Thursday, August 30, 2007

Orphée


Orphée and La Princesse

I have saved Orphée by Philip Glass for last because it is the most complex to describe and came last. The most important thing to know about this opera is that the libretto is taken directly from the movie by Jean Cocteau and was performed in the original French. I think it makes a wonderful opera. It was advised that one see the movie before seeing the opera, but I have not.

I went to the lecture before the opera. Philip Glass is a classical modernist who has entered into the popular culture. He is joked about on shows like The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live. He is the only composer that one naturally feels one could do that, too. I could write noodle noodle noodle phrases at least that well, couldn't I?

The lecturer played an annoying section from Einstein on the Beach. Then he stopped the recording and said, "Wait, it gets better," and played some more. "No it doesn't. I just said that."

Einstein and Satyagraha are much more repetitious and annoying than Orphée, a piece that plays like common theater. I found it theatrically effective, relatively singable, and even beautiful at times. It is still unquestionably Glass but occasionally rises to expressive lyricism.

The set is a pair of rooms in a simple art deco style. There is a large mirror on the left. Or is it? In the first act the actors pretend that it is a mirror by acting in mirror against it, though it isn't comical like Lucille Ball. [Do you remember Lucille Ball doing this with Harpo Marx?] In the second act it is actually a mirror. Or is it?

The plot involves the interaction of the poet Orphée, played by Philip Cutlip, and the death figure called La Princesse, sung by Lisa Saffer. Euridice, sung by Caroline Worra, and Heurtebise, sung by Jeffrey Lentz, are the co-stars. La Princesse has been sent to retrieve a young poet named Cegeste and arranges for him to be killed in a hit and run accident.

She becomes interested in the older, more famous Orphée and stays on earth to be with him. He becomes obsessed with listening to enigmatic voices being transmitted on the radio, words which are being created by the dead Cegeste. La Princesse wants Orphée for herself and arranges for his wife Euridice to be killed in another hit and run accident.

Each time the dead are carried off by two men wearing motorcycle suits and helmets that hide their faces. The dead person and the escorting Heurtebise become duplicated and walk around the rooms in mirror, an effect that is enhanced by the imaginary mirror.

La Princesse and the others appear before a heavenly tribunal because she has killed without instructions. Euridice is sent back, but Orphée must never look at her again while continuing to live with her, an absurd impossible condition that does not work. She dies and returns to hell, leaving Orphée to La Princesse.

There follows an extraordinarily beautiful scene where she explains where the instructions come from--the wind--and they pledge their love. The most beautiful singing of the week came here. He promises to do whatever she says, and she sends him back into the past with Euridice.

I found the effect profound and the expressiveness of the simple music surprising. The small audience cheered loudly.

Sexiest at Glimmerglass

Since this is what I am famous for, I will do a sexiest at Glimmerglass list (in alphabetical order):


Philip Cutlip played Orphée in Glass' Orphée. He is lovely and quite poetical.






Jill Gardner sang a very promiscuous Euridice in Orpheus in the Underworld.









Sexiest in drag is Joélle Harvey as Cupid in Orpheus in the Underworld. There wasn't much drag work in the Orpheus cycle, so she doesn't have much competition, but she looked very cute in her little white suit, and sang beautifully.





Jeffrey Lentz sang Heurtebise in Orphée. It may have been the haircut that attracted me.










Lisa Saffer made a very seductive La Princesse in Orphée.










Michael Slattery from L'Orfeo could sell rock recordings to me any time.

Orpheus in the Underworld


The adorable Cupid is in the center surrounded by the "girls" from hell.




Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld is a parody of the other operas. The title character is a violinist and is not the most important person at all. That honor goes to Euridice who is bored with her husband Orpheus, she says he plays out of tune, and is involved in an affair with a local shepherd.

The set at the opening is a bench in front of a corn field. Charming. I felt that the heart of Glimmerglass opera might possibly be here. All the Offenbach performances were sold out, and I was lucky to get a ticket. There was an edge of extra enthusiasm in this performance.

There are many gods--Pluto, Cupid, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Diana, Juno, Bacchus--but it is Public Opinion who rules all. And Hell, it turns out, is right under the corn field. And did I mention hell is a brothel?

Outstanding in the cast were Jill Gardner as Euridice, Joélle Harvey as Cupid and Joyce Castle as Public Opinion. At the end is the famous can can number.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1850-70]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Blogging

I was telling the orchestra guys staying in the house with me about my abortive operatic career and explained that I had no high notes. "Yes. High or loud," was the answer. So you have to be one or the other, or best of all both. I wasn't either. It's good to have ones opinions validated. I always feel at home with musicians.

