Thursday, January 27, 2011

Measha does Cage

Here you go. I am long overdo to post something on YouTube with Measha Brueggergosman and what do I find? This performance of Measha singing "Aria" by John Cage while the orchestra plays something else entirely took place at Carnegie Hall on April 15, 2009. The guy talking is Michael Tilson Thomas.



This represents the intersection of a few different strains. Being something of a modernist at heart, I absolutely love this. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26 January 1911

It has been pointed out to me by the Mad Scene at Opera Australian that today is precisely 100 years of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Find a little Rosenkavalier to hear before the day is over.

You could start here.



Footnote. All my life I've known people who complain about her diction, so let's make something clear. If you speak the language, you can understand every word.

And you simply must watch this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

La Gioiosa is calling



Somewhere in a comment it says that this is "salzburg, mozart-jahr [2006], uchida, muti, bartoli." They are performing "Ch'io mi scordi di te," K 505, the great Mozart concert aria.

My flagging memory tells me that Salzburg wanted a performance of this specific aria and had asked Renée Fleming to sing it. She replied that it did not suit her voice. She offered to sing something else, but the pianist Mitsuko Uchida was the featured soloist.  And thus occurred this performance. Cecilia Bartoli is still my favorite Mozart singer, and she is very much in form here.

Why am I posting this? Because I wish I was going to Zurich for Rossini.

All the performers are very fine.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simon we didn't see

I was reading yesterday Tommasini's review of the current cast of Simon Boccanegra at the Metropolitan Opera.

They get Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a real baritone, as Simon.  We got the pretend baritone Placido Domingo.

They get the utterly magnificent Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco. We got James Morris who sang only about 3/4 of the part--everything except the low notes.

They get the very Italian Barbara Frittoli as Amelia.  We got  Adrianne Pieczonka who appears never to have been in the same room with an actual Italian.

I am definitely feeling cheated.  Was it a joke?

P.S. This is pretty snarky. One expects certain things from the Met.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Birth of Opera

This information comes from Brittanica.

"Giovanni Bardi, conte di Vernio, (b. Feb. 5, 1534, Florence—d. 1612, Florence), musician, writer, and scientist, influential in the evolution of opera. About 1573 he founded the Florentine Camerata, a group that sought to revive ancient Greek music and drama. Among the members were the theorist Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo) and the composer Giulio Caccini. Bardi collaborated with these and other Florentine musicians in court entertainments from 1579 to 1608. [Other members were the poet Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621), the musician Emilio de' Cavalieri (c.1550-1602), and the composer Jacopo Peri (1561-1633).]

"Bardi and his circle were influenced by the theorist Girolamo Mei, who had translated all known works of ancient Greek music theory."

What I cannot find in any book is that if you are walking along a street in Florence and happen to notice it, there will be this sign.


It stands on the side of this unassuming building where met the famous Camerata.


Now everything is a camerata, but in that day the word was newly minted to refer to Bardi's group.  The Camerata read everything available at the time and speculated on the actual experience of Greek drama.  They concluded that in a proper play in ancient Greece everything was sung.  They also concluded that there was no place for counterpoint in such a drama, and composed their own pieces with simple chordal accompaniment.

Searching yields this example with text by Bardi and music probably by Cavalieri.



This piece by Caccini is also very nice.


None of them resemble recitative. I'll look further.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Very nice



I like the slow tempo.

Greatest Composers: Get in on the argument


Some candidates above, from left, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Mozart, Schoenberg, Haydn, and Stravinsky; below, from left, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Handel, Bach, and Debussy. 

These 13 men from Tommasini's list of greatest composers include two Russians, one Pole, one Frenchman and nine Germans.  Not one Italian name appears.  What does this list tell us about standards for musical greatness?  It tells us that these standards originate from German sources.

It tells us that greatness derives from development of forms in the repertoire for keyboard and orchestra.  Or else why not the sainted Wagner?

