Sunday, June 28, 2009

Words of Wisdom

Thank you to Joyce DiDonato for this quote: "Guys, every chord change has to be a miracle." Yes. Exactly.

Why not?

I love the way she does her Rs.

Paris in February

Cecilia Bartoli will sing Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare again next February in Paris. I want to go to Paris to see the all female exhibit at the Centre Pompidou. Maybe that would be a good time to go.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jonas does Rosenkavalier

This is so delicious I must post it.

I've never seen it staged with the Marschallin paying the least attention to the tenor. Nice to see she is no fool. The staging is fascinating. The eating spaghetti is also cute.

There's not enough Der Rosenkavalier in my life, and not enough Jonas Kaufmann either.

We are always the same age inside. Gertrude Stein.

My own love affair with opera began and may well end with Rosenkavalier. There is nothing like it. Will this be her masterpiece? I must admit I suspect yes.

Post Script to Porgy

You might want to remember when you are trashing some singer for their performance in some opera or other that the quality of the music you are hearing is the responsibility of the conductor. It means nothing that the orchestra sounds great if the singers are boring and unmusical and uncoordinated with the players. He's responsible for all of it, not just the orchestra. It's all one piece of music that everyone is making together. It must be conceived as a single piece and brought to reality by the conductor.

Porgy and Bess

Porgy, a crippled beggar: Eric Owens*
Bess: Laquita Mitchell*
Crown, a stevedore: Lester Lynch
Serena, Robbins's wife: Karen Slack
Clara, Jake's wife: Angel Blue
Maria, keeper of the cookshop: Alteouise deVaughn
Jake, a fisherman: Eric Greene
Sportin' Life, a dope peddler: Chauncey Packer

Conductor: John DeMain
Production: Francesca Zambello

I don't know if my writing is up to this, but here goes. Occasionally the planets align, the universe conspires to bring us greatness. Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Opera was one of those times. I will attempt to tell why.

The time was moved to the 1950s, the time in our lives when the lives of our black neighbors first came to our attention. The time when they became fully realized human beings in our minds. The police look like policemen from photographs of the civil rights movement. We know what this world is like. When Porgy sings that he is going to New York to find Bess, we know the possibilities and the obstacles.

Modern productions have abandoned the cart Porgy used to ride around on in favor of crutches and less obvious crippling. We are happier to watch Porgy gain in strength through the opera and become someone who might kill his rival, someone who might indeed find Bess in New York.

I see the theatrical power of Porgy and Bess as I have never seen it before. It is a great opera in part because it is about love. In this production it was a love we could really believe in.

Only Eric Owens as Porgy and Karen Slack as Serena had ever appeared at the San Francisco Opera before. Eric Owens was here last summer in Ariodante. Karen Slack is someone whose career I follow, and she was excellent as Serena.

The whole cast was full of big voices and big acting. I liked the red wig of Laquita Mitchell as Bess--it made her easy to find on the crowded stage. She had great presence in the role. Other names: Lester Lynch as Crown, Angel Blue as Clara, Chauncey Packer as Sportin Life.

I liked them all. David Gockley insists on verisimilitude and provided us with an all black cast. Except the white characters, of course.

I haven't explained yet why it was the great Porgy and Bess of my lifetime. I noticed that the audience yelled loudly for everyone else but left unnoticed John DeMain when he came out to take his conductor's bow. I was the only one yelling. Bravo. What made this my best Porgy ever was the music. It rocked. Everyone sang big and rocked out. The chorus was the undisputed star. They were fabulous. Such consistently great music making throughout such a long, complicated piece with such a large cast must be credited to the conductor. That's his job. DeMain hangs out in Houston, which makes him a friend of Gockley.

About halfway through I realized: This is something truly wonderful.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Between the acts of La Traviata we were discussing the plot of the novel La Dame au Camellias of which La Traviata is an incarnation. Apparently La Dame wore white camellias when she was available and red ones when she was having her period. When she met Alfredo, or whatever his name is in French, she gave him the red camellia and said he should come back in a couple of days. This makes complete sense. Making them jump into bed at the end of the scene doesn't.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Jonas Kaufmann's next cd, Sehnsucht, already out in Germany, is entirely in German. His German singing is as good as it gets. If you listen to him talk here, you hear that he is clearly a tenor. Gee, I love him.