They told me that when anyone made a mistake they contributed a quarter. I think it was a quarter. Then at the end of the season they had a party with the money. The Glass opera meant the pot was large. Playing Glass makes you crazy. The little figures all sort of sound the same. It's hypnotic.

I explained that I had a DMA from Indiana because I used to be married to a Hoosier. I think this was sort of disgusting. They shook their heads. I explained that it was a truly horrible experience. N said that he had heard that and was glad he hadn't gone there. They want you to suffer, but it's too much.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Orpheus

2007 is the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Monteverdi didn't invent the idea of opera, but his L'Orfeo is the first work worthy to be called a true opera.

The inventors were trying to recreate Greek drama and wanted a Greek subject. Orfeo seemed the right choice. Orpheus represents the power of music to change the world. Rocks dance when he sings. He wins hearts with his singing, but he loses in the larger goal. All of the composers agree that the challenge to return without looking at Euridice is always lost. He can sway hearts but cannot overcome his own lack of faith.

The early operas cannot bear an unhappy ending. In Monteverdi Orfeo joins the gods and is granted immortality. In Gluck Love comes and touches Euridice back to life. It isn't until Haydn that he commits suicide over the loss of Euridice.

Glimmerglass miscellaneous

The Glimmerglass Opera is in the country near Cooperstown, New York. It is a landscape that reminds me very much of southern Indiana with the same rolling hills, farm houses and barns. There were no chain stores at all. Even Bloomington has a mall. On the morning I was driving back to the Albany airport I saw a flock of turkeys grazing in a field.

Three of the four operas included characters smoking cigarettes. Only the princess from the Glass opera actually lit up.

They bring bunches of flowers to the performances, separate them and pass them out to the members of the orchestra. Then at the end during the bows they throw them up onto the stage in a shower of flowers.

Three of the four operas--same three as the smoking as it turns out--were matinees. The house is open and screened on the sides with giant doors that close for the opera to make it dark enough and to keep out the traffic sounds.

I skipped the concert version of Haydn's L'Anima del Filosofo. I didn't want anything to gray my memory of seeing a staged version in Zurich with Cecilia Bartoli.

I read that the two latest operas, Offenbach and Glass, both contain thematic references to Gluck's Lament. I heard the one in Offenbach.

Gluck / Berlioz


This is what the staging would have looked like if we'd seen it.

Between Monteverdi in the afternoon and Gluck in the evening on Saturday was a huge storm with wind, hail and lightning that blew down quite a few trees, including one that knocked down power lines near the opera house. Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice was performed with emergency lighting which illuminated the audience space, the stage with a bright light shining from the footlight area, the music stands and very little else. We skipped the intermission in order to increase the chances that the emergency lighting would last through the whole opera. It did.

I worried when they called it Gluck / Berlioz, unnecessarily as it turned out. Berlioz' arrangement is very respectful and retains the simplicity and transparency of the original, at least most of the time. Berlioz rewrites Gluck's orchestration to suit mid nineteenth century orchestral practice.

Orfeo was sung by Michael Maniaci who is billed as a male soprano. His coloratura and high notes were spectacular.

The chorus and soloists appeared in costume and sat in wooden folding chairs. The soloists acted out their parts to the extent that this was possible. Behind them loomed the architectural set. It was beautiful and very subdued.

Car headlights led us back to the parking lot.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1760-1780]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Blogging

When I write, it is based on what I am hearing. I haven't looked it up at the library. I look things up in wikipedia which reports that Monteverdi orchestrated for sackbuts in L'Orfeo. The lecturer at Glimmerglass said this, too. Then I note that a sackbut is an ancestor to the trombone and that Monteverdi would have called it a trombone. Huh? No Sackbuts are listed for the Glimmerglass orchestra, so I am assuming they used trombones.

I heard more brass in the mix in London. When I looked down in the pit at Glimmerglass, I saw a bassoon, a harp, a couple of trombones, two harpsichords, strings and four theorboes. Theorboes are everywhere these days. They are bass lutes, and according to wikipedia they were new with the invention of opera. How interesting. Monody--basically the opposite of polyphony, the thing invented by the camerata--required an increased emphasis on the bass.

It all sounded very sweet.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium


Seated on the sofa are Orfeo and his Euridice after their marriage. Shepherds are in the background, and the media guy is on the left.



