Tuesday, January 27, 2009


According to Opera Chic Anna and Rolando have both crashed and burned at the Met in Lucia. Years ago friends traveled to LA to see Anna in Lucia and said it was bad then, too.

One begins to think her manager is an idiot. I loved her madly in Manon, but am puzzled by the push to make her into a bel canto singer. She isn't doing Joan Sutherland. Really. Or Beverly Sills. I could see her moving toward dramatic repertoire in her forties.

I have already been saying for years now that RV is a lyric tenor. RV, you are a lyric tenor. Wishing does not make it so. Does he have the same manager as AN? Both of you should fire him.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Wie kann das sein, dass ich nie Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant angeschaut habe? Lustig. Es ist perfekt fuer jemand die an alte Lieben nach dennkt.  [How can it be that I have never seen The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant?  It is perfect for someone who thinks on old loves.]

I love to hear people speak German. It's so much sexier than American English. The film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder is "dedicated to those who here would like to be Marlene." Die Marlene sagt eigentlich nichts aber sieht alles, weisst alles. Marlene appears in every scene but says nothing. To wish to be her means to wish to be invisible.

Perhaps I should build a house like a studio and decorate it like Petra's apartment with a large Italian mural and naked mannequins. And a bed in the living room, perhaps.

I laughed loud and long. I'm laughing still.

I was going to speculate on whether or not this would make a good opera, but it has already been made an opera and presented at the ENO. The plot is definitely a chick flick. As a movie it is perfect.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Orfeo ed Euridice

Orfeo...................Stephanie Blythe  (mezzo-soprano)
Euridice................Danielle de Niese  (soprano)
Amore...................Heidi Grant Murphy  (soprano)

Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Mark Morris

The only surprise for the HD broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera (besides will you get to see or hear anything) is who will host. She is in town so why not ask Joyce DiDonato to host Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice? She was excellent, though she didn't get to do quite so much. Orfeo was presented without intermission so she interviewed only James Levine and Mark Morris, the production designer, who introduced himself as an opera queen. We would like to see Joyce again. Singing? She would make a great Orfeo.

She wished Levine "Toi toi toi" as he left. When I began my stint at the Ulmer Theater, I was told that "Beinbruch" (break a leg) was reserved for sport in Germany. In the theater one said "Toi toi toi," preferably while spitting over the other person's left shoulder. Joyce left out the spitting. Presumably, without the spitting the good luck imparted is only partially effective.

It's actually supposed to be three acts, but was done as one. I am strictly guessing here, but I am imagining that some repeats were cut to create the effect of a through-composed opera. It still sounded like numbers to me. Overture, chorus, dance, recitative, aria. They made a point of mentioning that this was the earliest possible score that was being used and not the Berlioz arrangement.

Stephanie Blythe has a wonderful voice for this role with no weakening in the center. Her character is on stage throughout the opera.

But this is a Mark Morris production and the ballet dominated the action. Gluck starts with Euridice already dead which focuses the action on the trip to the underworld. It's sort of an American Eurotrash minimalist production with modern outfits for the ballet and other characters on stage. The gimmick of the production is that the chorus who sit in the stage machinery, thus eliminating any need to move them around and leaving the stage to the dancers, are each dressed as an historical figure. When the production first came out, there was a quiz to guess who the historical figures were.

I have to say this. There was an incongruity in the casting of the gorgeous Danielle De Niesse as Euridice and the less than gorgeous Blythe, but the action seems to require that Orfeo be mad for Euridice regardless of whether or not the reverse is also the case.

I think the Amor was Heidi Grant Murphy. Sometimes cast sheets are handed out at the theaters for HD, but not this time.

After the fiasco at Glimmerglass, this was my first fully staged Gluck Orfeo. I thought it worked. I went to a different theater and there were no technical problems.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1760-1780]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


For a singer who does not require my advice we turn to Joyce DiDonato and her album Furore, a set of mad scenes from Handel operas. It's almost one rage aria after another. She has a lot of personality and energy. I think I'll add her to my iPod Handel group.


Monday, January 19, 2009


I have decided to be mad in my old age. I spent decades being silent and brooding, and it was all for naught. Whatever you're feeling, just blurt it out.

I went to the Sacramento Saturday Club, an institution much like the Hell Fire Club, or something like that, only much more sedate. After trying out various nights, they have returned to meeting on Saturday. Many languages are spoken. I hunted down someone I could practice my German on and said silly things in German. My German is good only for silly things. Or perhaps it is I who am good only for silly things.

I made idiotic suggestions about Telemann reviving and Bach fading. Nowadays you are far more likely to hear the former than the latter.

Perhaps I'll join.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Advice: Sondra Radvanovsky

In this month’s Opera News is an article about Sondra Radvanovsky that asks the question, “So why isn’t her star shining brighter?” She has a wonderful voice, excellent technique, good visual presence—I thought she was pretty and winsome, as a proper Roxane should be in Cyrano de Bergerac—and more than adequate power for Verdi. Why isn’t she a superstar?