I guess I already established my opinions in Opera as Drama.  There is something intensely satisfying about form and analysis, so satisfying that one is inclined to be drawn into the belief that it is the be all and end all of Classical Music.

What if we proposed Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini for our list?  We would be laughed from the room.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Ancora Fanciulla


Minnie:  Deborah Voigt
Dick Johnson:  Marcello Giordani
Jack Rance:  Lucio Gallo
Sonora: Dwayne Croft
Wowkle:  Ginger Costa-Jackson

Conductor:  Nicola Luisotti
Production:  Giancarlo Del Monaco

I sat with an old friend at the HD simulcast of the centennial production of La Fanciulla del West from the Met, and she would nudge me and say "Phantom of the Opera" every once in a while.  This similarity developed into a lawsuit that was settled out of court.  Thankfully, I am relatively unfamiliar with Phantom.

I like opera at the cinema.  It's nice to see their faces.  It was especially nice to see Deborah Voigt's face throughout the performance.  There was a lot to see.  I liked her a lot more this time.

This is the same production broadcast on television with Placido Domingo years ago.  I was disappointed to see that Marcello Giordani had shaved off his mustache that he had during the intermission of Don Carlo. It is also the same production used in Ulm when Giancarlo Del Monaco was Intendant there in the seventies. 

My friend was attracted to Lucio Gallo, the Italian baritone who sang Jack Rance.  He's very sexy.  In general the singers seemed more suited to their roles than they had in San Francisco.

There were a lot of horses seen through the door in act 1, but Deborah Voigt didn't ride any of them.  Sondra Radvanovsky hosted.

The performance passed the essential Puccini test:  I cried.

NEA Opera

It has come to my attention that the National Endowment for the Arts has an opera honors list:

2011 John Conklin
Speight Jenkins
Risë Stevens
Robert Ward

2010 Martina Arroyo
David DiChiera
Philip Glass
Eve Queler

2009 John Adams
Frank Corsaro
Marilyn Horne
Lotfi Mansouri
Julius Rudel

2008 Carlisle Floyd
Richard Gaddes
James Levine
Leontyne Price

"The NEA Opera Honors celebrate visionaries and luminaries who, by making extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States, have become cultural treasures."

This is all very interesting.  Also very interesting is the fact that I am not familiar with all of these names.

Three are the great singers Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, and Martina Arroyo. The first two are two of my greatest idols in the singing world while I admit I am not all that familiar with Arroyo. I have no excuse. Maybe I will have to fill in that gap.

Three are conductors: James Levine at the Met, Eve Queler at the Opera Orchestra of New York, and Julius Rudel who spent many years as conductor and general director at New York City Opera. This is a bit slanted toward New York, don't you think?

Three are some of America's finest composers of Opera: Carlisle Floyd, probably most famous for Susannah, John Adams, famous for Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic, and Philip Glass, composer of Satyagraha and Appomattox.

I should have remembered the name Richard Gaddes, but my memory has never been that great. He is the reason for the wonderful success of the Santa Fe Opera, one of the more remarkable operatic institutions in America. He is definitely in the visionary category.

Stage directors are Frank Corsaro who worked primarily at New York City Opera, and Lotfi Mansouri who worked at San Francisco Opera and went on to become general manager there. He is responsible for the "all the sets are brown logs" season, the "every opera has someone nude hiding in the chorus" season and the "opera house is being earth-quaked" season. He got the opera into the newspapers and saved it from a financial crisis.  For sheer "visionary" creativity he is not surpassed.

David DiChiera is an interesting twofer. He is both a composer and the founder of the Michigan Opera Theatre, the opera company in Detroit. Or should I say threefer. In addition to these things he is also a musicologist who wrote for Grove's Dictionary and other music encyclopedias.

My impression is that only living people are eligible because some sort of prize must be attached. This is just a guess. America has its own particular slant on the world of opera, and these people are a big part of the reason.