I am at Glimmerglass. I am doing four operas in three days, and already I have seen three. It's hard to know where to start.

I have inside information. I am staying in a house with members of the orchestra. I started with Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, and I have been told that the director, Christopher Alden, discussed his ideas about the opera with the ten member ensemble and told them he saw Orfeo as a kind of Kurt Colbain character. Then the cast members extemporized the rest.

The resulting staging was the complete opposite of the production in London last year, which was all flash and glam and apparently utterly without plot. This one was bizarre and absolutely crystal clear and well motivated. I got every tiny nuance.

The set had no doors, four large windows and ten overstuffed chairs and sofas from the neighborhood thrift store. All movement on and off the stage was through the windows. For the wedding orgy the chairs were circled in the middle of the stage, but most of the rest of the time they lined the walls.

The costumes were an assortment. Orfeo wore jeans and a black t-shirt, while Euridice was in a Greek-like dress. Pluto and Persephone wore outfits I would place in the Spanish Renaissance. La Musica wore a gauzy purple farthingale. Some of the men wore business suits, and other women wore outfits that made them look like members of the opera staff.

The dead Euridice was taped to the back wall of the set. The audience booed.

Michael Slattery as Orfeo carried the concept. Monteverdi includes a lot of types of ornaments which did not survive much past the early baroque, and Orfeo must perform these. He made an acceptable stab at them. His singing was emotionally intense and appropriately freaked out.

Throughout the opera is a bald media guy with a tape recorder and microphone. When Orfeo would sing he would point the microphone at him. Who is he? The guy who is there to film the wedding? He turns out to be Apollo/father, and he advises Orfeo to abandon love and go for immortality as a rock star.

At the house I was starting into my comment about how there are no bald guys at the opera and was told that the bald media guy isn't actually bald. It was a bald wig. Who would think of making a wig with a comb over?

The orchestration also contrasted with the London version, emphasizing theorboes, harpsichords and other string sounds with just a few winds. It worked much better for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quote

"Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool." Harper Lee.

Blogging

I've known for a long time that musicians used beta blockers--since my son told me when he was in high school, to be precise. This drug category is normally used to treat high blood pressure and helps the player or singer remain calm in stressful situations. I could use some of them myself, though I'm sure my son would not approve.

Things come and go on this blog a lot lately because I have been feeling very bitchy and am trying to hide it. Unsuccessfully. I added a category for jokes, but for that you will have to see La Cieca who is the master of opera jokes.

Diva on a Plane comes from a movie called The Driver's Seat. I see that Andy Warhol is listed in the cast.

I am feeling right now an unaccustomed attack of humility.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Life of Gelb

One of the more interesting subjects covered in The Life and Death of Classical Music is the career of Peter Gelb in the recording industry. He began by helping to steal Vladimir Horowitz from DG to Sony just before he died.

Gelb's biggest success by far was the soundtrack for Titanic, something he hadn't really wanted to do and couldn't repeat. Let's all wish him better success in his present position.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jump for Joy

My model for journalism is Entertainment Weekly. After that comes the Huffington Post. Then I religiously read the comments attached to things in YouTube. I have a 7 second attention span, and don’t manage to read anything longer than three paragraphs. Nevertheless I do book reviews. Curious.

So here at the end of an issue of EW is an essay by Stephen King dishing them for assigning letter grades to everything under the sun. People listening to things on YouTube also can’t resist grading everything and making endless comparisons with other performances. For a while I was assigning stars to DVD’s, but that petered out. I feel a desire to explain things, but not necessarily to grade them.

He’s absolutely right in his essay titled “Jumping for Joy.” Does it ring your chimes? When you hear this music or watch this opera, does your heart sing? Mr. King says, “All I know is that they make me want to laugh and dance in the aisle at Best Buy. And that’s enough. Because, dammit, that’s what it’s for.”

I’m not searching for perfection. I don’t think there’s only one right way to sing “Casta Diva” as represented by this or that singer from the past. Actually, I think exactly the opposite. I’m looking for someone to sing it in a way I’ve never heard it before. Rearrange my ideas completely. Break the monotony. Make me hear it again. Make my heart sing.

Lately I can only say that about Anna’s Russian Album and Cecilia’s astounding recording of “Casta Diva.” Admit it. You totally did not see that coming. And “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.” I’ll never lose my taste for gloomy singing.

Classical musicians are allowed only a very limited range of options in creating this surprise. They can’t add a drum track and a backup group. The surprise has to come from your soul.

