.

Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Director: Peter Sellars
Choreographer:  Donald Byrd

Anna I     soprano, Teresa Stratas
Anna II dancer, Nora Kimball
Brother baritone, Frank Kelley
Mother bass, Peter Rose
Father first tenor, Howard Haskin
Brother second tenor, Herbert Perry

A:  Prolog  Anna I sings, she is from Louisiana.
1:  Sloth    Family sing.
2:  Pride (Memphis)   Anna I sings, Anna II dances.
3:  Anger (Los Angeles) Family sings, Anna I and II are arrested.
4:  Gluttony  (Philadelphia)  She writes her family.  One of the guys is wearing an As jacket.
5:  Lust  (Boston) They are hooking, Anna II has a pimp and gives him her money.  Strife.
6:  Avarice  (Baltimore) She's a celebrity?  Golf.  Family sing.
7:  Envy  (San Francisco)  Anna sings.  Wrath is kindled by injustice.  Definitely San Francisco.
Z:  Epilog  They're home, but they don't look happy.

This is fun, the music is nicely played and sung but one grows tired of the endless closeups which seem always too close.  One might wish to see it in a theater.  I get the impression this was originally performed as a ballet in Lyon 6 years earlier.  I might have preferred that.  Faces without context don't make a story.  I will need to see other versions.