Perhaps this question could be addressed by comparing her to Leontyne Price. Price transformed Verdi into a brother. (Is this best called a bro?) Who knew that Verdi had soul until Leontyne showed us? She was fearless and daring, and her Verdi made goose bumps stand up on your neck.

To be truly great you must transform the music into your own. The first phrase of any piece should tell us who is singing. Genius is idiosyncratic. People talk about the singer’s voice, as though that was all there was. Sondra has a terrific voice, but a substantial percentage of the time the phrases just lay there. To acquire a proper perspective consider that none of the notes are ever allowed to just lay there. Technique is not only not everything, it is just the foundation. It is still left to make music,

It is curious to me to read that Natalie Dessay never thinks about the music. Her singing is very musical, but the musical expression comes to her through thinking about the action. For her this is a valid path. Her emotional insights play out into musical as well as theatrical expression.

I’ll take whatever path works for you.

Kathleen Battle uses coaches. Renée Fleming uses coaches. Cecilia seems to be adequately idiosyncratic on her own. This remarkable film of a young Angela Gheorghiu shows that she comes out of the box with her musical personality fully formed.

Dig deeper. Find your own voice. Find out who Sondra Radvanovsky really is, and tell it to us.

Center of the Universe

Dr. B: I see Chicago has suddenly become the center of the universe.

Dr. Gosset: I was at Muti's Requiem. It really was extraordinary: the reports are absolutely accurate. Frightening in the moments of high decibel tension, disturbing in the moments of individual angst, lively and dance-like in the Sanctus, and deeply moving in the Agnus Dei. Who could want for anything more? Muti and Obama! What a mix!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Maria Callas

Why Maria Callas? What is all the fuss about? I realize it is absurd to write about this.

People write on and on about her voice. They love it. They hate it. I claim that her voice is almost irrelevant. Almost because it must have sufficient force to portray the music she likes to sing. It has.

It is simply the musical perfection. You hear every note. She phrases with a genius that is almost unknown. Then she has the force to back it up.

Why is Before Ari so much better than After Ari? It isn't the voice that is different. It is the phrasing. Over the period of idleness she has lost her muscle tone and never really manages to get it back. Perfect phrasing requires a mind of genius and a body strong enough for absolute control. She never found it again.

Or. If no one argues with me, I'm happy to argue with myself. Compare this from 1965. It's pretty damn fabulous. Who says she couldn't still do it?


[Dr B. This is from the bel canto society. He also has a history of tenors you can buy.]

Giovanni Battista Rubini Ruled as the Paragon of Virtuoso Tenors, King of the High F's
by Stefan Zucker

Rubini was Bellini's favorite tenor. In a letter to his friend and confidant Francesco Florimo, the composer observed, "You have good reason to say that at the entrance of Rubini [in Il pirata] it seemed to you as if you were seeing an angel, for he said it [the music] with an incomprehensible divineness...." At the time of his death, Bellini was about to refashion Norma for Rubini for the 1835-36 season of the Théâtre-Italien. Specifically he was going to replace the tenor aria and the Pollione-Adalgisa duet, add a second tenor aria and rework most of the tenor lines. Though Bellini died before he could make these revisions, Rubini went on to become the most famous Pollione of his day. When he was unable to appear in a series of Norma performances at the Italien in 1837 because of illness, the Parisian audience became dispirited and could take no pleasure in Norma or any other opera.

Rubini was the most celebrated unneutered male international superstar until that time and one of the two or three most celebrated ever as well as the last really brilliant male opera virtuoso. Yet he succeeded in having a career only after the utmost perseverance. Dismissed by his first voice teacher for lack of vocal promise, rejected for employment as a leading tenor, a recitalist, even as a comprimario, he reached his lowest ebb when a Milan impresario refused him work as a chorister "because of insufficient voice."

When Rubini finally did succeed in getting roles, he barely was tolerated. Domenico Barbaja, the so-called "Napoleon of impresarios," who simultaneously ruled the opera houses of Vienna, Milan and Naples, was unwilling to rehire him after a year's engagement at Naples. In the end Barbaja relented but retained him at a reduced salary. In his thirties Rubini at length came to be regarded as the foremost male singer of the time. But he was short, pockmarked and an indifferent actor, with a number of vocal flaws.

Today we assume that any reigning tenor must have had a voice of some plangency and strength. Rubini's, however, was characterized as "lightly veiled" in quality--that is, having little brightness or ring. Further, he had the habit of singing with head resonance notes and passages that it was felt ought to be sung with chest resonance. Throughout his career critics complained about the smallness of his voice. Below the top of the staff he often was often said to have been inaudible! Other singers routinely covered him.

A number of writers criticized Rubini's sparing use of moderately loud and moderately soft levels of dynamics. In the English critic Henry F. Chorley's words, at the time of Rubini's London debut in 1831 at thirty-six, his voice was "hardly capable, perhaps, of being produced mezzo forte or piano; for which reason he had adopted a style of extreme contrast betwixt soft and loud, which many ears were unable, for a long period, to relish."

His contemporaries attributed his success primarily to the infectious joy he took in his own singing, to his formidable technique (by the late 1830s his range and agility were relics from the vocal practices of twenty years earlier) and above all to the exquisite finish of his renditions. Anton Rubinstein is said to have remarked to the critic Pierre Lalo, "I formed my ideas of noble and eloquent phrasing almost entirely from the example of the great Tenor Rubini."