More of Same


I have been waiting a decade to hear Cecilia in bel canto, and now that it's coming, I am very excited. All the bits I hear sound fabulous. I have a ticket for the Barbican in December.

This film is very cool. Scroll down. Cecilia is speaking French, English and Italian in this film. The rehearsal is in German. I'm nuts or that's a French R. Or I'm nuts and that's a French R. Choose one.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Too Important to Ignore

Article from The Guardian Limited:

Angst, drugs and alcohol: that's opera

A Wagnerian tenor says singers are turning to stimulants because of commercial pressures

Kate Connolly in Berlin
Sunday August 19, 2007
The Observer

It is a world characterised by doping and extortion, by stressed performers under extreme pressure to reach beyond what is humanly possible in order to satisfy hungry sponsors' needs.

The disgraced world of cycling? No, this is a description of the stately world of opera, which is increasingly becoming the domain of drug and alcohol abusers, according to a top-class tenor.

Endrik Wottrich, a popular fixture at the annual Bayreuth festival in Germany, has revealed opera singers are turning to drugs and other stimulants to cope with the pressure from the increasing commercial demands on them. 'No one talks about it, but doping has long been the norm in the music world,' he said in an interview with music critic Axel Bruggemann in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 'Soloists are taking betablockers in an attempt to control their angst, some tenors take cortisone to ensure their voices reach a high pitch, and alcohol is standard practice.'

Fear of failure had reached such a height that 'almost any means is seen as justifiable in order to live up to expectations'. Wottrich compared the opera world to the Tour de France, discredited in recent years because of drug scandals. He also talked of extortion being rife, especially employing claques - groups hired to heckle or applaud performers.

Wottrich painted a bleak picture of opera singers being treated as advertising icons, forced to travel and perform so regularly that they were getting sick, exhausted and ruining their voices.

Days after he was forced to pull out of the role of Siegmund in Die Walkure at Bayreuth owing to a heavy cold, Wottrich, 43, said his symptoms were not unusual. 'The stress levels are too high... the whole opera world is sick. There are standards expected of us that are just not possible to realise,' he said.

His claim would appear to be borne out by the high numbers of star performers who have dropped out of this year's Salzburg Festival in Austria, mainly citing sickness or depression, much to the distress of organisers. They include Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, the Mexican tenor, American tenor Neil Shicoff, Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova, and Magdalena Kozena, the Czech mezzo-soprano and partner of British conductor Sir Simon Rattle. Most of the performers have produced doctors' notes stating they are sick or stressed. Netrebko has laryngitis and Villazon is suffering from depression.

But festival organisers claim some of the singers are abusing their celebrity status and have talked of turning their backs on the stars in favour of less famous yet qualitatively high-level performers. The strongest criticism has been reserved for Netrebko, whom Salzburg Festival bosses accused of being 'unreliable' after she pulled out of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, for which tickets were selling on the black market at € 300.

German-born Wottrich, the boyfriend of Katharina Wagner, the 29-year-old opera director and great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner, said singers were treated like machines. 'We're faced with the choice of performing and then being attacked for failing to hit the right note, or calling in sick only to be attacked for taking things too easy. The fact that Anna Netrebko has been accused of being unreliable is a cheek. I know from reliable sources that she has laryngitis. Of course she cancelled the performance because she knows the festival hype and knows that every false note she sings would be the death of her in every city in which she is considered a star.'

The Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova said that opera was on course to destroy itself through a form of 'cannibalisation', whereby promoters were ruining stars with their demands. She said opera singers were increasingly turning to drugs to cope with the demands of their jet-set lifestyles and to plastic surgery to improve their looks.

Wottrich said: 'The comparison between opera and cycling is not so off the wall. The real fear is no longer good old-fashioned stage fright, but comes from this completely new dimension that has forced its way into opera ... managers who have a locust-like approach to their singers, knowing that a voice can earn millions within just a few years, and there are many who want to cream off as much money from that in as short a time as possible ... it is prostitution.'

[Dr.B--Bold text is my addition. My sources also say that Anna has had laryngitis. It's time to start saying no to greedy, out of control managers. Make them book you a vacation. One month out of every six sounds about right to me. Or fire them.]

Question

Having just found this....

"Ladies, Step Away From the Stripper Pole. It's just never a good idea. Sincerely, Your friends at EW."

in Entertainment Weekly, would we want to consider making the same recommendation here? This is Anna Netrebko in Manon.