The interview I used to show here is removed.

They mention that he speaks 5 languages and ask him to sing something in Swiss German. He says he can't think of anything. They ask him if he could sing something, and he talks a long time about how much he has to warm up before singing as a way of getting out of it. He says he warms up in the morning just to make sure everything is working correctly.

I was looking for something else and found this


EFFECTIVE MAY 1, 2008 through APRIL 30, 2011
APPENDIX to single engagement (BALLET/OPERA) collective bargaining agreement. Use ("W") contract forms when filing engagements for NON-signatory Employers.

5/1/08 to 4/30/09 5/1/09 to 4/30/10 5/1/10 to 4/30/11
PERFORMANCES : 5-7 performances and/or dress rehearsal per week within 6 consecutive days $1,759.50 $1,794.69 1,857.50
Including principal premium $2,199.38 $2,243.36 $2,321.88
Pro-Rata for 3 hours or less $251.36 $256.38 $265.36
Including principal premium $314.20 $320.48 $331.70
Additional performance(s) and/or dress rehearsal(s) beyond 7 in a week or beyond 2 in a day:
1½x performance rate $377.04 $384.57 $398.04
Including principal premium $471.30 $480.71 $497.55

: 1½x in 15 minute segments or less:



Including principal premium $39.28 $40.06 $41.46
Overtime past midnight: 2x in 15 minute segments or less $41.90 $42.73 $44.23
Including principal premium $48.56 $53.41 $55.29
Three services in one day: Last service paid at 1½x appropriate rate.

Effective 9/12/2005, an additional 100% over gross scale wages for performances and rehearsals.
Principal players:
An additional 25% over gross scale wages for performances and rehearsals for the following principal positions: Associate Concertmaster, Second Violin, Viola, Cello, String Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba; Timpani, Percussion, Harp, Piano, Keyboard or Celesta.

DOUBLING: First double 20% of performance salary and applicable rehearsal(s). Each additional double 10% (Rehearsal(s) and Performance(s)). Sole exclusions: A, Bb & C Clarinets; A, Bb & C Trumpets, Tenor & Bass Trombones, High (F) Tuba & Tuba and instruments within each separate category of percussion (Timpani, Mallets, Drum Set-miscellaneous percussion & Latin instruments).

REHEARSALS: Minimum call 2½ hours, maximum call 4 hours, ending no later than 7:00P.M. The last call is no later than 24 hours before the rehearsal, with a definite starting and ending time. No musician is required to remain beyond the last rehearsal call.

5/1/08 to 4/30/09 5/1/09 to 4/30/10 5/1/10 to 4/30/11
2½ hour minimum call $127.50 $127.50 $131.98
Including principal premium $159.38 $159.38 $164.98
Rehearsal scale per hour $51.00 $51.00 $52.79
Including principal premium
DAY REHEARSAL OVERTIME: Overtime past last call, 1½x in 30 minute segments $38.25 $38.25 $39.59
Including principal premium
NIGHT REHEARSAL : (ending after 7:00 P.M.) Same rate as pro rata performance $251.36 $256.38 $265.36
Including principal premium
NIGHT REHEARSAL OVERTIME: I½X in 15 minute segments or less $31.42 $32.05 $33.17
Including principal premium $39.28 $40.06 $41.46

A dress rehearsal is defined as (1) the last orchestra rehearsal in the pit before a performance of a ballet or opera or (2) any orchestra rehearsals with any dancers of a ballet or singers of an opera during which the curtain is raised and there is a call for the stage crew. Rest breaks may occur between acts, provided they add up to the equivalent of at least 10 minutes per hour.
5/1/08 to 4/30/09 5/1/09 to 4/30/10 5/1/10 to 4/30/11
Dress rehearsal same rate & conditions as performance $251.36 $256.38 $265.36
Including principal premium $314.20 $320.48 $331.70