This most musical of singers was father to something we now think of as the mark of provincialism and coarseness--the sob. Rubini's sob must have had a telling effect emotionally, for according to Ferdinand Hiller, "When [in the first-act finale of La sonnambula] Rubini seemed to be singing tears, Chopin too had tears in his eyes."

Giovanni Battista Rubini was born in Romano, near Bergamo, on April 7, 1795... [The article continues.]


While researching what is going on around the world, I seem to have missed
24 January
Recital with Ivari
Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Angela ill

This is interesting. Sieglinda reports on what La Rondine is like without Angela Gheorghiu. It is a theater piece that dies without a singing actress like Angela.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

La Rondine in HD

Technically this was the worst simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera ever. I highly recommend putting a receiver setup in the control room so the director, in this case Brian Large, can simultaneously review what is actually going into theaters. We could not make out any of Renée Fleming's interviews. Nada. Angela and Roberto were in especially good moods so this was an opportunity missed. We got complete silence. We got loud popping noises. We got fluctuating loudness. It was crap. I may have to go again to see if it is any better the second time around.

La Rondine is exactly the right opera for my present mood. Magda as a kept woman has her fixed place in society and is surrounded by wealth, glitter, even poetry while dreaming of romantic love. She sets out to find it. [In my own life there was no dreaming or planning. Things came along in a manner much like stepping in front of a moving bus.]

Magda does not notice Ruggero when he comes to her house and sits next to him at the dance hall quite by accident. It seems to me that Roberto Alagna is exactly the sort of man one would meet by accident and fall madly in love with. But perhaps this merely reflects my own taste. Clearly he is ready for the moment of passion, ready to leap into romantic love. They find exactly the sort of perfect love anyone would wish for and find in the end that it has no place in practical reality--that it can result in no home in the country and children. Magda cannot be taken home to mama. Roberto isn't the greatest tenor that ever lived, but he is a sweetie, and his rapport with his wife, Angela Gheorghiu, is very special. They clearly love working together, and they clearly love this opera. Angela was in form, though it was announced that she had a cold.

This is an opera that is ideal for HD treatment. To communicate intimacy it helps a lot if the viewing is intimate. This is my second viewing of this production, and I find it quite beautiful. La Rondine is a beautiful opera, beautifully cast, beautifully sung, beautifully acted, beautifully staged, beautifully photographed. And then the crappy transmission.

The maid Lisette was played by a woman named Lisette Oropesa. Is this more than a coincidence? I think she said in the interview (but who really knows) that she was born to be a maid just like the character. She was fabulous, sang well and looked cute on camera.

I predict for the characters that they will never see one another again and will always recall the feeling of overwhelming passion. Ruggero will marry a girl from the village, and she will know that his greatest love is for another.


We are pleased to see at number 78 Anna Netrebko back in the top 99 on Ask Men. She is one of three "Babes of Classical Music". We are also very pleased to see her ahead of Katherine Jenkins at 84.

Friday, January 09, 2009


05 January 2009 Semele DVD Release with Cecilia Bartoli. Supposedly. I can't find it on any of the Amazon websites I search: .com, .co.uk, .de. Decca shows it but you can't buy anything from them.

Anna Netrebko's La Boheme movie has been released to theaters in England.

Cecilia Bartoli's La Sonnambula CD is still not out until February 24.

Joyce DiDonato's FURORE to be released in the US JANUARY 13.


Saturday, January 03, 2009


I have been trying out YouTube films on the ballet fan, an opera neophyte, and seeing which ones she thinks are sexy. Out of generosity we will not disclose those she finds to be insufficiently sexy to make the list.

At the top is Jonas Kaufmann, of course.

Anna Netrebko passes.

A new addition is Erwin Schrott whom she describes as manly.

Vesselina Kasarova seems to manage sexy only in drag, but nevertheless, in male roles she is the sexiest by far.


I took the quiz recommended by Eye Bags and it said I was a Komponist.

"You're the Komponist! You're endearingly arrogant, and arrogantly endearing. You live in a state of utter seriousness with intermittent transports of rapture. You think that, by virtue of your own high-minded genius, you're immune to the worldly wiles of women, but... don't you be so sure."

I've been told I was arrogant before. Utter seriousness with intermittent transports of rapture sounds pretty accurate, actually.

I tried again with more lies and got:

"You're Prince Orlofsky! Oh, the endless millions, oh, the oceans of vodka, oh, the terrible crushing ennui. Yeah, we feel real sorry for you. On the one hand, you're a magnanimous libertine who just likes making people happy. On the other hand, you're a batty Russian stick-in-the-mud who needs a good schmeck on the head. Gotta admit, though... you throw one hell of a party."

Nope. Got it right the first time.

P.S. However, it must be noted, I have always regretted that I never sang Orlofsky, but have no regrets about not singing Der Komponist.

Friday, January 02, 2009


"Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of life is to live dangerously. Nietsche"

Now I can throw this slip of paper away.