Just asking. Everyone gets his own opinion.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life and Death

I am interested in this book by Norman Lebrecht called The Life and Death of Classical Music. It's misnamed. He's writing about the classical recording industry, which I have read is the fastest growing segment of the recording industry overall, and not about classical music per se. The people who say it's growing are talking about Bocelli, Brightman, Church, Jenkins, those types, as well as crossover records by Pavarotti, Te Kanawa, Domingo, etc. The people who say it's dead limit their numbers to legitimate classical music.

He attributes this death to capitalism. Corporations require activities to generate profits, and not very many classical recordings manage that.

There is a list of the 25 all time best selling records.
#1 is Solti's Ring cycle.
#2, #4, and #20 are the three tenors with a total of 23 million records.
#9 is a Christmas record with Pavarotti, and #15 is Neapolitan songs by Pavarotti.
#16 is Kiri's Christmas record.
#13 is Carmina Burana.
#8 is Callas in Tosca.
#25 is Caruso arias.

Only 10 out of the 25 contain no singing, and these include three different recordings of the Vivaldi Four Seasons--#3, #11 and #21.
#14 is Dennis Brain's recording of the Mozart Horn Concertos, the only Mozart in the list.
#17 is Glenn Gould's early version of the Goldberg Variations, the only Bach in the list.

Only two items are in the classical to romantic symphony tradition: Beethoven 9 and Beethoven 5. There are no Mozart, Brahms or even Tchaikovsky symphonies.

The most interesting item in the list is #22, the Dawn Upshaw recording of Gorecki's Third Symphony. This is wonderful. I enjoy this recording very much and am encouraged to see it in this list. He thinks it doesn't play in concert halls, but I saw it with the San Francisco Symphony and a Polish singer, and I thought it made an excellent impression. It seems simple, perhaps too simple for the average symphony crowd.

He says something interesting. The lists of records reviewed in Gramophone magazine every month include large numbers of vanity pressings.

Cecilia Bartoli is the second ranked diva after Maria Callas, though he gives her only 4 million. She herself says 5 million, and I've heard it go as high as 7 million. [Feb 2010 I read 8 million.] The other high selling singers are Pavarotti, Callas, Domingo and Carreras.

The list is filled out by conductors who have an unfair advantage. Virtually everything includes a conductor. I was surprised to see Toscanini only as high as #11. Karajan is #1. These are the people he is interested in, the people discussed in the main text.

He talks about his list of 100 great recordings, plus an additional list of great performers completely botching things. The latter includes the Swingle Singers, a group I rather liked.

He succeeds in rousing my curiosity to hear these. He has stories. Cecilia's early Rossini album is her only item in his list, and he may be right. Her extreme youth makes her unaware of the difficulty of what she is undertaking, and the result is an awesome casualness of phrasing.

He likes Lisa Della Casa rather more than I do, and recommends several of her recordings. Willard White's Porgy is there.

I could repeat all his stories, but perhaps you should read them yourself. Lebrecht has a weekly column here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kathleen Ferrier and Bruno Walter

Kathleen Ferrier, the legendary English singer, lived to be only 41, virtual childhood for a true contralto. She was already ill with cancer when this recording was made in 1952 and died the following year.

Her performances transcend reality and seem to come to us from the soul of the world. There is no better Mahler. You can buy this from Amazon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Maria


The buzz surrounding Cecilia's new album is building. I have been wanting bel canto from her for years, and now at last it is here.

Actually, I posted this just for the picture.

Hairspray, the Movie

The sum is less than the parts in the new movie version of Hairspray. The parts include the spectacular drag performance of John Travolta. Speaking as a girl baritone, I didn't mind his voice at all. He still has it and provided the best dancing in the movie in a movie about dancing.

The parts include Queen Latifah as the disk jockey for "Negro Day." She has a couple of nice songs, but is not a Broadway style belter. Surprisingly.

The parts include Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad. His cluelessness with Michele Pfeifer as the magnificent villainess Velma Von Tussle, and his work with Travolta were highlights.

The parts include Nicole Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, a performer new to the movies who looks perfect and sings well, but whose dancing abilities are obviously lacking. The movie is supposed to be about how well she dances, but she spends most of the dance numbers watching on the sidelines.

I missed John Waters performance as a Flasher. Where was I?

During the number "Welcome to the sixties" we see a shot of a very pregnant woman in a bar smoking and drinking. In the movie we see the same clouds of hairspray we saw on stage, but when the TV camera cuts away for commercial, the cast members all start coughing. It is the sixties as seen from another century.

It's fun and very nostalgic. It was my era. I'm allowed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Today

Pavarotti is in the hospital, but they are predicting he will be released soon.