SOUND CHECK: A sound check for one (1) hour or less may be scheduled to take place within the period from one and one-half (1½) to one-half (½ ) hour before the performance (including ten (10) minutes break time). Musicians are required to attend sound checks and shall be paid at the rate of one and one-half (1½) times the applicable hourly rehearsal rate. Sound Checks may be scheduled only in the event that no previous rehearsal for that performance has taken place at the performance site.
1 hour sound check, 1½ rehearsal hour rate $76.50 $76.50 $79.19
Including principal premium
ON STAGE MUSICIANS: Per performance an additional $69.50 $71.50 $73.50

La Traviata in San Francisco

Conductor Donald Runnicles

Director and Production Designer Marta Domingo

Anna Netrebko Violetta Valéry
Kenneth Kellogg Doctor Grenvil
Dale Travis Baron Douphol
Leann Sandel-Pantaleo Flora Bervoix
Austin Kness Marquis d'Obigny
Renée Tatum Annina
Andrew Bidlack Gastone
Charles Castronovo Alfredo Germont
Dale Tracy Giuseppe
Dwayne Croft Giorgio Germont

Having done the Violetta for the ages, Anna Netrebko has decided to descend into the almost ordinary in the current La Traviata series at the San Francisco Opera. I’ve never been a huge fan of Traviata, except for the video from Salzburg. I don't find the world of low-life women that fascinating.

Marta Domingo’s production re-conceives the scene to the world of the flappers of the 20's. Kozman of the Chronicle sees Josephine Baker in the pseudo-Egyptian dance number. Josephine would have worn only bananas while these people are fully clothed and wore no bananas. One is almost nostalgic for Lotfi Mansouri who wouldn't be afraid of a little nudity.

There seems to be a theme of circles: at the beginning and end it comes in the form of Violetta’s round bed. This served well to unite the beginning and ending and communicated to us that the opening party is in Violetta’s house. She returns to Paris to die alone at home.

The gambling scene is in Flora’s house, and the circle appears in the form of a huge blue gambling table. It’s big so Anna can stand on it. The only scene without the circle theme is the house in the country where everything takes place out doors.

There were some liberties with the plot. Though Violetta has clearly told Alfredo to come back in a couple of days, they jump right into bed at the end of act I. At the end of the gambling scene he kisses her good-bye. I liked some of it. The car at the beginning was cute. The lights and snow falling at the end were beautiful.

That leaves singing. I like Charles Castronovo as Alfredo, but his voice does not balance particularly well with Netrebko’s. Anna is singing pretty loud these days. Pregnancy added some weight to her tone. And to the rest of her as well. Anna, dear, if you wish to continue the life of a gorgeous, universally worshiped diva, you are going to have to lose a little weight. A friend, an adoring fan, said, "Her cheek bones have disappeared."

There is a rumor going around that she is pregnant already. I don’t believe this. She looks almost the same, even slightly thinner now than in January for Lucia at the Met. This isn’t likely to mean she’s pregnant.

Both Netrebko and Castronovo skipped their high notes. This was ok in her case, but where the high note would have gone, Castronovo slunk off into a corner in embarrassment.

Dwayne Croft sang beautifully the role of Giorgio Germont. It’s a good part for him. Piu legato.

I would like to see Anna moving toward spinto repertoire. This is where her voice is going. I'm sorry if this is bitchy.

Footnote: I read in an old post that Erwin likes Anna chubby. This is not good news for the rest of us.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Maria Guleghina

I do get bored doing the same people over and over.

In this film Maria Guleghina sings the big aria from La Wally. I like her enormously, especially nowadays when people are all crooning their way to fame. She sings big.

Maybe I should do a tirade on operatic crooning.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to Cecilia Bartoli. I thought about coming to her recital in Rome today with Lang Lang, but I don't seem to be able to decide anything these days. Best wishes.