Has anyone considered that My December, Kelly Clarkson's new CD, may be brilliant? Life is too short.

This is the first time I have lived anywhere where I could watch YouTube all day long. I am overdoing it.

Christa Ludwig's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is more cheerful. When she sings "I live alone in my heaven, in my love, in my song," she smiles. I can feel this, too.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Celebrity fascination

Who knew about this? Anna is up there with Britney?

The one who seems to be hurting the most is Rolando Villazon. He's taking two whole months off. [It's my blog. If I say something really stupid, I get to take it out.]

I realize consumers and event managers think it is all some kind of conspiracy, that cancelling singers are somehow in a category with Paris and Lindsay, that they are capricious children only trying to ruin the lives of said consumers and event managers. However, the voice is a tiny and very fragile organ that needs to be treated with respect by its owner. Many teachers frown on singing with any kind of cold and would never allow singing with laryngitis. My sense of Anna in particular is that she may not be cancelling enough.

This reminds me of all the times I bought tickets to see Placido Domingo at the San Francisco Opera, and he didn't show. He always had good excuses--death in the family, earthquake, etc., but it still meant I didn't get to see him. Finally he showed up for Hérodiade with Renée Fleming, an absurd, insignificant opera with a weak tenor part. Hoffmann was a particular disappointment. I am not going to have a tantrum over this.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shit is happening

People are cancelling.

First Elīna Garanča cancelled Salzburg for personal reasons.

Then Anna Netrebko cancelled on her doctor's orders for throat problems she is having. This is a problem she has been having for at least a couple of months, one which must not be treated as trivial. I think she is over-booked by her management. She is constantly telling us that she has no free time, a situation that absolutely must end. Book her a vacation, for God's sake. If she made $2 million last year, she can afford it. She and Elīna Garanča were originally scheduled to do Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, something we would still like to hear some day but can wait for. If the Lakme duet currently showing on YouTube is any example, it should be heavenly.

Then Rolando Villazon cancelled. He had already cancelled at Baden Baden. The management of the Salzburg Festival is very angry.

Monday, August 06, 2007

ENO

That's the English National Opera. Just when I was thinking this blog was an annoying and possibly stupid idea, someone has actually asked me to blog about something. ENO is doing Carmen this fall, 29 Sept - 23 November, and you can check it out here. They do opera in English, and I've seen a couple of them: Sir John in Love and La Belle Helene. I'm coming to London in December and will miss it. My search for the perfect Carmen continues.

Everything about this opera is being blogged. The theory is that blogging about opera is the wave of the future.

They have created their own translation and are blogging about that. May we assume that Alice Coote is singing Carmen? The clips of her singing on the website are enticing.

The blog entries are interesting and fun, but might I suggest a small amount of journalism. Oh, here it is: Cast includes: Carmen Alice Coote; Don José Julian Gavin; Micaela Katie Van Kooten; Escamillo David Kempster; Frasquita Elena Xanthoudakis; Mercedes Fiona Murphy; Dancairo Andrew Rees; Remendado Scott Davies; Morales Ronan Collett; Zuniga Graeme Danby.

There is a blog entry on auditions. Even thinking about it fills me with anxiety. Exploring this website reminds me once again that opera is the most happening medium in the world today.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bach Project


Word of mouth led me to The Bach Project Premiere at VSA North Fourth Art Center in Albuquerque on Friday night.

The project began with Two Women Dancing: Julie Brette Adams and Kate Eberle. They are both the dancers and the choreographers. Julie had choreographed some dances for movements from the Bach cello suites when they met Timothée Marcel, a 21 year old Frenchman, perhaps at or around this event in Santa Fe.

When the audience is allowed into the performance space, the performers are already there warming up. I suspect that this is part of the performance. The stage contains two dancers, a cellist, two cellos and three chairs.

He begins alone while the women watch, playing the prelude to Suite #1 pizzicato. No no, I keep thinking, that isn't how it goes. I was pleased to see that he played it normally at the end. At first they dance around the chairs, then they cast the chairs to the side. I in my total ignorance would call this modern dance. The dances were suitably abstract.

He is a very musical cellist who has Bach well under his skin. One number he half played and half sang in a manner reminiscent of scat. In the conversation at the end of the performance he said that when he begins to learn them, he first sings them. They all expressed an interest in knowing if Bach would approve. I don't see why he wouldn't. The playing was very beautiful, and the dancing was expressive and not at all trivial.

Timothée Marcel also plays the Bach cello suites in Paris.